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Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, everyone’s favorite wall crawler is back, and he’s better than he’s been in a long time, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man’s first solo adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After an unprecedented deal between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, Spider-Man’s sixth solo film is a breath of fresh air not only for the MCU, but for the character as well. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the John Hughes high school film you didn’t know you needed in the superhero genre, and offers a street level side of the Marvel universe that’s usually left for the Netflix shows. Gone is the typical “end of the world” trope that’s become associated with much of the genre; Instead we’re treated to a movie about a teenager who tries to balance his life as a superhero with the every day battle of growing up in high school.

Tom Holland returns as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming, after stealing much of Captain America: Civil War from the other heroes. After aiding in the airport battle in Germany, Peter is now back in New York City, feeling aimless, and wanting nothing more than to be an Avenger. But Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) wants Peter to keep his feet on the ground, and focus on trying to help the everyday people of New York City, not super villains. Intent on proving he’s a hero, Peter begins trying to bring down a ring of criminals, led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who are selling weapons made of alien tech across New York City. Peter quickly learns that balancing the life of a superhero with his every day life isn’t easy, and being an Avenger is even harder, especially when you have a Spanish test in the morning.

The idea of a sixth Spider-Man film was always a gamble, especially a second rebooted take on the character in less than ten years. So everyone involved needed to make sure that whatever film they decided to make, it had to be special, and it needed to be different. Thankfully, Spider-Man:
is a completely different take on the character. We’ve seen flashes of Peter’s time in high school in previous films, but director Jon Watts wisely decided that not only should the new film be set in high school, but it should become a primary focus of the film. By setting it within the confines of Peter’s sophomore year, we’re given a film that is part superhero film, and part John Hughes coming of age comedy. Thankfully, instead of feeling forced or disjointed, the two genres actually end up merging together very well, creating something fresh and exciting. While we’re used to seeing older superheroes, there’s something fun about seeing a teenager who wants to fight crime, but also needs to make sure he’s ready for his Spanish test in the morning. This offers viewers a new vantage point that we’ve yet to get in a superhero film, and it’s a very welcome change.

Many may be wondering if this is another retread of the Spider-Man origin, and thankfully, it’s not. How Peter became the hero known as Spider-Man is mentioned in passing a few times, but never focused on. The film assumes audiences already know Peter’s past, and wisely chooses to skip over that, and jump straight into a new adventure with the character. Holland is so incredibly charming and goofy as Peter Parker, really bringing the character to life in a way we haven’t seen on film. This truly feels like the most accurate representation of the character on the big screen, and Holland just owns every scene he’s in. His relationship with Aunt May, now played by Marisa Tomei, is once again a focal point, but they two share a really wonderful chemistry. The truth is, Holland is surrounded by a really talented cast that elevates his performance even more. In particular, it’s Jacob Batalon’s Ned who really steals the show throughout. Batalon is wonderfully geeky and a perfect right hand man for Holland’s Peter Parker. Ned is the audience’s eyes and ears into Peter’s world, which makes his fanboy reactions throughout about Spider-Man hugely entertaining.

But, this is a superhero film after all, which means it has to have action. Thankfully, it does, and many of the set pieces end up being an awful lot of fun. As mentioned before, it’s clear the team behind Spider-Man: Homecoming did something different with the film, and the action is no different. The battles are often fun, intense, and features quite a bit of, a staple of Spider-Man’s character. There are certainly nods to some of the previous films, but Watts was smart to try to move away from as many familiar elements as possible to avoid too much comparison. It’s really the film’s Washington, D.C., set piece that is the film’s true standout, and shows Peter in a heroic light without having to fight anyone or anything. This scene just oozes the kind of fun and charm that you expect from the character, while also offering something new in the way of set pieces for the MCU, as well as the character.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man: Homecoming does have a few hiccups along the way that stop it from really being a perfect film. As mentioned previous, Michael Keaton’s Vulture isn’t a terrible strong villain, but he does his job well enough in the film. It just would have been nice if he had gotten a bit more to do, because Keaton is so good, and I would have liked to see him get to do a bit more in the film. There’s also a few times in the film where it’s a bit hard to make out exactly what’s happening in the action sequences, but it never ruins the film. Still, the movie, even with these small problems, still ends up being so much fun, that you can forgive it for these minor quibbles. Also, for those worried that this film is essentially Iron Man 4, since Downey, Jr. returns as Iron Man, fear not, because that’s simply not the case. Stark’s inclusion in this film is actually incredibly well handled, and ends up being one of the film’s biggest bright spots. He never overshadows Peter, and instead enhances the overall story.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is an absolutely joy from beginning to end. Tom Holland leads the film with so much warmth and fun, you can’t help but get sucked in to the film. From the snappy dialogue, the action, or just the MCU easter eggs throughout, there’s something for everyone who watches the film. Packed with a great ensemble cast that really stands their own ground, it’s hard not to just grin from ear to ear throughout. Honestly, it’s great to have a truly fantastic Spider-Man film again. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man, this is where you belong.