The beginning of the third Spider-Man series in fifteen years meant that Marvel Studios had to offer up something new in order to keep fans interested. Luckily, Spider-Man: Homecoming does a great job of keeping the much loved character feeling fresh in what is an entertaining solo film.

Homecoming follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he tries to deal with his everyday high schooler problems whilst coming to terms with the fact that he is now also the Spider-Man. Peter continuously tries to prove himself to his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and sees the perfect opportunity to do so when Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), otherwise known as the Vulture, begins to deal high-tech arms out to criminals. Struggling to balance his double life, Peter must make sacrifices and learn the hard way if he is to become the hero he wants to be.

People have been pining for a Peter Parker high school story ever since the original Spider-Man was released, and here they finally get it with Tom Holland excellently portraying a fifteen-year-old version of the character. Holland nails both Peter as an average teenager just trying to get by as well as his alter ego of Spider-Man through an energetic performance that is full of humour and charm. With the actor being cast in the role so young, we can hopefully look forward to many more appearances in the future. The supporting cast of Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, who returns as Happy Hogan, and Peter’s classmates is also great and make up what is an impressive cast list.

Michael Keaton is also fantastic and is involved in some of the film’s best scenes. His intimidating and committed performance as the Vulture makes him one of, if not the, strongest Marvel villain to date. This is not however, achieved through Keaton’s performance alone. Toomes is far more fleshed out and better written than many will have predicted, with the character being given real motivation and personality.

It was always going to be difficult for Marvel to put a fresh spin on Spider-Man, this being the sixth film since 2002. It is then of great credit to them that Peter’s story is both new and interesting. Peter’s high school life and problems are written and directed in such a way that the audience is invested and cares about them despite their relatively small scale. The film also tackles Spider-Man as a hero in new ways. For example, what does he do if he’s in an area where he cannot web-swing away? Small new takes on the character like this keep the film from feeling like something we’ve seen before.

Homecoming is also much funnier than expected. All of the cast have at least one laugh out loud moment with Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and class mate Michelle (Zendaya) surprisingly providing some of the film’s most humorous moments.

There are times when the pacing of the film feels slightly off. The first half of Homecoming jumps between Peter at high school and the occasional, teasing action sequences, but it is only really in the latter half that we see things kick on and are treated to a couple of great reveals.

Of course, Spider-Man is now part of the MCU, and its presence is heavily felt throughout. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, as appearances from Iron Man and Happy are a welcome addition, it does mean that Spider-Man: Homecoming has problems standing on it’s own. Unlike a great film more detached from the universe such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Homecoming requires viewing of the previous MCU films in order to understand a lot of the key plot elements. However, much of the set up, particularly towards the film’s end promises bigger and better things from the inevitable sequel and future Spider-Man appearances.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming marks a successful return for the ever-popular character. With great humour, a smaller scale story and a new approach to the character, it is certainly up there as one of the best Spider-Man films.

Verdict: An entertaining ride that offers a new take on Peter Parker, which will no doubt satisfy big fans of the comics.

8 out of 10 cigars

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Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, is distributed in the UK by Sony Pictures, Certificate 12a

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