Spider-Man: Homecoming is a both a refreshing entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a fantastic proper introduction for Spidey after an awesome debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. I won’t bore you with the details of Spider-Man’s film history, nor how this deal between Marvel and Sony came to be, as all of that is very well documented on the internet. I’d just like to focus on the film itself.

Right off the bat, Homecoming establishes its connection to the events of the MCU as a whole. Vulture, the film’s primary antagonist, created his wingsuit and numerous other weapons from the scraps of the alien ships that were left after the battle in the first Avengers film. Fast forward eight years later, and we see Peter Parker recapping the events that led to his joining Iron Man’s team in Civil War.

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With the exception of the film’s ending and a few jokes, this is really the only time that events from the other films are referenced. Homecoming somehow manages to tell a personal, self-contained story about Spider-Man, while also tying it back into to the overarching narrative of the MCU. All of this is to say that the stakes are a bit lower this time around, which isn’t a bad thing.

While I think that Marvel has yet to make a bad, or even mediocre MCU film, I can see how people could get a bit exhausted or overwhelmed with how much continuity has been in the recent films. 2018 will see the release of Avengers: Infinity War, a film set to feature a team up between virtually every hero that exists in the MCU. I personally love all of this lore and world building, but it’s nice to see things take a step back and focus on the little guys.

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And focusing on the little guys is precisely what Homecoming does. The Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) isn’t trying to conquer the world or collect all of the Infinity Stones, he’s just a normal guy that got put out of his job. So to make ends meet, he runs a black market selling high powered alien weaponry. This and a few other factors make him a relatable villain, and it almost makes you hope that he wins out in the end.

But that honor is saved for our heroes Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and I’m in love with Tom Holland’s portrayal of both characters. Regardless of whether he’s suited up or not, Holland brings so much charisma and energy to the screen. His awkward high school interactions were endearing, and his cocky antics as the web slinger were really funny.

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His failures as Spider-Man, while hilarious, also made him that much more relatable. Not only has he not been Spider-Man for very long, but he’s also a 15 year old high schooler. In addition to juggling Spanish quizzes and teenage romance, he also has to deal with fighting crime on a daily basis. This is something previous Spider-Man films have touched on to varying degrees, but Homecoming really makes a point to focus on the dual life aspect of the hero.

Peter definitely doesn’t have a five year plan, and the film’s early moments show us a Peter that is completely ambivalent to anything that doesn’t have to do with joining the Avengers. This makes his journey and character development all the more interesting, and I loved the way that his growth over the course of the story was handled.

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Homecoming’s supporting cast is also great stuff. Robert Downey Jr. is still amazing as Tony Stark, and this film made me realize just how far he’s come since 2008’s Iron Man. He’s still a snarky, rich playboy, but he’s also become a genuine mentor/father figure for Peter. He also doesn’t overstay his welcome in the film, regardless of what the trailers and commercials would have you believe.

The rest of Homecoming’s cast definitely exemplifies that “refreshing” point I mentioned earlier. Familiar faces like Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane are nowhere to be seen this time around. Zendaya’s character is technically called MJ, but this is more of a homage than her being an adaptation of the character. Flash Thompson is still around, but instead of being a physically imposing  jock, he’s a snobby rich kid that’s jealous of Peter’s intelligence.

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Homecoming gives Peter a best friend in the form of a young man named Ned. Ned is Peter’s guy in the chair, a technical genius who’s so skilled that he was able to disarm the limiter technology that Stark had coded into the Spider-Man suit. While his actions do sometimes put Peter in uncomfortable situations, he’s overall a really good friend.

Speaking of the suit, that’s another thing that I found really cool in Homecoming. In addition to have a version of Iron Man’s Jarvis, the suit is also packed full of useful tech such as taser webs, web grenades, spider drones, wing gliders and even a mode for instant kill (you don’t wanna use instant kill).

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Marvel and Sony really nailed Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’ll always have love for the previous two franchises, and I know I’m jumping the gun a bit by saying this, but Homecoming is probably the best Spider-Man film we’ve ever gotten.

In fact, it may be one of the best MCU films overall. I’m looking forward to watching this cast and story grow, and I really hope that Tom Holland’s character is given time and room to develop.

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