You would think that yet another reboot of Spider-Man, the sixth film in 15 years, would be a bit much, but Spider-Man: Homecoming proves that with great storytelling comes great returns. The new Peter Parker (played with wide-eyed innocence, nimble physicality, and just the right amount of awkwardness by Tom Holland) is 15 years old, and we find him struggling to adjust to regular ol' high school life after going on a mission with the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. Every day, he counts the seconds till dismissal at 2:45 p.m. (can you imagine how easier life would be if that were the dismissal time here, too?), when he can suit up and bring small-time criminals to justice...or help old ladies find their way around the neighborhood in exchange for some churros.
All Peter wants to do is go on another "retreat" with the Avengers, but Tony Stark/Iron Man, who has become a sort of father figure, is of the firm belief that he needs more time and training. The more he's told to "stay close to the ground," the more Peter wants to get out there, which results in very dangerous fights with a band of baddies led by the Vulture (played by Michael Keaton, who also played Batman decades ago).
Radioactive superpowers aside, Peter's struggle will strike a chord with you if you have ever felt like you could do and be so much more if only you didn't have so many restrictions: if only you had no curfew, if only you lived in the city of your dreams, if only you had the funds to kick-start that project... It's layers like this that set Homecoming apart from other superhero movies. Let's dig in (spoilers, obvi):
- Homecoming grounds the heart-stopping action and massive explosions with a coming-of-age story in a relatable setting. Take out the superpowers and it wouldn't be out of place in a John Hughes movie marathon. Peter is itching to get out of high school, and it's a pity because as the audience, we see how interesting his high school life could be and how good he has it, if only he would stop watching the clock and daydreaming of a life that could be. Sure, there are the bullies who call him Penis Parker (ever notice how bullies come up with the most basic insults?), but he's also got Aunt May (possibly the coolest and chicest guardian ever played by Marisa Tomei), loyal best friend Ned (Fil-Am Jacob Batalon), long-time crush Liz (Laura Harrier), snarky friend and possible future love interest Michelle (our girl Zendaya), and the rest of his decathlon teammates. It's a treat to watch how all these characters play a part in Peter's growth both as a teenager and a superhero.
- The students look like actual teenagers. This may not seem like much, but think of all the times you watched a teen movie or TV show and thought, is that how teenagers look like now? Why do/did I not look like that??? Production-wise, it's easier to cast grown-ups to play teenagers, as Homecoming does, but it's refreshing how Homecoming chose actors—leads, second leads, and extras—that have that high school believability.
- The diverse cast is representative of Peter's neighborhood in Queens, New York. And the best part is that none of them are defined by the color of their skin or had to give a big speech about their cultural background. It's just a fact of life, as it should be.
- Donald Glover's casting is just the best. Fan dreams do come true: Back when Marvel was casting the next Spider-Man after Tobey Maguire, there was an internet campaign to have the Community star, whom you might know as Childish Gambino, take on the mantle of the friendly neighborhood superhero. The role ultimately went to Andrew Garfield, but the campaign was never really forgotten. Donald's casting seemed like a nod to the campaign, but Marvel showed it meant business upon revealing his character's name: Aaron Davis, the uncle of Miles Morales, who becomes Spider-Man in the comics. This most probably means we haven't seen the last of Donald, which means more opportunities to geek out!
- You'll see a different side of familiar superheroes. Who knew that lone wolf Tony Stark could be a pretty decent father figure? Who knew that Captain America's pep talks was just what you needed to make an effort at gym class? Thank you, Marvel, for making Captain America's Fitness Challenge canon.
Catch Spider-Man: Homecoming in cinemas.