Spider-Man is arguably one of the most important superheroes in comic book history, serving as Marvel's flagship title for most of the company's history, and has always resonated with this reviewer as his personal favourite superhero of all time. As well as being the most well-known character in the Marvel Comics universe, he has naturally received the most media adaptations out of any Marvel character, but for the past two decades, the Spider-Man film franchise has had a somewhat complicated and turbulent history shall we say. The first Spider-Man movie directed by Sam Raimi opened in 2002, and at the time, was considered to be a groundbreaking phenomenon for the superhero movie genre, elevating to never-before-seen cinematic peaks and heights. An awesome movie in its own right that naturally ended up getting surpassed by its outstanding 2004 sequel, but then everything just went down the drain from there. 2007's Spider-Man 3 wasn't terrible per say, but it was a disappointment, and Sam Raimi ended up quitting the franchise shortly afterwards. Of course, Sony wouldn't give up their biggest cash-grab so they decided to hit the reboot button and hire Marc Webb to helm The Amazing Spider-Man duology, which only lasted from 2012 to 2014 due to both movies being empty, lifeless, joyless movies that stunk of corporate mandate.
They were both critical and commercial disasters (hardly surprising), so Sony formed the infamous partnership with Marvel Studios, which resulted in the wall-crawler making his debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. This introduction saw Tom Holland give an impressive, standout first impression, so it made sense that a solo movie would follow shortly afterwards, and despite enormous odds, Spider-Man: Homecoming delivers big time, revitalising the character for a new generation after a thirteen year decline and finally doing justice the beloved web-slinger, so if you loved Spidey's introduction in Civil War, then this is the right movie for you. Tonally, the high-school aspect does feel highly reminiscent of a John Hughes movie, which given the direction they were clearly going for, works incredibly well. Director Jon Watts perfectly balances the comedy and drama exceptionally well, and at times, this movie feels very reminiscent of The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Hell, there are certain characters that look as though they had wandered off the set of those movies. This really does feel like a high-school movie that just so happens to have a superhero feature in it, which helps makes this movie feel both fresh and distinguishable enough to stand on its own from other superhero movies.
But what stands out the most is the characters, their development over the course of the movie, and the real genuine emotion that goes with that. The Peter Parker we see here is an actual high-school kid that's just learning how to be a superhero after being chucked into the deep end with Civil War, and we do get to see the traditional "friendly-neighbourhood" aspect here with Spidey stopping bike thieves and giving people directions, yet he is wanting to be amongst the legends like Captain America and Iron Man. He isn't annoying or mopey in the slightest, but instead is genuinely believable as he makes mistakes and has real teenage problems, yet that doesn't drag the narrative down or make it convoluted like it did in the past three Spider-Man movies. During the film's climax, there's a particularly memorable scene where a genuinely scared Peter is placed in a terrifying situation (which is influenced by one of the most iconic moments from Spidey's comic history) and you do get the sense that this is a kid that's afraid for his life.
As he demonstrated in Civil War, Tom Holland completely owns the part of Spider-Man, and throughout the movie, you do get the sense that Holland is really passionate about the character and wants do it justice, which he absolutely does here by perfectly portraying both the Peter Parker and Spider-Man aspects of the character and nailing all of the emotional beats that goes with that. Holland IS the definitive Spider-Man. Michael Keaton's Vulture is one the best MCU villains to date, even if the MCU doesn't have the best track record of having great villains in their roster, but it's clear that Marvel has been listening to the criticisms and have been turning that around this year with Vulture, Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Keaton definitely brought a lot to the role, being both sympathetic and terrifying in equal measure, plus his scenes with Holland are truly suspenseful. There's also terrific supporting performances as well, with Marisa Tomei's superb grounded take on Aunt May, the funny Jacob Batalon who goes from Peter's best friend to being "the guy in the chair", Zendaya was a real surprise as the crude yet quirky Michelle, plus both Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau were both well-utilised in their small but essential roles.
Despite a few minor flaws here and there, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie fans have been waiting for, and this movie's ultimate achievement is remembering what a great Spider-Man movie should always be in the end: fun, heartfelt, and exciting without ever losing sight of what makes the character so beloved and iconic. It's action-packed, well-paced, and completely improves on the last three outings, which all suffered from being too bogged down and consumed by overblown melodrama, muddled storytelling and too much emphasis on heavy themes. This movie has none of that, and not only is this one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, but it's also quite possibly, the best Spider-Man movie to date.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: JON WATTS / SCREENPLAY: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, JOHN FRANCIS DALEY, JON WATTS, CHRISTOPHER FORD, CHRIS MCKENNA, ERIK SOMMERS / STARRING: TOM HOLLAND, MICHAEL KEATON, ROBERT DOWNEY JR, MARISA TOMEI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW