Genuine, rash, imperfect: these are the words that define the new Peter Parker offered in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland - who already had us on board after Captain America: Civil War thanks to his brief appearance - offers a millennial reinterpretation of one the most beloved of Marvel's heroes, and Homecoming's intentions are made immediately clear. The film centres around the difficult journey to becoming a hero, mixing this coming of age story and a desire to stay true to the character and its legacy with juicy pop culture references in an attempt to make it appeal to an audience not necessarily in love with the comic books.
After some less than brilliant Spidey adaptations on the big screen over the last few years (such as, for example, the unfinished trilogy directed by Marc Webb, and Andrew Garfield's portrayal of the character), Jon Watts's new film offers a more authentic reinterpretation of the young Peter Parker, taking some liberties with the hero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
But that's where the charm in this new Peter Parker lies. He's incomplete, split between his pursuit of growing up and living a normal life, and defeating villains for the greater good. He imitates his more experienced colleagues, who are portrayed here as pure caricature, including Captain America and Tony Stark, but at the same time he's still like any other teenager struggling with his first crush, family (an aunt in this case), an overenthusiastic best friend, and (as you'd expect) prom.
It's a delightful mix that fits perfectly with one of the trends to emerge in the genre over recent years; more human heroes who don't take themselves too seriously. It's a relatively new direction for the superhero genre, taken partly by Iron Man himself, and maybe that's why he's the perfect spiritual guide for an uncontrollable, stubborn, and ambitious teen (all traits we've seen in Tony Stark himself).
Yet if on the one hand the desire for something new, to go beyond the typical hero film format is becoming stronger, there are still some cornerstones in the genre that can't be ignored. The struggle between good and evil is chief among them, and in Spider-Man: Homecoming this takes shape in a tasty duel between the teen Spidey and a greedy and extraordinarily evil villain, Vulture, outstandingly realised by Michael Keaton, who disowns his own superhero past (Tim Burton's Batman and Alejandro Iñárritu's Birdman). Keaton perfectly personifies a man disillusioned by the good guys, those who arrogantly took what he owned, a man who harbours resentment, something that should feel more grounded than the motivations of your typical villain.
What makes Spider-Man: Homecoming great is the normality that the whole film is wrapped up in, despite its extraordinary nature. Part of this is the humanity of its protagonists, both driven by a violent desire for personal revival, both eager to fight to save their own worlds (the Queens neighbourhood for Peter Parker, his family for Adrian Toomes). What torments the young Spider-Man is comparable to what most of the audience feels; what torments Vulture are the same afflictions of a middle-class man enduring the difficulties of everyday life, trying to survive in a world ruled by the elite. But these themes are all reinterpreted with the same rhythm, the same frenzy, and also the same humour that's typical of a contemporary comic book movie, offering an interesting mix that works very well.
Along with a film that contains a perfect blend of action and substance, the camera work is really great, offering some high-adrenaline moments, especially as we watch Spidey performing some stunning acrobatics against the backdrop of NYC. This fits perfectly with Michael Giacchino's exceptional soundtrack, which reinterprets and gives a new lease of life to the iconic Spider-Man theme, which is used in just the right amount and accompanies more rebellious music, such as the evergreen Blitzkrieg Bop by Ramones, which closes the film.
Spider-Man: Homecoming succeeds in reconnecting us with a Spider-man who has always felt the weight of his powers. The film has been positioned on the more light-hearted side of the genre, abandoning the more dramatic and solemn style that other superhero films have been pursuing more recently (starting with the Avengers series).
Although the film would have undoubtedly benefited from more concentrated storytelling at times, Jon Watts' new movie runs smoothly for the most part, dominated as it is by two main characters - Spidey and Vulture - who have created enough tension to keep us glued to the screen until the very last frame. Spidey has made his comeback in style, and Tom Holland has the perfect look for this new trilogy, a worthy successor to the legacy left by Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire.