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REVIEW — “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Fresh, fun, and fueled by a sincere performance from star Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming is Marvel movie perfection and the best Spidey yet.

Two months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, 15 year old high school student slash rookie superhero Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back home in Queens and operating as a street-level crime fighter. Equipped with a high-tech suit from mentor slash benefactor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man uncovers a plot involving deadly, powerful weapons falling into the wrong hands. Seeing his chance to prove himself worthy of joining the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers, Spidey goes from local hero to superhero as he single-handedly takes on the responsibility of thwarting the villainous schemes of blue-collar salvage worker and family man Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who terrorizes the skies as the high-flying Vulture in pursuit of a cache of high-powered weaponry — and an even bigger payday.

An ’80s teen comedy leading a double life as a superhero movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming is grounded by Holland’s earnest, Marty McFly-inspired performance, with the 21 year old actor portraying a wide-eyed, joyful Peter Parker who — for once — doesn’t feel burdened by his great power or his great responsibility. Labeled “Penis Parker” by his shittier peers, a moniker tacked to him by academic rival Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), the perennially nerdy Peter Parker instead relishes in his spider-bite-powered abilities, making for an angst-free, genuine do-gooder, the kind of charming and idyllic superhero every bit admirably old-fashioned as Chris Evans’ Captain America and Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Holland, born to play the role, makes for the definitive Spider-Man.

The sunny, youthful hero is the perfect foil for Keaton’s menacing Toomes, every bit as scary outside his armored Vulture suit as he is inside it. Taking on a character deeper and more interesting than most Marvel foes, Keaton’s Vulture soars above preceding Marvel movie villains — he’s even better than Tom Hiddleston’s mischievous demigod Loki, regularly pointed to as the top shelf of Marvel Studios bad guys. Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t moody, grim, or cynical, but Keaton gives the movie it’s most tense scene when he ferociously threatens our adolescent hero with a succinct warning: back off or die.

Featuring a Spider-Man undergoing growing pains and one who’s far from fully-formed, even by the end credits, Spider-Man: Homecoming — with its smaller, more intimate stakesputs the focus where it should be — on Peter Parker — bringing the best character arc and development since 2008’s Iron Man, leaving plenty of room for followups (Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, a Spider-Man sequel in 2019) to delve even deeper into Peter Parker’s ongoing coming-of-age tale. Along for the journey is Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, a supporting player who — despite his presence in advertising materials — doesn’t crowd the spotlight. Stark is a minimal supporting player in what is very much Spider-Man’s movie, helping inch the novice hero towards greatness — even if that means revoking Spidey’s suped-up super suit, leaving a determined Peter Parker to prove it’s not the suit that makes the man.

Every bit as quirky and sweet as its titular hero, Spider-Man: Homecoming is steered by director Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car), a relative newcomer who delivers the first John Hughes movie set in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. Watts returns a freshness to Spider-Man missing ever since Spider-Man 2 in 2004, bringing charming flourishes — like Peter’s POV-filmed vlogs, filmed on his cracked iPhone — to start the movie, complete with “a film by Peter Parker” title card. It’s the kind of creative, against-the-grain uniqueness expressed over in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and it’s every bit as welcome here.

For as funny, sweet, and heartfelt as Spider-Man: Homecoming is, the newest Spidey flick also manages to bring the satisfying action expected of any Marvel summer blockbuster. It’s a Marvel comic come to life, with enough universe threads, surprises, and fan-pleasing easter eggs to make Spider-Man: Homecoming the most fun you’ll have at a movie all summer.

Take the best parts of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, infuse them with the spirit of John Hughes’ seminal coming-of-age works (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), blend Marvel Studios’ trademarked humor and blockbuster spectacle, and you have Spider-Man: Homecoming — the wall-crawler’s best cinematic outing yet and contender for best comic book movie.

A Columbia Pictures presentation of a Marvel Studios production and starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, and Robert Downey Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters July 7th.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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