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Spider-Man: Homecoming is brilliant, a fantastic portrayal of the character of Peter Parker that brings the heart and humor that make the signature web slinger so iconic. Yes, the film has some fantastic visuals and almost nonstop humor, but it’s the tone that makes the film work so well; director Jon Watts understands that it’s the coming of age, high school story that makes Spider-Man so relatable. The film is genuinely gripping on a character level; as an audience, we want Peter to get the girl, prove himself, and save the world, and the film’s white knuckled action sequences work because of this.

After being recruited by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is stuck on a ground level trying to prevent small crimes as the crimefighting Spider-Man. When a thief (Michael Keaton) begins to steal a series of dangerous technology, Peter acts against Stark’s wishes and attempts to thwart the villains, and prove himself as a worthy addition to The Avengers. The ties to the Marvel universe don’t burden the film, but enhance it; the film feels like it actually fits into the world of superheroes, with Captain America popping up in school videos and teenage girls crushing on Thor.

The high school environment works wonderfully, with Peter’s struggles with classes, family, and girls feeling just as gripping as his superhero adventures, and the two are perfectly balanced by the film’s tour de force performance by Tom Holland. Holland is beyond charismatic; his Peter Parker is the perfect awkward, nerdy high school science whiz, and his Spider-Man is quick witted, intelligent, and most importantly, human. Holland’s interpretation is perhaps the best cinematic Spider-Man ever put to screen, and he’s up against the perfect villain in Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Keaton brings a blue collar, utterly relatable nature to his character, who’s blatant humanity makes him one of the most terrifying, and best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I was genuinely taken aback by how good Spider-Man: Homecoming was. Although seeing Spider-Man in the larger Marvel universe is exciting enough, the film understands why the character is beloved, and tells a story that perfectly fits said character. It’s shockingly funny, with more than a few gut busting moments, but it’s the humanity that makes the film so special. Rivaling Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 as the best of the series, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a heartwarming, beautiful delight. Grade: A

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