We’ve had good, great and mediocre “Spider-Man” movies. We’ve even had one “Spider-Man” movie that is best never spoken of again. “Homecoming,” the third iteration of the beloved Marvel character, falls into the great category — a funny superhero flick that toes the line between a classic teen movie and a big summer action film.
Tom Holland, who had his coming-out party in “Captain America: Civil War” last year, is a great choice to play Peter Parker, the nerdy Queens high schooler turned web slinger. He has a real earnestness and youthful exuberance, and that real, innocent quality that Tobey Maguire brought to the character 15 years ago.
The film makes the brilliant decision to forgo the familiar origin story and just dive right into things. It begins eight years earlier, following the attack in New York City, with a salvage crew cleaning up the mess and carting away alien technology. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is heading up the operation, which gets shut down by a shadowy government organization called Damage Control.
Toomes and his crew secretly hold onto some of the salvage, filled with purple Chitauri technology, which they use to build weapons. Fast forward to the present and they’re selling all sorts of weaponry, all while flying under the radar.
Toomes himself dons a cool, fur-collared bomber jacket, a massive pair of wings and has glowing green eyes, making for a striking visual and a smart modernization of a hokey villain named The Vulture. (Imagine an elderly bald man in a tight green bodysuit with big wings lining his arms and a collar of billowy white feathers.)
Parker is a high school sophomore, with his best bud Ned (Jacob Batalon), his foil Flash (Tony Revolori) and the girl he pines for named Liz (Laura Harrier). He’s got an internship with Stark Industries, which is a cover for his time spent in costume, and he’s longing to get back into action. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., doing his normal swagger) wants him to be more of a street-level hero — a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, if you will. Stark’s long-time bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is tasked with keeping track of Spider-Man, and provides a lot of comedic relief.
A hero is only as good as his or her villain, and Keaton really brings Toomes to life. It’s a nuanced performance, bringing intensity, physicality and a real menace to the role. But the best moments between him and Spider-Man aren’t the big throwdowns, rather the cerebral matches — suspenseful, uncomfortable quiet scenes with the grizzled veteran actor and the fresh-faced kid.
The best moments of the entire movie are certainly the quieter ones, with Peter and Ned hanging out in Peter’s room or Peter’s interactions with Happy. The fatherly relationship between Tony and Peter is funny and oddly touching.