“Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option” – Tobey Maguire as “Peter Parker” in 2002’s Spider-Man
What are those numbers? They are the ages that Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and now Tom Holland were when they first portrayed “Peter Parker/Spider-Man” on the big screen. It is one of several reasons why Spider-Man: Homecoming is so good. Hollywood continues to insist on casting actors long past their teen years to play characters of high school age. Remember a 33 year old Stockard Channing in 1978’s Grease?
But in choosing Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), director Jon Watts (and producers Kevin Fighe and Amy Pascal) made it much easier to believe that “Peter Parker” is indeed the awkward teen trying to adjust to being endowed with incredible superpowers. It adds an element that was missing from the two prior translations of the comic-book hero to the big screen.
The movie opens in New York City after the events of the Battle of New York as shown in 2012’s The Avengers. “Adrian Toomes” (Michael Keaton – The Founder) runs a salvage company and his crew is cleaning up battle sites. Without warning, “Anne Marie Hoag” (Tyne Daly – Hello, My Name is Doris) shows up and tells Toomes that the Department of Damage Control (which she runs) is taking over by order of the federal government. He manages to hang on to a few alien artifacts, defying an edict to turn over everything his company had recovered.
Years later, Toomes and his minions have managed to turn the alien artifacts to create weapons of incredible power. In order to supply his business, he uses the suit that makes him into Vulture to steal more of the alien technology.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland – The Impossible) was introduced as the teen web-slinger in Captain America: Civil War but we didn’t learn much about him. Now we find out he’s attending the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he’s on the school’s academic decathlon team and he goes out at night to fight crime in a new Spidey suit provided by “Tony Stark” (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter was told in no uncertain terms by Tony that he is not yet ready to be an Avenger. He assigns “Harold ‘Happy’ Hogan” (Jon Favreau – Chef), his driver/bodyguard to be Peter’s point of contact with him.
Peter explains his absences from the home of his “Aunt May” (Marisa Tomei – The Big Short) by claiming he is working as an intern at Stark Industries. Eventually, his best friend “Ned” (newcomer Jacob Batalon) discovers that Peter is Spider-Man and that creates even more problems and stress for the teenaged web-slinger.
Director Jon Watts makes the most of an excellent screenplay from Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who you probably know better from his work as a member of the cast of TV’s “Bones”). The most age-appropriate actor ever to portray the title character also helps. There is an authentic feel to the high school setting of the story. We also get to enjoy excellent action and visuals involving the extraordinary physical gifts of Spider-Man. Better still, he does most of those things wearing a suit designed by Tony Stark, which enhances those gifts. All of this is presented without losing the “fun” feel that Spider-Man has been generating since he first appeared in “Amazing Fantasy #15” in 1962.
Will we see both “Liz” and “Michelle” competing for the affections of Peter Parker when he returns in the sequel to this movie? Will Ned continue as the “guy in the chair” for Spider-Man? For the answers to these and other burning questions, we must wait patiently for the next chapter in the adventures of Spider-Man.