Tom Holland stars as the titular hero in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” (Chuck Zlotnick/Columbia Pictures)
IN THIS CENTURY, each U.S. presidential administration gets its own Spider-Man reboot. In the Trump era, it falls to Sony and Marvel to reach across the Hollywood aisle and make us care about the third Spidey reset within 15 years.
Fortunately, according to the critics, the studios have found a winning star in 21-year-old British actor Tom Holland, the nimble, sweet-faced lad who spent part of his adolescence dancing on the London stage in “Billy Elliot.”
Overall, Thursday’s first wave of reviewers have positive marks for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which opens July 7.
For the most part, the early notices appreciate that “Spider-Man” invigorates superhero tropes with hallmarks from the teen-movie genre — this is the second superhero film in a year to pay direct homage to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (“Deadpool” featured a post-credit scene nod to the iconic movie).
“Homecoming” has an average score of 71 so far on Metacritic, which is the best tally for a solo Spider-Man feature film since 2004, in Tobey Maguire’s sophomore webslinger outing. The new Jon Watts film also has a 97 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
That spells good news for Sony, which saw its two recent “Amazing Spider-Man” films, directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, dim the luster of the franchise — though to many fans, 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” remains the nadir.
“Where Garfield’s Peter Parker displayed a believable 21st-century angst, we return largely to the character’s wide-eyed roots with Tom Holland, whose performance is thoroughly winning even when the script isn’t helping him,” the Hollywood Reporter writes of Spidey/Parker, the vulnerable teen superhero created 55 years ago by Marvel’s Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
From left, loyal Iron Man assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) trails behind Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who is trying to convince Peter Parker (Tom Holland) to not do too much hero work too soon as Spider-Man. (Courtesy of Sony/Marvel Studios)
The highlights in this “giddy, fitfully entertaining” movie, IndieWire writes, “gleefully conflate the likes of Stan Lee and John Hughes, delighting in the extent to which both of their signature genres tend to revolve around emotionally unsure young people who are struggling to juggle their double lives.”
“Holland not only looks the part of a 15-year-old, but portrays the needed vulnerability, immaturity and jocularity of his comic-book counterpart that was sorely missed in previous movie incarnations,” says USA Today. The review adds: ” ‘Homecoming’ becomes the perfect teen movie that you never realized Marvel needed.”
The Guardian likewise lauds Holland as “sensational: funny, awkward and believably vulnerable, adding a necessary tension to his early attempts at superheroics.”
The Wrap calls the film “a sugar-fueled adolescent itself: usually you’re on its hopped-up wavelength, but sometimes you’re just taking a breather to admire the energy level.”
With measured praise, Variety writes: “Coming after the two Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” films, which were the definition of super-forgettable competence, the movie is just distinctive enough, in concept and execution, to connect and become a sizable hit. If so, it could prove a key transitional film in the greater cinematic universe of comic-book movies. ‘Homecoming’ tells its audience: This kid isn’t quite super — he’s just like you.”
And the New York Daily News finds a nagging flaw: “For all of its charming and infectious realism about race, high school life and class issues, it has a bit of a woman problem. Simply: every significant and semi-significant female character looks like a model. It wouldn’t be an issue were the film not so spot-on with casting such a realistic variety of men and teenage boys, or if it were less concerned with hammering down on the ‘Aunt May [Marisa Tomei] is hot’ bit that goes a little too far, but when taken together you start to wonder if maybe things would have been different if just one of the six screenwriters was a woman.”