Let’s start off by allaying any fears you may have that Spider-Man: Homecoming is as ill-conceived as its accompanying artwork. Rest assured that the film couldn’t be further up the quality ladder than those nightmares of Photoshop (heck maybe even Paint) that somehow got approved by the studio to entice us into cinemas. The finished article is so good, so accomplished, so damn joyous it’s enough to exonerate the shoddy as hell posters.
Director Jon Watts may not have a huge amount of credits to his name but he proves to have a fresh and exhilarating take on Marvel’s most recognisable son. Since Spider-Man’s big screen debut in 2002 we’ve had a total of 5 solo outings for Peter Parker so one would be forgiven if they would be suffering from Web-Slinger fatigue. However with his brief but memorable appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the new, younger - incarnation of Spidey proved to be refreshingly angst-free and infectiously excitable. Brit Tom Holland imbues his Peter Parker with a genuinely teenage feel, his efforts to impress mentor Tony Stark and juggle his school life with his secret identity are as clumsy and comedic as one would expect from a 15 year old boy, albeit a thoroughly decent, hard-working one. Holland is all charm without the smarm, his wide-eyed innocence coupled with bags of enthusiasm sets him apart from his older, more brooding predecessors. He may have a crush on schoolmate Liz (Laura Harrier) but it’s no more than that, no great, longing love just a regular teenage crush and focusing more on Peter’s friendship with bff Ned (an outstandingly likeable turn from Jacob Batalon) is a masterstroke by Watts as is the welcome decision to forgo yet another retelling of his origin tale, there’s no radioactive spider, no Uncle Ben, all that has happened for Peter already so we can get on with the story and not rehash what we’ve seen before.
Peter is brought up to date as a teen, filming himself on his phone and vlogging his experiences in Captain America: Civil War, it’s a canny move from the director and immediately sets up Peter as a regular kid albeit a super-powered one. Once his adventure in Berlin with The Avengers is over he’s left to “intern” with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and finds himself dumped on a disinterested Happy Hogan (a delightfully grumpy Jon Favreau) instead of joining the team full time. Increasingly frustrated with catching small time hoods and giving directions to strangers on the street he seeks to impress Stark by taking down Vulture (Michael Keaton) and his gang who have modified Chitauri tech - left over from the infamous battle in New York with The Avengers - into weapons to sell on the black market.
It’s refreshing to see a Marvel villain not hell bent on planetary domination but simply a crook out for the big pay day, one who feels hard done by and justified in his actions. Keaton gives his Big Bad depth and ends up the MCU’s most compelling villain since Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief Loki last donned his horned helmet. The young cast playing Parker’s school mates - Harrier and Batalon are joined by Zendaya in a wonderfully snarky turn as Michelle and Tony Revolori as the arrogant Flash - are all uniformly excellent and refreshingly look like actual high schoolers as opposed to the Hollywood idea of what a teen crowd from Queens would resemble. In another change from previous instalments Liz, the object of Peter’s desires, is so rarely in peril. In the past Spidey has been hampered by his need to rescue his loved ones multiple times and it’s a conceit that has become tiresome. Here he is called upon on one occasion to aid his pals in a scene of dizzying heights that on an IMAX screen was genuinely vertigo inducing.
And whilst Holland is surrounded by great performances and characters - Iron Man featuring a lot less than the marketing would have us believe - this is very much Spider-Man’s film and Holland knocks it out of the park. Funny, awkward and downright relatable, he owns the role making his web slinging teen someone to root for and care about. Holland takes his light and breezy Captain America: Civil War debut and builds on it to the level that we feel concern for his well-being as he tries to master his powers. This Spidey is by no means the finished article, he is grappling with his abilities and has a lot to learn about his limitations. Factor in his chemistry with a much younger than usual Aunt May (a tragically underused Marisa Tomei) and he is a fully rounded character, a 15 year old novice with a huge heart and moral backbone.
Enormous, exhilarating fun, Spider-Man: Homecoming ties in beautifully with the MCU without letting it overwhelm proceedings. In short, it’s an absolute delight.