It seems like there is a new Spider-Man movie every other summer and that each has a different leading man. There was the Sam Raimi trilogy with Tobey Maguire and the "Amazing" reboots with Andrew Garfield. The web-slinger recently found a home at Marvel Studios and was introduced into Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. English actor Tom Holland is now in the lead as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man is heavily featured. Spider-Man: Homecoming is an entertaining if lightweight adventure that serves as the character's origin story in the MCU without actually spending much time on those beginnings. Although the story is pedestrian, director Jon Watts (Clown) keeps things interesting and Holland proves a charismatic Spidey.
We know Peter Parker was recruited by Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) to help the Avengers in Berlin, but he was unceremoniously sent home afterward with orders to remain vigilant should his assistance be required again. Parker is supposed to report to handler Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), but decides to continue busting low-level criminals in New York City instead. Watts and his five co-writers mercifully forego another lengthy ramp-up through spider-bite territory. Parker's Uncle Ben is long gone, but Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is younger and more attractive than previous big-screen representations. The film's villain, Vulture (Michael Keaton), wants to steal the Avengers' alien technology and sell it on the black market, and Spider-Man quickly finds himself in over his head when he takes on the winged antagonist. Fortunately, Iron Man is around to reluctantly bail his young mentee out of trouble.
The narrative is not particularly original and Vulture is two-dimensional (which is not Keaton's fault), but Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lot of fun. Holland does an excellent job making his character believable. This Peter Parker is young but not na´ve; slightly awkward but not bumbling and annoying. And no, there's no dancing, pouting or emo eye-shadow in sight. The girl that catches Parker's eye is not Mary Jane but Michelle "MJ" Jones (Zendaya), and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) peppers Parker with questions about whether a radioactive spider could bite him, too. I really like the way Homecoming handles Parker's desire to fight crime. Stark's frustration is that Parker's youth and inexperience leads to collateral damage when working in the community. Parker counters that Stark is jaded and cynical, and that he wants to forge his own path. This is the way you handle superhero movies with teenagers.
It is always great to see Keaton on screen, and it is interesting that he plays Vulture so soon after his critically lauded performance in Birdman. This villain's backstory is not heavily explored, but that is pretty typical for these MCU films. The best part of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the verbal volleying between Parker and Stark. The film rests heavily on wit in early scenes before expanding into huge action sequences and citywide battles. While it lacks the depth of Civil War and The Avengers, Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the most entertaining MCU movies to date. Anyone concerned Downey Jr. would start phoning in his performances as Stark need not worry, and Holland is an excellent new Spider-Man.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Sony continues to steam ahead with its 4K releases, and Spider-Man: Homecoming receives an HEVC/H.265/2160p/4K transfer at 2.39:1 with Dolby Vision and HDR10. Mastered at 2K, this is an upscaled 4K image that offers subtle improvements over the HD presentation. The HDR pass offers colors that are better saturated and truer to life. This is particularly evident in Spider-Man's costume, and the 4K version offers an uptick in fine-object detail and clarity. Sharpness is good despite some deliberately flatter photography. Black levels are strong and skin tones accurate. The included Blu-ray offers an excellent transfer, too. I'm going to rate the 4K image 4/5, as the improvements are not as dramatic here as in some native 4K transfers.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix, is excellent. The entire sound field is utilized to create an immersive experience akin to the theatrical presentation. Dialogue is crisp and clean, whether delivered directionally or from the center channel. Effects panning is frequent and impressive. The subwoofer is used heavily in action sequences, and the track's range is good. Softer, dialogue-heavy scenes are crystal clear, and the rambunctious action sequences never feel overly crowded. Soundtrack highlights include a crumbling ferry, Iron Man's boosters and a Washington Monument scramble that sees metal and rock cracking away around the viewer. French, Spanish and Thai 5.1 dubs are included, as are a host of subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K disc and a Blu-ray. A code inside can be redeemed for an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The discs are packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover with somewhat uninspired key artwork. Extras include The Spidey Study Guide, available on the 4K and Blu-ray discs, that offers trivia and factoids alongside the film. On the Blu-ray you get a Gag Reel (2:17/HD); Deleted and Extended Scenes (16:17 total/HD); A Tangled Web (6:11/HD), about integrating Spider-Man into the MCU; Searching for Spider-Man (8:04/HD), about casting Holland; Spidey Stunts (5:48/HD), about the action sequences; Aftermath (4:47/HD), which looks at how this movie fits into the MCU narratives; The Vulture Takes Flight (6:01/HD), which looks at Keaton's character; Jon Watts: Head of the Class (5:29/HD), about the director; Pros and Cons of Spider-Man (3:28/HD), a lighthearted look at the life of a superhero; Rappin' with Cap (2:26 total/HD), which are more of Captain America's PSAs; and a Photo Gallery.
Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming is a strong addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that offers a refreshingly entertaining version of Spider-Man and never gets bogged down in tiresome origin-story cliches. Tom Holland is excellent as Spidey, and the verbal volleying between Spider-Man and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man is a highlight. The 4K package offers good picture, excellent sound, and a couple of neat supplements. Highly Recommended.