THE ONE GOOD IDEA that the Tom Holland–starring Spider-Man films had was an obvious one: Make Peter Parker a kid. Tobey Maguire was 27 at the time of his first turn as the high-school-age superhero, while Andrew Garfield was 29. The material could never fully utilize the character’s youth because we as humans have a visceral resistance to watching adults make childish decisions. Holland, by contrast, was 21 when Spider-Man: Homecoming premiered in 2017, and he looked even younger. As a result, the filmmakers for this latest Spidey cycle, including director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, have been able to sell us on some of Peter’s dodgier choices. They’ve also managed to mine the age gap between him and other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for humor, as well as one meme-worthy moment of genuine pathos. (“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.”)
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME
DIRECTED BY JON WATTS. COLUMBIA/MARVEL. PG-13.
But in most other respects, Watts’s Spider-Man films have been black holes of imagination. (The first entry featured a huge set piece at the Washington Monument—an inspired idea on paper—and did absolutely nothing interesting with it. The setting might as well have been an office building in suburban Atlanta. It probably was at some point.) It takes a unique brand of corporate cynicism to drain any and all grandeur from the sight of Spidey swinging through the canyons of Manhattan; trapping the most cinematic of all superheroes in nondescript swirls of CGI sludge feels like its own act of villainy.
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