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Movie Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Is a Youthful Jolt of Superhero Joy

Sony’s third stab at Spider-Man with Spider-Man: Homecoming is a charm. Tom Holland is a Peter Parker that is more plucky, wide-eyed, humorous, conflicted and a pleasure to be around, far from the angst and depression of Andrew Garfield. He exists in a world where the web-slinging hero can foil a simple bike theft, chat with Iron Man and try to find just enough time for a prom date. The opening orchestral rendition of the classic Spider-Man theme from the 1960s comes as a comforting signal that Sony is finally delivering the Spider-Man everyone wants. He may not stand as tall alongside Marvel’s other productions, but he does fit comfortably into the current cinematic universe.

Parker gives us a recap of his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, documenting his experience in a video diary with all the glee and dorkiness of a kid who gets to meet his heroes. With a new suit and a chance to work with Iron Man, he never seems all that conflicted with fighting against Captain America; he’s just excited that he gets a chance to snatch the shield from his hands.

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Still a high school kid at heart.

While Peter’s high energy makes him a likable enough guy, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) realizes this kid isn’t quite ready for Avengers-level missions, despite letting Parker keep the spiffy outfit with the technological interface. Stark’s distancing is part tactical of Peter’s abilities, part fatherly for wanting the teen to remain a teen and part franchise protecting. You can understand his concerns after the previous disaster of a Spider-Man movie.

Homecoming brings Spider-Man back to the roots of what made him such a fun character. There’s no heavy pathos, depressing brooding or unfortunate deaths to hamper his spirit. During the day, Parker is a typically dorky high school student, excitedly chatting with his nerdy pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) in the hallway about building a Death Star out of Legos. He has his bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), his crush Liz (Laura Harrier) and his secret admirer MJ (Zendaya). There’s homework to finish, an academic decathlon to compete in, parties to attend and plenty of social problems with Flash’s vulgar nickname for Peter that seems to catch on. It’s not a very clever name, but how many bully-born insults ever are?

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Chillin’ like a hero.

When school is out, he slips on the suit and tries his hand at being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Starting with small crimes, he slowly begins to learn how tough it is being a hero, even one so revered on the streets of New York City. He can easily impress bystanders with a flip or two, but can annoy them as well when his vigilantism misses the mark. He stops a bike thief, but can’t find the bike owner. He stops a car jacker, except the assumed criminal was trying to open his own car. These scenes help establish Spider-Man as a more human hero of big heart rather than just being a battler of bad guys that may save one or two people along the way. He still has a ways to go and requires a bit more tact and humility. If he can’t successfully handle street crimes, what hopes does he have joining the Avengers in the upcoming Infinity War?

Related: Marvel Reveals Awesome FIRST ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Teaser

As per usual with these Marvel movies, the villain is the weakest aspect, despite the lightest of origins and the heftiest of A-talent. Michael Keaton is surprisingly not too strong as construction worker Adrian Toomes, trying and failing to land a Brooklyn accent. He thankfully drops this voice when he shifts his business from construction projects to creating alien weapons for the black market, acquiring alien tech with his new mechanical flying suit with actual wings and jets. It seems odd that he’d choose such a big and clunky outfit to secretly steal from Stark Industries, but how else was the movie supposed to work in the ridiculous design for the villain of The Vulture? The movie realizes this plot isn’t too interesting and places it mostly in the background for the obligatory one-on-one climax of Vulture vs. Spider-Man, where the villain literally says the words “I’ll kill you” as a threat.

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