Spider-Man: Homecoming ****

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Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City, while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, appears (Credit IDMB for plot synopsis).

Last week, I said that Baby Driver, contrary to my expectations, would appeal well beyond a teenage/young adult audience. While Spider-Man: Homecoming is also a very good film, I think it will – unlike Baby Driver – resonate most with younger filmgoers.

That is partly because Marvel Studios have again cast Tom Holland in the role of Parker/Spider-Man, after his appearance in Captain America: Civil War.  I did not see the earlier Spider-Man movies, with Toby Maguire or Andrew Garfield in the title role, but each of these actors was in his 30s when he donned the superhero costume. Those who did see them, agree that Holland is much more authentic as a teenager.

It will also appeal a lot to a young audience because much of the film is about Parker’s everyday tribulations as a typical teenage schoolboy. You may imagine that, having super powers, he would inevitably be the coolest boy in school. In fact, he is nervy, nerdy (he enjoys building Star Wars models with his best friend Ned), and has a crush on the genuinely cool girl, who he fears is way out of his dating league.

How much you enjoy these scenes of pool parties, school quizzes, and prom dances, may depend on how long ago your own schooldays ended. For this 60-something, it did become just a touch tedious.

Fortunately, us oldies can enjoy the wonderful performance by Michael Keaton as Adrain Tomes/the Vulture. Described by one film critic this week as the first sic-fi villain to emerge from the credit crunch, Tomes is not a megalomaniac bent on world domination, nor an alien with supernatural powers of destruction. He is a hard-working guy who gets shafted by the US Government, fears his family is about to lose their home, and turns to crime.

When Parker tells him that his misfortunes do not justify selling (alien-technology) weapons to gangsters, Tomes replies by asking Parker how he thinks his friend Tony Stark got rich in the first place. “We build their roads, we fight their wars, but they don’t care about us,” he says. A sentiment that will be shared and applauded by many people in this populist political age.

So, while millennials may provide its most enthusiastic audience, the film still has considerable wider appeal, with its original take on the Marvel Universe of superhero adventures.

A traditional high school movie, with superheroes and uber-villains as extra-curricular activities.

Director: Jon Watts (Cop Car 2015, The Onion News Network 2011).

Cast:

Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Tom Holland (The Impossible 2012, Captain America: Civil War 2016).

Adrian Toomes/the Vulture: Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice 1988, Batman 1989, Batman Returns 1992, Birdman 2014, Spotlight 2015, The Founder 2016).

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man 2008, Sherlock Holmes 2009, The Avengers 2012).

Ned: Jacob Batalon.