From the grisly impalement of the Green Goblin to Gwen Stacy’s heart-stopping plummet, the Spider-Man franchise has gotten exceedingly darker with time. Spider-Man: Homecoming aims for the exact opposite, returning the fresh-faced hero to his days before the anchoring angst secured a foothold.
Homecoming begins sometime after Peter Parker (Tom Holland) cheekily introduces himself to The Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. Parker’s spidey transformation has already taken place, and Homecoming isn’t reminding us of how it happened again.
With a scrappy tone and a face straight out of a high school chess club, Holland is the Peter Parker we need. Bent on becoming an Avenger, he’s as eager and green as ever. Rather than scaling skyscrapers, this Parker is crashing through backyards of suburban houses, being awkward at parties and primping for dances. It’s refreshing to see everyone around him just as young and gullible, and the cast is extremely diverse. What would’ve been a minority cast back in 2002’s Spider-Man is standard in Homecoming. Peter’s crush is bi-racial, his best friend is Filipino and his school nemesis is Guatemalan. It’s a detail that shows Homecoming isn’t afraid to tell a different story.
Homecoming roots itself in a more realistic world where radioactive spiders nary help you kick as much ass as a super suit from the wealthy Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) does. This is how Michael Keaton cooks up trouble as Vulture, a villain with mechanical bird wings salvaged from alien technology left behind by the big battle in The Avengers. It’s not as cool as it sounds.
Without the bird suit, Vulture’s but a man, and a boring one at that. One scene reveals a speck of his ruthlessness, but it’s sullied by the reminder that he sells dangerous alien tech to gangsters to provide for his family. We get it: Some people aren’t inherently bad, they’re just complicated. But that doesn’t make up for a villain who lacks teeth. And with such a blasé villain, you get blasé fight scenes. Most feel rushed and unfinished; none stand out or make one rock with each blow dealt or evaded.
Homecoming could get away with focusing on Parker’s small-scale life—Holland’s likable enough to pull it off. But this is Spider-Man, and we want city-shaking action. And while the movie doesn’t deliver on that front, it does reverse much of the damage done by previous Spider-Man films. This is the friendly neighborhood hero at his finest, no grit in sight. And for once, that’s alright.