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Spider-Man: Homecoming is another triumph for Marvel Studios.
It builds upon the established franchise wonderfully, surprisingly choosing to explore some of the smaller-scale fallout from films like The Avengers whilst continuing to build towards the inevitably Earth-shattering events we'll be seeing in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. But it does so in a way that never detracts from Spider-Man. Make no mistakes; despite a handful of scenes featuring Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, this is Spider-Man's movie through and through. The ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe merely allow this to play out in new, exciting ways that were previously off the table. For example, the villain is Michael Keaton's (rather great) take on The Vulture. In previous iterations of this franchise, the plot would have required this to be yet another super-genius who invents a whole load of gadgets and gizmos to let him go on jewel-heists. This film chooses to piggy-back off of the events of The Avengers, allowing for the head of a clean-up crew to acquire alien technology and develop all sorts of crazy gadgets and weaponry that he can use in an attempt to steal things like Iron Man's suits and Captain America's shield. The end result is a refreshingly working-class villain and, yet, one still full of the nuance and grey area that Spider-Man villains traditionally operate within.
Tom Holland is excellent as Peter Parker and, just as with The Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey's sarcastic attitude when dealing with bad guys is carried over from the comics expertly. However, this film also revels in giving us constant meta glimpses behind the curtain at Spider-Man as he, for example, chooses to sneak up on bank robbers and try a handful of different sassy poses before choosing the one he uses when announcing himself. It's definitely not an attitude towards a story that everyone wants, but it's one that works for me and, I'd argue, it's one that masterfully works towards keeping the sixth screen-outing for this character (and the third version of this character within 10 years) fresh.
The film zips along with this gleeful sense of humour propped up by go-for-broke fan-service and references (they outright encorporate the Spider-Man cartoon theme tune into the score at the start) for the first 45 minutes or so. My only complaint at all is that it starts to lose this pace a little bit in the middle. At 133 minutes, the film is just a smidge longer than this sort of thing comfortably sustains... but it really is a minor complaint.
The cast are wonderful. Tom Holland had a difficult job taking over from Andrew Garfield but he completely pulls it off. In fact, the high-school is full of fresh faces and they're mostly all very strong - not to mention how refreshing it is to see actual kids portraying Spider-Man characters for once. Obviously we all know and love Robert Downey Jr. et al. Michael Keaton is brilliant as ever and, beyond that, this film gets back to what I liked about Raimi's films in terms of casting: it's full of exciting people in small roles. Donald Glover pops up for two scenes, Martin Starr returns to high-school as a teacher, Stan Lee's cameo even manages to not be too grating (though he does overstay his welcome by a line of dialogue).
I've heard Marvel's pitch for the film compared to John Hughes and I can completely see why. Despite having much less focus on Peter Parker's high-school drama than both the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and the The Amazing Spider-Man movies, it feels like a far more accurate portrayal of modern high-school life - just with superhero chaos thrown in to liven things up a bit.
Spider-Man is back - and I hope he's here to stay for the foreseeable future. This is, quite possibly, the finest Marvel outing since The Avengers (which was, quite amazingly, only 5 years ago despite being 9 movies ago). Fans of Spider-Man and Marvel in general couldn't ask for much more.