Year: 2017
Director(s): Jon Watts
Writer(s): Jonathen Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jon Watts, Christopher FOrd
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 133 mins

Synopsis: Wth the help of his mentor Tony Stark, Peter Parker tries to balance life as an ordinary high school student while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man. (Source)

3 Peter Parkers, 2 movie studios and six films later, Spider-Man is finally home where he belongs, and it feels great to have him back. As the sixteenth film in Marvel Studios’ illustrious oeuvre, it’s even more impressive that against all odds, this is a film of firsts. This is Spider-Man Year One, wrapped up in one of the best high school comedies since John Hughes’ heyday. Director Jon Watts has pulled off a miracle, one that subverts the origin story (and Marvel’s shifting superhero template) into an adventure about finding ourselves in a world we don’t understand. Yes, there are some great action sequences and a deeper dive into Marvel’s rich universe, but the most exciting aspects of the film are Peter’s relationship with his friends, family, a budding crush and a pesky school bully. It’s these mundane, adolescent ideas that Watts leans into first and foremost, bringing to life the everyday trials of a fledging superhero with the awe and wonder of a teenage boy. Spider-Man: Homecoming? More like Spider-Man: Homerun, because this thing is so good it hurts

Spidey/Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) story begins after his first brush with the Avengers. Picking up right after the events in Civil War, Tony Stark returns Peter to his home in Queens, but leaves him with a parting gift: a fully tricked out Spider-Suit. Reeling from his foray into a world of superheroes, Peter can barely contain himself, itching to get back on a mission despite his high school obligations. Balancing his books with the extra-circular activity of ridding the streets of petty crimes, Peter longs for more, feeling that his dream of being an Avenger is closer than ever. The real test comes when Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), an ex-blue collar worker displaced from the fallout of a Stark initiative, begins to loose control of his a dangerous venture – salvaging the wreckage of Avengers battles and turning alien tech into black market weapons. Stuck between his longing to fight crime and urges to be a teenage boy, Peter struggles to find a balance between two very different worlds, knowing full well that if the two overlap, it could be dangerous for the ones he loves.

By and large, what sets this Spidey film apart from any of its peers, is just how fresh and full of vigor it is. By sidestepping a traditional superhero origin and focusing on a coming-of-age tale, Watts and Marvel have found us a way to see the character and his world with fresh eyes. It’s astounding what a new perspective can do, and this film finally gets to show what it’s like to be a teenager in a world of larger-than-life defenders. For all intents and purposes, Peter Parker is someone on the outside looking in, someone who has the capacity to do good, but doesn’t understand that being a hero is more difficult than donning a brightly colored suit, that cool gadgets pale in comparison to knowing who you are and where your place is. It’s this journey, a story about Peter Parker learning to get comfortable in his own skin that makes the spectacle resonate, building a character who feels so truly homegrown and just one of boys. Through this, Watts has given us a film grounded with emotional realism, bursting with sincerity while exploring a world in which the “normies” are stuck picking up the collateral damage of their super powered protectors. The latter actually makes for a very relevant and smart villain, one rooted in a real-world angst and complexity.

With a story so rooted in character, it’s no surprise that the ensemble is a diverse set of misfits that have no trouble making us grin with glee. As Peter/Spidey himself, Tom Holland is a miracle. The youngest to take up the role on-screen, Holland is a natural, full of effervescent charm and the smile of a winner. The kid’s comedic timing is pitch perfect and he’s as utterly disarming as much as he exudes strength. As his opposite, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes has a lot of overlap, making him a villain that feels real and modern, someone who made one wrong turn they never recovered from. Keaton snarls with understated menace, but his intimidation feels like it’s rooted from good intentions, despite how misguided they may be. Of the rest of the group, Jacob Batalon is indispensable as Parker’s best mate, Ned, stealing nearly every scene he’s in, while Zendaya’s pessimistic Michelle gets some of the best deadpan beats. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is a great addition, while Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark has a presence that is smartly more felt than seen. All in all, the ensemble make an incredibly diverse bunch, making the world feel that much more real.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is everything it should be, a pitch perfect reboot that breaks new ground and gives the character a fresh start. We’ve got high school hijinks, genuine nerd-outs, awkward social encounters and a smart story that feels self-contained despite its place amidst a rich cinematic universe. At this point, Marvel has mastered their technique, knowing full well which elements to retool and the strongest ways to present their heroes in ways that feel relevant. This is a Spidey film that fully understands the pubescent complexities that make the webhead so relatable – it’s not just the Spidey film you never knew you wanted, it’s the one he deserves.

SG