Amazing indeed. The new Spider-Man is all about the neighbourhood
It's a Spidey for the selfie generation as the web crawler flexes his funny bone
So here we are, considering the sixth Spider-Man movie since 2002.
While no one was clamouring for another reboot, what sets this Spider apart is a fresh take that brings the hero back to his classic roots while giving us Marvel's first millennial superhero.
Director Jon Watts establishes the tone in the very first frame as composer Michael Giacchino's score riffs off the classic 1967 cartoon.
But the music is more than an Easter egg for fans. It's a mission statement.
As the song goes, "Spider-Man, Spider-Man Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man." What separates this Spidey from his predecessors is a smaller sense of scale. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now a sprawling realm filled with immortal gods, multiple dimensions and galactic guardians while Peter Parker is a kid who lives in Queens who knows where to get a good churro.
Appropriately the new villain for this street-level hero is another New Yorker. Michael Keaton stars as Adrian Toomes, a fella in the construction biz earning a little scratch cleaning up the mess the Avengers left behind after their last battle. In a nice wink to comic fans, Toomes learns the Damage Control department is taking over the clean up operations thanks to a connection to Tony Stark.
Tying Toomes's villainous origin story to his resentment of an Avenger double dipping is not only delicious but it gives us a sense of the haves and the havenots in the MCU. There are the super-heroic elite, flying above to their mega-fortresses, and then there's the rest of us, trying to get the car fixed and not trip into an alien wormhole on the way to work.
Part of what makes the new Spider-Man feel so current is the inspired casting of Tom Holland as Peter Parker.
It's no small feat to slip into the spandex after the performances from Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, as each excelled in different ways. But by casting Holland, a British actor who once danced as Billy Elliot, we have the Spidey of the selfie generation.
This is a teen who is awkward yet exuberant, and bubbling over with enthusiasm. He's the kind of kid who when he's invited to visit Iron Man in Europe — a nod to Spider-Man's appearance in Captain America: Civil War — he vlogs the experience with an adorable home video.
The good news is the new film dispenses with the origin story, which means less angst. In its place the story focuses on where Spider-Dude fits in.
Parker wants to save the day and join the Avengers. Tony Stark would rather he sticks to the small stuff and fobs him off on Happy, the assistant played by Jon Favreau.
John Hughes-style hero
With Parker's high school shenanigans, Watts and a small army of comedy writers give us the John Hughes Spider-Man script we never knew we needed.
Peter is still the oddball sitting with other losers in the lunchroom. He's crushing on Liz but Michelle (played with a dry wit by Zendaya) is there to keep his ego in check. A big part of the high school hilarity is Peter's friend Ned, played with fanboy flare by Jacob Batalon.
The effortless multicultural mix of characters is one of the ways the new movie challenges our assumptions. It's a film that answers the question: What does a webslinger do in the suburbs?
It also recasts Peter's classic nemesis Flash Thompson as Tony Revolori, last seen as the pint-size bellboy in The Grand Budapest Hotel. (Credit to Revolori who pulls it off with swagger.)
Bland battles less exciting than high school
If this version has a weakness it's the action elements which are passable but just left me longing to get back to high school. When Watts tries to dazzle us with the Spidey suit's technology or filling the screen with a distracting mid-air battle the film goes from Amazing to Average.
All in all these are minor quibbles for an inventive effort that makes the joke-cracking wall crawler relevant again.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Oh, and be sure to stick around for the credits ;)