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Spider-Man: Homecoming: Swinger Lifestyle

Rating: ***

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Jon Watts
STARS Tom Holland, Michael Keaton

Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming (Photo: Columbia)
  • Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming (Photo: Columbia)

It’s remarkably easy and completely understandable to complain about superhero fatigue, until one realizes that the superheroes are the ones saving the day – and the box office.

While this summer’s other franchise pictures have been performing below expectations – regardless of whether they’re good (Alien: Covenant), bad (Transformers: The Last Knight) or just downright ugly (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) – it’s the efforts from the cinematic branches of Marvel and DC that have prevented this movie season from being a total financial washout. More importantly, in terms of quality, both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and especially Wonder Woman have proven to be among the few bright spots – and now here comes Spider-Man: Homecoming to further strengthen the argument.

The best Spider-Flick since 2004’s Spider-Man 2, this one finds Tom Holland justifying the goodwill generated by his supporting stint in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. As the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man, he’s an utter delight, emerging as less cocky than Andrew Garfield and even more self-effacing than Tobey Maguire. For that, credit not only Holland but also director Jon Watts and a sextet of scripters (including Watts), who collectively serve up an interpretation of the web-slinger that capitalizes on the character’s teenage roots. Wisely, the origin story isn’t replayed for the umpteenth time – yup, the kid was bitten by a radioactive spider; let’s move on! – allowing for more time to focus on Peter as he faces the horrors of high school life when he’s not facing real-world horrors. In fact, much of the charm of Spider-Man: Homecoming is how it adheres closer to vintage John Hughes than trademark Stan Lee, with many of the brightest moments centering around Peter’s taxing school days.

Still, it’s hard for our friendly neighborhood hero to concentrate on chemistry classes when there are villains out there to vanquish. Anxious to tackle the bad guys – but kept in a holding pattern by mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Stark’s right-hand man Happy (Jon Favreau) — Peter finally strikes out on his own when he gets wind of the dastardly maneuverings of one Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture. As Toomes, Michael Keaton is excellent, showing us two sides of a complicated individual who allowed the big, bad world to corrode his soul.

The final battle royale gets too convoluted and continues for too long (a problem also in GotGV2 and WW), and my pet peeve of two people in a city of 8.5 million coincidentally turning out to be related receives a major workout here. Then there’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, whose “guest appearance” occasionally feels more like a crutch — it’s not unlike, say, Henry Winkler’s Fonz from Happy Days and Penny Marshall’s Laverne from Laverne & Shirley both turning up in the pilot episode of Mork & Mindy to give the fledgling show a blessing and a boost. But these carps are ultimately mere asides. In most respects, Spider-Man: Homecoming swings and scores.

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