This one’s worth checking out.

Not bad but it needs more crying.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was made because there needed to be a solo Spider-Man movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the new Peter Parker exists because Sony failed twice. In part this is reassuring news, since we know Marvel Studios are safer hands, but their movies also tend to look and feel very much the same (with the exception of Guardians) so the new problem might be that this beloved comic-book hero is forced to appear in something generic rather than something laughable.

Here we climb again.

As is usual with Marvel movies, I can’t call Spider-Man: Homecoming a bad film, and for fans of the character, it may be just the remedy they need (my review of Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still categorized as “positive” but I realize in retrospect that I liked it because it’s often “so bad it’s good”). Fans of the Marvel films as a whole have seemingly only been disappointed at the small role of Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man, despite his prominence in teaser clips and posters, but I’ve reached a point where I know to take such advertising as a sign that he probably won’t feature in the movie all that much.

Whatever the case may be, Iron Man, a.k.a Tony Stark, functions as a mentor and gadget supplier to Tom Holland‘s high school geek/masked vigilante with “spider powers” Peter Parker. Peter also lives alone with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei). We don’t get too much info about how he got his powers and where his parents or the uncle is, which is a relief to anyone who has watched Spider-Man movies as long as I have. The villain of the piece is Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a failed businessman who uses alien equipment from the first Avengers film to sell weaponry and become The Vulture. I can’t decide if Birdman just became sadder or funnier.

Peter is filled with youthful excitement and we see that he has vlog footage from the fight in Civil War, which is one of the better instances of world-building and franchise referencing in the movie. It feels like something this Peter Parker would do and the battle itself works convincingly as his inspiration to take on the Spider-Man mantle properly – while also studying of course.

Sir Not Appearing In This Movie.

In addition to the players I’ve mentioned, Homecoming features Jon Favreau as Stark’s body-guard Happy Hogan, Zendaya Coleman as an admirer of Peter’s who just happens to have the initials “M.J.”, Tony Revolori as an unusual take on Flash Thompson, and Donald Glover as a criminal I’ve gathered is the uncle of possible future Spidey alter-ego Miles Morales. I thought Mr. Gambino was young enough to be a decent Spider-Man himself one day but perhaps I’m getting old without realizing it.

So did the movie in any way exceed my expectations of “It’ll be just another superhero movie”? Well, in some ways it did, in other ways it did not. (I don’t know if it’s an unpopular opinion to prefer Wonder Woman but I did find that to be more inspiring superhero and I appreciated that most reminders of an expanded universe were saved for the very beginning and very end of the film)

There are obviously things to appreciate, not so much in-your-face fanservice as it is fanservice of the neat and subtle kind. The appearance of The Shockers (Bokeem Woodbine and Logan Marshall-Green), one of them featured in the Spider-Man cartoon I adored as a kid, was enough to please the fanboy that still lives somewhere in my curmudgeonly heart. There is also a character named Mac Gargan (Michael Mando), who was The Scorpion in that very same cartoon and once joined The Shocker in a villainous sextet called The Sinister Six. A post-credit scene promises something similar in the MCU’s future.

The wardrobe may be a little too on-the-beak, but I dunno.

What’s truly commendable is, of course, the central performance. Tom Holland succeeds in that he seems not only like a real teen, but a real teen that gets to be Spider-Man. And no, it isn’t only due to the fact that they cast someone who isn’t, I dunno, 29 years old. He’s not too pitiful to be a convincing superhero (e.g. Tobey Maguire) and he’s not too cool to be a convincing Peter Parker (e.g. Andrew Garfield). His connection with Toomes is also brilliant.

So Spidey, I’m glad someone somewhere is finally getting you right (even if I miss the day when you were simply a boy genius and didn’t get your tech from a crime-fighting billionaire). It’s too bad you didn’t get to be in a movie of your own so much as you were put in your part of Kevin Feige‘s ever-expanding film universe that may yet become boring and same-y to people. I cannot help but feel that, had there been more time and even more passion behind this project, the action scenes would be less “generic Marvel imagery” and the supporting characters would be more well-realized.

That said, Homecoming still works as a stand-alone Spider-Man film, though the mandatory world-building doesn’t always add much of importance (even if, let’s be fair, it isn’t as obnoxious as it could have been). You’ll have fun watching it, I bet, but if  you skip this one before you see Black Panther or even Infinity War, chances are you’ll still get it.

In any event, I’d argue the most amazing thing about this movie is the fact that Hannibal Buress (hilarious in his small role) sent an impersonator to attend the Hollywood premiere in his stead because, well, that’s just the kind of guy he is.

3/5 whatever