If you’re counting, there are now six 21st century live-action Spider-Man movies, including the latest, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Marvel/Columbia). The first three starred Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, a nerdy high school student with the secret superhero identity of Spider-Man. In 2012 and 2014, Spider-Man became “amazing” as Andrew Garfield slipped into the Spidey suit. Baby-faced Tom Holland is the newest actor to take on the swinging role. To give Marvel’s DC competition credit, at least the Batman and Superman DC franchises spread out the revolving lead actors over the course of several years (and decades).
Once again eliminating the silly high-school-photographer-working-at-the-newspaper storyline completely, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” instead focuses on Parker’s relationship with gazillionaire Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his training and recruitment to become a card-carrying member of The Avengers. The recipient of an internship from Stark Industries, Peter must balance his responsibilities, including being a dutiful nephew to May (Marisa Tomei), hanging out with even nerdier BF Ned (Jacob Batalon), preparing to compete with fellow teammates in the upcoming academic decathlon in DC, and avoiding cruel bully Flash (Tony Revolori) and artistic girl Michelle aka MJ (scene-stealer Zendaya). The “homecoming” of the title refers to the annual high school dance to which the shy Peter also has to find a way to ask upperclassman Liz (Laura Harrier) to be his date. In between, he finds the time to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, keeping the four boroughs safe.
Every Spider-Man needs to match his might against an evil villain. In this case, it’s Adrian Toomes (former Batman Michael Keaton, donning wings again as he did in “Birdman”) as the Vulture. Pissed off after being pushed out of a contracted clean-up job by Stark Industries, Toomes pockets some of the deadly debris and uses it to create lethal weapons. Spider-Man doesn’t make it easy on Toomes, especially with the help of his new high-tech suit (featuring a voice provided by Jennifer Connelly). But in the film’s second biggest twist, we discover that Toomes is Liz’s dad! The biggest surprise of all occurs at the very end, when Aunt May gets in the last word in the finale.
Until they figure out how to take control of lengthy and boring fight sequences, however, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is simply another fan-boy masturbatory exercise. However, in its defense, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is also witty, self-deprecating and self-consciously hip. Rating: B-