[WARNING: This review contains spoilers.]
We all thought comic book character Spider-Man already had his definitive film version when Tobey Maguire played him in Sam Raimi's trilogy from 2002-2007. Marc Webb tried to reboot the series with Andrew Garfield in two films 2012-2014, but these were too dark to gain any lasting public favor, stopping after two episodes.
In 2016, Sony entered a special licensing agreement with Marvel to allow Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with "Captain America: Civil War." We got our first glimpse of then 20 year-old Tom Holland play our friendly neighborhood web-slinger. We would get to meet him more in his stand-alone movie "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017).
In "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018) and "Avengers: Endgame" (2019), we saw Spidey dusted by the Thanos finger snap and came back to witness the death of his mentor Tony Stark. In this newest film adventure, 16-year old Peter Parker will deal with the aftermath of Stark's death and his fledgling career as a superhero.
Simply wanting to enjoy the carefree joys of being a teenager, Peter Parker went for a European trip with his classmates without his Spidey costume. He just wanted to buy MJ a special gift in Venice and give it to her on the Eiffel Tower after professing his love to her. Powerful monsters of water and fire called the Elementals came along to spoil all his plans. However, Peter meets a new superhero Mysterio whom he saw to be a new mentor.
Like "Homecoming" before it, Tom Holland was such a lovable Spider-Man. He had that vulnerable high-pitched squeaky voice which immediately makes you care for him as your own son. We can feel his inner conflicts as a teenager in puppy love, who also recognized that his great power came with great responsibility. We can feel his anguish for his departed mentor and his desperation for another guide as a superhero.
Back from the Blip (as the dusting is known) were his best friend Ned (Fil-Am actor Jacob Batalon), arch enemy Flash (Tony Revolori) and lady love MJ (Zendaya), and they were all along on the grand European getaway. We meet his inept nerdy teacher chaperones (J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr) and other classmates like pretty girl Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) who had taken an unexpected fancy on Ned, and pretty boy Brad Davis (31 year-old Remy Hii), Peter's rival for MJ's attention.
Back to their SHIELD duties are Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Throughout the film, you sort of feel ol' Nick was not his usual cool and collected self, and you'd have to wait for the extra scene after the end credits to clear that one up. Stark's bodyguard Happy Hogan (an ever-congenial Jon Favreau) kept an eye on Peter, but he also had another eye trained on Peter's pretty Aunt Mae (Marissa Tomei). And then there is the hero on the block, Mysterio (a charismatic Jake Gyllenhaal), whose relationship with Peter made an indelible impression on the teenage hero.
Director Jon Watts continues his winning streak in telling yet another tale about our web-slinger as he matured another level in the superhero business. There was never a dull moment throughout, as the focus shifted from breathtaking Elementals action to funny classmates comedy and back, ever so fluidly and entertainingly with scintillating special visual effects. There were several surreal scenes where illusion and reality became indistinguishable from each other for both the characters onscreen and us -- this was top-notch film editing in action.
By the last frame of the movie, I rated it a 9/10. But then came that AWESOME mid-credits scene that threw me, and everyone else, completely off our tracks. This was one major super surprise twist (and cameo guest) which no one saw coming. I just could not hold my applause while catching my breath on what unfolded in those couple of quick incredible minutes. That one extra scene pushed my initial rating up one full point, making my final rating a solid 10/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."