The goal here is very specific: Let's reboot Spider-Man...again...this time very directly aiming the demographic target at children and young adults; while integrating the character organically into the omnipotent and seemingly indestructible Marvel Movie Franchise.
In that sense, the movie absolutely achieves its goals. This is very likely the movie Marvel fans would want: a quality comic book adventure for general audiences, that follows the established template. It has the required highs, lows and final triumphs of a hero's arc as well as the now familiar Marvel palette for its tone and texture. It is a Marvel Movie. And it is very enjoyable.
There’s a bit of a catch, though. The movie wants to be a combo package of 80s coming-of-age teen comedy and big spectacle superhero epic. Superman meets The Breakfast Club.
But here's the thing about The Breakfast Club... Or Sixteen Candles... Or Just One of the Guys... Basically: The Breakfast Club is 95 minutes long. But this movie... Well, this movie is definitely longer than that.
And that's fine. I get it. The kids want their endless action scenes to go along with their story and these people haven't figured out a way to do that without making the whole movie 7 hours long.
But the thing is, this movie is actually at its best when focusing on character-driven comedy rather than when it displays one of its mechanical action sequences. The characters are well-drawn and believable. I appreciate that Peter's best friend is an Asian kid and the girl he has a crush on is black. I appreciate that "Flash Thompson" is a Pakistani kid, even though that kid from The Grand Budapest Hotel was woefully miscast in the role of a bully. But I appreciate that we get a believable diversity in this teen action comedy set in New York.
The villain played by Michael Keaton is great. He is established in the film's formulaic opening scene, where we are told that this is important by the severity of the music, as a working man who is screwed by the government when they take over his job detail... This is a shaky economy... These are bad times. Having the villain be, basically, a “Bernie Bro” is a nice touch. And Michael Keaton does a very good job, bringing dark humor, and an air of genuine menace to the movie. I just wish the thin story gave his character more to do. He's wonderful to watch whenever he's on screen. But that doesn't happen often enough, and the actual plot line is - frankly - rather boring.
So what's left then? Good set pieces, yes. The son of Robert Downey, Sr; and Jon Favreau, and the cameos and cute references...and nostalgia needle drops...and generally just a good, likable attitude.
And Tom Holland is fantastic. He will own this role for a new generation and he deserves to. He is, absolutely, the definitive version of this character in live action. This IS the Spidey I grew up with.
And, sure, in a manner of speaking, he's come home. And he belongs here.