It's almost impossible not to be cynical about the fact that we're now experiencing our third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years. This could have easily been a soulless cash grab designed to market the character to a younger generation with its youthful cast and high school setting. Instead, Marvel has once again created, ahem, a marvel, offering something that feels less like a marketing ploy and more like the proper version of the character fans have been waiting for.
Introduced in last year's "Captain America: Civil War," Tom Holland's excellent version of Peter Parker avoids the emo heartbreak of Tobey Maguire and the manic intensity of Andrew Garfield and instead gives us a Parker we haven't seen before: One who's still just a kid. He's a sophomore in high school and doesn't have many friends other than his right hand man Ned (the hilarious Jacob Batalon), but he's also not a tortured nerd desperate for acceptance like previous incarnations.
In fact, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" avoids the typical origin story claptrap altogether. We aren't subjected to another interpretation of Peter getting bitten by the radioactive spider, the tragic death of Uncle Ben and Parker finding his inner hero. There's not a single character in the entire movie who ever says: "With great power comes great responsibility." We meet Pete after all of the character-building drama, while he's flipping around the city helping people—still not very good at being Spider-Man, but at least he's excited to be there.
If "Captain America: Winter Soldier" is Marvel Studios' version of a '70s paranoid conspiracy thriller and "Doctor Strange" is its trippy drug movie and "Guardians of the Galaxy" is its "Star Wars," then "Homecoming" is its John Hughes movie. For the first time in franchise history, the time Peter spends in school is equally entertaining as his time in the suit. The movie is just as much of a comedy as it is a superhero movie, and director Jon Watts never lets the energy wane long enough to forget that. He's done something akin to a high wire act: balancing humor, action and drama in a way that seems effortless instead of painfully obvious.
Marvel even fixes their villain problem with Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes, AKA... Batman, no... Birdman, no, The Vulture! He's nothing like the comic book version of the character (who mostly just wanted to rob banks); instead he's a human and relatable monster. His company would clean up after superhero battles, putting the city back together while cataloging all the weird alien tech left behind by The Avengers. When Tony Stark creates the U.S. Department of Damage Control to basically do the same thing, putting Toomes out of business, Toomes becomes bitter and decides to start selling the alien weaponry he's found to the highest bidder.
That's about as high as the stakes get here. Parker isn't saving the world from an alien invasion; instead, he's protecting Queens from an arms dealer. He's starting small because that's who he is: the 15-year-old kid making his web fluid in science class and studying alien technology in auto shop. That's the Peter Parker we know and love: a selfless young man who can't save the world at this very second. He has curfew.
Dir. Jon Watts
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinema