Spider-Man Homecoming: A hero’s true homecoming

There have been five Spider-Man movies to hit the big screen prior to Marvel’s latest blockbuster, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” debuting last weekend.

Though several early films are heralded as among the best superhero films of all time, none have ever felt as authentic to the comic book version of Peter Parker than “Homecoming” does.

Finally, the Spider-Man movie we’ve all been waiting for is here. And it delivers.

It’s a true homecoming for the webbed wall-crawler, whose film rights were sold to Sony Pictures well before Marvel Comics ever dreamed of developing their own movie studio. A deal struck in 2015 allowed Marvel to regain creative control over Spider-Man while Sony financed any Spidey solo movies and kept the profits. Marvel’s rebooting of the classic superhero began last year with a small appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” bringing on Tom Holland to play a 14-year-old Peter Parker.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” builds on this foundation by placing Peter in the midst of high school, struggling to contain his excitement for a larger piece of the action while figuring out who Peter Parker (and Spider-Man by extension) is as a person.

While not a true origin story by any means, “Homecoming” serves itself well by scaling back the grandiose nature of most comic-book movies. It’s a film largely grounded in reality with emotional stakes uncommon in superhero films, firmly in the mold of classic John Hughes movies from the 1980s like “The Breakfast Club” or “Weird Science.”

Holland is the perfect actor to bring this version of the character to life as he’s able to balance Peter’s awe of his new-found abilities with the natural naivety that comes with being a teenage boy unsure of his place in the world.

Holland has a natural ability to display authentic emotion in scenes opposite experienced actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton that gives “Homecoming” unexpected depth in such a bright, colorful movie.

Marvel fully ties in Spider-Man to their cinematic universe by making Downey’s Tony Stark/Iron Man mentor to Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It’s an unique, terrifically written bookend to the character Downey originated back in 2008 and allows his Tony Stark to come full circle from the brash, naïve hero Marvel started their cinematic journey with.

Keaton does a masterful job elevating the typical superhero villain to something interesting and engaging to watch outside of confrontations with the hero. As The Vulture, Keaton brings gravitas to a part that might not normally require weight.

Scenes where Keaton sheds his bird-suit and digs into the meat of the character are among the best in the entire film. This is especially true of a pivotal moment in the third act that redefines verbal confrontations between hero and villain.

For a film billed as a comic book action-adventure, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is largely better when no one is fighting on screen, save for sequences at the Washington Monument and on the Staten Island Ferry.

The core of “Homecoming” is about walking before you run, and the action of the film definitely rolls at a brisk walk at best. Audiences are certainly heading to the theaters to see Spider-Man fight The Vulture, but it’s not what they’re going to be talking about when they leave.

With one of Marvel’s most iconic character back under their creative control, the future of Spider-Man looks very bright. “Homecoming” is an incredible start in re-launching a hero that has misfired in its last three solo adventures.

Holland should easily become the first of the next generation of Marvel stars carrying the Avengers franchise forward for many years to come.

As blockbuster summer movies go, it’s hard to do better than the refreshingly fun “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” It’s a must-see in theaters for any avid moviegoer.

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