When a 19-year-old Tom Holland popped up for 10 minutes of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, his chirpy Peter Parker briefly swept the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe from under the feet of established franchise stars like Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans. Over the 133 minutes of this standalone instalment, Holland’s Spider-Man remains supremely likeable despite his well-worn character arc.
Homecoming is the third Spider-Man reboot in 15 years, but Holland’s story outshines both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s outings by entrenching itself in existing MCU canon while also keeping things feather-light. Origin story already dealt with, Homecoming is able to focus on this 15-year-old boy’s desperation to be taken seriously by girls and grown-ups alike: should he succeed, both a Homecoming date and a place in Iron Man’s Avengers squad beckon.
The sprightly intro for our millennial hero is his iPhone-shot video diary from Civil War, offering an alternate perspective for that film’s deeply memorable airport fight sequence and proving the kind of satisfying cross-stitches the Marvel Cinematic Universe is capable of. Parker’s breathless excitement doesn’t last, however, when he’s sent back to high school by his mentor Tony Stark (Iron Man). Ambition piqued by his experiences with the Avengers, he’s bored of being on the Academic Decathlon team and, as Spidey, taking on dangers such as lost old ladies – so when he encounters a group of thugs flogging super-powered alien weaponry on the streets, he has to get involved, despite Stark’s warnings and his total inexperience.
From this point on it doesn’t take someone of Parker’s genius to work out that he’ll end up biting off more than he can chew in the fight against Michael Keaton’s nuanced villain (a flying arms dealer called Vulture) but plenty of thrills and shocks await both within and without the film’s gripping action sequences. In these, the Staten Island ferry and the Washington Monument both get gorgeously trashed, while brief turns from comedy stars Donald Glover and Hannibal Buress leaven the drama. An underused Zendaya also brilliantly lays on the snark as Parker’s classmate Michelle; in fact, in the wake of DC’s Wonder Woman, the only real embarrassment for Marvel here is that its female characters continue to take a Bechdel-flunking backseat.