Even diehard comic-book movie fans must have noticed by now the glitch in the Avengers universe. Whatever algorithm is used to calculate the perfect ratio of self-satisfied banter to bludgeoning FX has resulted in ever-decreasing variations on a theme. If not quite the same movie, they recycle the same plot points and devices, the same blustering displays of CGI muscle. Deep within the Marvel laboratories, it seems genetic experiments have been taking place as the DNA of the comic-book action flick is spliced with that of other films. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the labradoodle of this cross-genre breeding programme. Part superhero movie, part high-school coming-of-age story, it’s bouncy, likable and completely devoid of threat.
This latest reboot of the webslinger narrative casts Tom Holland as an irrepressible 15-year-old Peter Parker. As eager to please as a puppy, his taste of Avengers action (a cameo at the end of Captain America: Civil War) has left him hungry to right wrongs. So far, more Spider-Boy than man, his ventures have been low-key and the rewards minor (a churro from a nice Dominican lady he helped across the road). But then he stumbles across a crime scene beefed up with some serious alien-sourced weapons tech. And he finds himself on the radar of scissor-winged scavenger the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Meanwhile, in the real world, he struggles with teen angst, high-school social standing and a bruising crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), the unobtainable debate-club beauty.
A deft reveal on the night of the school dance links Peter’s two parallel lives together; but the action climax that follows – a battle fought on the outside of a camouflaged Stark Industries transport plane – is an onslaught of effects so confusing that you forget to worry about the outcome.
In fact, the only moment of real tension in the preview I attended came when my little nephew got his arm wedged in the cup-holder of his chair. Anyone who has ever had to try and prise the arm fat of a panicking child out of a circulation-stopping plastic ring is unlikely to be particularly fazed by the sight of Michael Keaton wearing a beak.