After three sub-par cinematic solo outings for the web-slinger, Sony gets a leg up from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a brand new Spidey: and the results might be Amazing
Doing everything a Spider-Man film can, Homecoming is really enjoyable, earnest and comprehensive adventure for the character that fits the MCU like a glove. Incorporating the post-Avengers and post-Civil War context of the wider Marvel universe, yet scaling it back to something far more personal and street level, it works on many fronts not least as a warm and heartfelt coming of age teen comedy in a John Hughes mould; acknowledging that Peter Parker is still basically just a kid.
Tom Holland is arguably the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man yet; combining the loveable geekiness of McGuire's Parker with the determination and youthful vigour of Andrew Garfield's Spidey. He's both likeable and funny, yet more than capable of tackling more dramatic ground especially in the latter half of the film.
He's also supported by a host of decent and fleshed out characters; loveable sidekick Ned (Jacob Batalon), button-cute love interest Liz (Laura Harrier), dry-humoured quirky schoolmate Michelle (Zendaya) and dependable Aunt May (Marissa Tomei); as well as the 'Iron Man' contingent including grumpy overseer Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and benefactor and mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior).
And what about the villain? This is usually the point in a Marvel review where things go south. Yet the Spider-Man universe is known for its great villains, and it's here that Sony repays its debt to Marvel with the superb Adrian Toombs aka 'Vulture': a ferocious, mechanically enhanced aerial nemesis played with both menace and humanity by the excellent Michael Keaton. He has depth, and most importantly motivation, and might be one of the best Marvel antagonists since Doc Ock. He and his gang of tooled-up bandits are scavenging alien technology (left over from Avengers' Chitauri invasion and other incursions) to sell to the highest bidder, and with the Avengers tied up saving the world (or on the run), its up to Spider-Man and his Stark-enhanced Spidey suit to stop him and prove himself to be a true Avenger; all whilst dealing with teen romance, hormones and high school.
Yet at the heart of Parkers' arc lies an important life lesson: "if you're nothing without the suit, you shouldn't have it" (a new riff on the 'great power' credo) which is central to the story. Just as you think Tony Stark's backing and Iron Man technology threaten to overtake the character (and outstay their welcome), the film brings us back to basics and reminds us that this is emphatically a Spider-Man film despite the MCU bells n' whistles.
In terms of action, it may not have the cataclysmic scale of the Avengers outings or the brutal grit of Captain America's last two adventures; but it still delivers with a series of impressive set pieces, the best of which involve a nail biting vertiginous crisis on the Washington Monument (recalling the dizzy spectacle of the early Superman films) and a thrilling ferry disaster (rivalling Spider-Man 2's train sequence).
Criticism's are slight: there are times when Spiderman's movement seems a little 'off' (betraying the CG animation) and the overall pacing could be a little tighter. With so much story to pack in, the film's focus often starts to wobble and there are inevitable lulls as the film slows down to change direction. Michael Giacchino's score also fails to make enough of an impression to linger in the memory for long. Those really are the only complaints.
In summary then: a definitive Spidey, great performances, impressive action, zesty script, laugh-out-loud humour, and a heartfelt emotional core; this may well be a contender for the best Spider-Man movie yet, and may also end up high on your list of Marvel Cinematic favourites.