Spider-Man: Homecoming is a charming party trick
There's a sort of boundless joy to seeing this Spider-Man try to come into his own skin.
The movie picks up from the events of Captain America: Civil War, where Peter Parker donned the Spider-Man suit to help Tony Stark take down Captain America's rebellious anti-Sokovia Accords faction.
After that free-for-all superpowered street brawl, 15-year-old Peter decides he's an Avenger now and can't wait for the next mission.
He is disappointed when his mentor relegates him to the bench, forcing him to deal with the normal life of a teenager, mixed with an overeager and comically hardly successful career in fighting small time crime on the streets of Queens.
Peter Parker has never been this really relatable and accessible on the screen.
There's no sciency mumbo jumbo flying around; no genetically modified spiders hanging in the ceilings; and no poor Uncle Ben dying for the damndest time!
In Homecoming, Parker is an underappreciated high school student who's frustrated with playing on the sidelines, and suddenly starts to feel bored with his regular life.
Here, the audience has to contend with Peter's inability to properly contain his newfound energy after tasting the life of an Avenger.
After all, who wants to go back to spending time in school detention after knocking Captain America around a couple of times?
Since he keeps getting the cold shoulder from Avengers supremo Tony, Peter tries to make the best use of his powers while dealing with the routine life of a high school sophomore.
He is an integral part of the school's academic decathlon team, the same team his crush Liz (Laura Harrier) captains. He also has a rival named Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) who sort of bullies him without throwing punches, a Spider-Man novelty.
If it sounds like you've seen this before, it's because you have: in every teen comedy movie ever.
To the credit of director Jon Watts and his team though, Homecoming transcends a lot of boundaries despite being a teen comedy slash superhero movie crossover.
What makes this easy to achieve is the simplicity of the plot; a young kid trying to find his way in the world.
The stakes are smaller in scope than what is commonplace in the superhero movie universe, and it resonates in a way that is meaningful for the audience to connect and care.
This would more likely fail if, say, Peter had to deal with a world-ending crisis in his origin story.
To make the hero here perfectly connected to the audience, Watts keeps Homecoming's feet firmly grounded in what's easily relatable.
The stakes are never as big as General Zod invading Earth (Man of Steel),or Loki and the Chitauri trying to conquer the planet (The Avengers), but they are tempered well enough to make the audience care about Peter's journey.
Despite the wild success of superhero movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it hasn't had a lot of memorably sympathetic villains on offer.
Loki (Thor) and the Winter Soldier (Captain America) are the only two I can remember off the top of my head.
Homecoming's Adrian Toomes is an easy addition to that list with Michael Keaton giving life to the character that feels so remarkably human.
Toomes is one of the contractors tasked with cleaning up New York City after the Battle of New York (The Avengers) until takeover of the operation by Tony's Stark Industries renders him jobless.
To fend for himself in a post-invasion world, Toomes decides to keep the alien Chitauri technology he's scavenged with his crew from the cleanup and manufacture illegal weapons under the radar.
Toomes is not trying to take over the world; he's neither interested in a personal vendetta against Tony Stark for (accidentally) taking his job away, nor is he a flimsy genocidal maniac trying to get back at the world for being cruel to him.
He just wants to sell illegal arms on the side and make just enough to make sure he's providing for his family without attracting any attention from the government or pesky Avengers.It's the smaller things that matter here.
His motivations are sensible enough to earn him some sympathy from the audience, even when he's doing his best to bury Spider-Man.
Despite the movie's lighthearted fun, Keaton brings a chilling presence to his encounters with Spider-Man that makes him menacing enough as a villain, while still somewhat recognizable as an everyday man trying to make a living in a world of superpowered humans and falling aliens (an aspect that is rarely covered in superhero movies).
This makes him just the perfect adversary for Peter Parker on his first real run as a solo superhero.
Homecoming is Peter Parker's training wheels set to help him stretch his webbed wings and understand how far-reaching are his potentials.
There's a sort of boundless joy to seeing this Spider-Man try to come into his own skin and decide the kind of superhero that he wants to be.
Since this is (mostly) a Marvel production, it's sort of redundant to say Homecoming is funny.
Tom Holland is impressive in his first full Spider-Man role, carrying his teenage angst with the sort of elegant comic delivery that doesn't make him boring.
His high school friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the other chief vessel for most of the movie's humour, and he doesn’t drop the ball (if you don't count that time he found out about Peter's secret identity).
The jokes are very well-placed and the situational humour is sometimes masterfully punctuated with breaks of intense tension that never feel out of place.
Zendaya as Michelle Jones is another memorable character who makes the most of the little she is given to do, same as a younger, more energetic Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).
Sadly, there's not a lot of perfect movies to point at, and Homecoming also comes dragging with a few baggage.
My major frustration with Homecoming is Peter's suit.
He got his famous red and blue Spider-Man suit from Tony Stark in Civil War and is allowed to keep it in the beginning of Homecoming as reward for his contributions.
Halfway through the movie, he discovers that the suit comes with a lot of cool advanced tech he's not been authorized to use.
This segment is milked for some genuine humour that hits the mark and makes it even more enjoyable, but the heavily-techified suit is too reminiscent of a certain...Iron Man.
The suit appears to come with so many options the only thing that makes it different from the iron suit is that it's not made of iron.
With his Starkified suit, Spider-Man could just as well have been named Iron Boy, Iron Intern, or Spandex Guy That Shoots Webs.
Of course, this is not enough to derail the movie, it just could have done with a little less Tony Stark influence and have Peter depend more on his own instincts (which does happen in the end).
Homecoming seamlessly injects Spider-Man into the MCU, and even though that comes at the cost of the overbearing shadow of Tony Stark's Iron Man, this is still Peter's story of self-actualisation.
Toomes, as Vulture, is just the perfect adversary to sponge off of in his coming-of-age story, and it doesn't hurt that both web-slinger and winged villain have a lot of substance to draw from to give heart to their performances.
The movie benefits a lot from excellent casting choices, with fantastic acting across the board down to even the most peripheral character.
In what is a refreshing decision, Peter's story doesn't even completely wrap up into a neat little bow in Homecoming.
He is more aware of himself as a person and a superhero at the end of the movie, but that doesn't automatically equate to him being the finished superhero.
He doesn't become a master webslinger after a few fights; in fact, at the end of the movie, he's hardly any more skillful than he was at the beginning.
This offers a thrill for the audience to realise there is a lot more room for this Spider-Man to grow into.
And despite that Uncle Ben is not around to utter those famous words for the umpteenth time, Peter does handle his great power with great responsibility.
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