Marvel Comics’ cinematic division of late has found some intriguing ways to push the comic book genre’s boundaries after starting out in traditional and quite familiar terrain. After dispensing with origin stories (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and a couple of Hulks), the narratives have gotten funky, mixing in espionage thrills (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), comic capers (Ant-Man) and a roguish space opera (Guardians of the Galaxy).
It should come as no surprise that the latest in a long line of Spider-Man reboots, Spider-Man: Homecoming, would forego yet another radioactive spider bite and repetitive “with great power comes great responsibility” tale.
Jon Watts (Cop Car) takes the helm and, along with a veritable committee of screenwriters, crafts a genuine contemporary teenage fantasy. Specifically, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a 1980s John Hughes film, only with both adults and people of color.
How funny is it? Quite, thanks to the eager and earnest presence of Tom Holland as a high school-age Peter Parker, who often bungles his dual responsibilities of being on the academic decathlon team and being an Avenger-in-training. Peter’s dweeby best friend (Jacob Batalon) discovers his secret identity and longs to use it to gain some much-needed cachet in the social order. Peter hasn’t graduated to New York City notoriety, primarily because he’s too much of an outer-borough nobody-in-tights to gain notice.
But that changes once Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) enters. He’s a waste removal guy with a chip on his shoulder, an alter ego (the Vulture) and a team of conspirators willing to convert stolen Chitauri technology (the name refers to the aliens from The Avengers) into weapons for their own gain. Keaton’s sneaky and thoroughly menacing performance is what’s needed for this film.
Homecoming is a friendly reminder that even the most spectacular heroes have a lot of growing up to do. (Opens Friday.) (PG-13) Grade: B+