“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is about competing ideas of how to address the disaffection of the urban working class. Or maybe it’s about a guy in a red and blue suit covered with spider webs beating on a guy who flies around on giant metal wings.
The film is the latest reiteration of the Spider-Man origin story. In this case, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes to great lengths to show he’s a working-class kid — he’s a Mets fan who eats bodega sandwiches and intervenes in petty misconducts in Queens. His antagonist (Michael Keaton) is junk hauler Adrian Toomes by day and supervillain Vulture by night. His life of crime begins when big government (in the form of the believable-sounding Department of Damage Control) takes away a lucrative salvage gig and separates Mr. Toomes from his life savings. He pivots and, along with a cohort of deplorables, begins stealing dangerous armaments to vend to crooks.
Spider-Man wants to save the day and asks to be made an official Avenger. He liaises with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. and his extremely complicated goatee), who can barely be bothered to put on his Iron Man togs to address the kid, leaving the day-to-day babysitting to Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, playing it a little huffy, possibly because Jon Watts is directing this picture instead of him).
Said director is clear in his intentions to make a Spider-Man picture in the style of John Hughes — in case you missed the point, Spidey runs through a barbeque where kids are watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
And, indeed, the high school-centered scenes are the best of “Homecoming.” Despite the seven-person, all-white-male writing and directing team, there is more diversity in Peter’s magnet high school than in most superhero films.
The sharpest characters in the film are the academic decathletes nerding out while occasionally being interrupted by terror attacks at tourist sites. There’s Peter’s frenemy Flash (Tony Revolori, a revelation in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” still trying to find another superhero on M. Gustave’s level) and bestie Ned (Jacob Batalon), a funny kid who is very ready for his role as “the guy in the chair” directing Peter’s adventures. He asks all the big questions: “Can you summon an army of spiders?” Liz (Laura Harrier) is meant to be Peter’s love interest but they are missing some crucial chemistry.
He has a stronger connection with Michelle (Zendaya), a young woman reading “Of Human Bondage” in a Sylvia Plath T-shirt and rocking a righteous, Daria Morgendorffer-esque dissatisfaction with high school life. Zendaya reminds viewers she is a threat all across the board: acting, dancing, singing (her enjoyable eponymous album) and writing (her 2013 tome “Between U and Me: How to Rock Your Tween Years with Style and Confidence”).
Peter and the film mostly ignore Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) as he tries to convince the Avengers to remove his training wheels. And, after messing with the settings on his souped-up spider suit, he soon bites off a lot more than he can chew. After a tough inter-borough battle with the Vulture, Spider-Man finds himself holding together a bisected Staten Island Ferry with Liberty Island behind him — held by just webbing, he’s stretched in a pose somewhere between the Statue of Liberty and Jesus Christ.
While young Mr. Holland is a likeable Spiderperson, Marvel Studios biffed its chance at a proper reboot featuring Miles Morales, an Afro-Cuban Spider-Man from a different comic book continuity. You get wistful watching Donald Glover appear for a couple of scenes with his slight stature and sleepy charm — he remains the Spider-Man of this reviewer’s dreams.