Spider-Man: Homecoming ★★★★½

I woke up Thursday morning having completely forgotten that a brand new Spider-Man was opening this weekend, which meant I could catch early screenings as soon as that very evening! I saw the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man 8 times (!) in theaters, the first 4 times within the first 48 hours of release! (Story for another time.) So, I know I'm old(er) when I no longer count down the days to a new Spider-Man movie, but so be it! These are glorious times where we're spoiled with multiple comic book movies almost every other week in the summer, and I count myself fortunate that I get to wake up with the promise of a new one.

So, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING! Short review: I loved it. Genuinely loved it, and in terms of tone, it fully captured everything I love about those first 100 or so issues of The Amazing Spider-Man comic, along with the modernized version seen in the early 2000's in Ultimate Spider-Man. In other words, young high school Peter Parker.

After a stellar introduction in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, where Marvel Studios managed to restore Spider-Man to all his glory in a matter of 15 minutes, we get to catapult off that first appearance into a great early-days, high school set Spider-Man story. And since this now takes place within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the filmmakers are using that to their full advantage and tying in things we've seen in those films for the last decade.

Michael Keaton is Adrian Toomes, a working class construction worker that's part of a team helping to clean up post-AVENGERS city damage. That is, until Tony Stark and the government form an organization to do that instead and put him and his crew out of business. He steals a bit of alien tech and uses is to build a mini-criminal empire over the course of the next 8 years which brings us (sort of) to modern day. Or at least whenever the hell CIVIL WAR happened.

Spider-Man is anxious to do more after his battle with a bunch of big shot superheroes in Berlin, but Tony Stark insists he keeps a low profile and sticks to low level stuff in Queens. That's when he uncovers the underground ring used to circulate alien weapons. If you had told me this was the plot to a Spider-Man movie 10 years ago, I never would've believed it, but we've come a long way!

Things I loved? The cast is spectacular from top to bottom. While it's nice to have Robert Downey Jr here, it's really more of a pleasure to spend more time with John Favreau than we have in ages. The kids are all great and diverse. Nice to see kids that LOOK like kids and of a variety of ethnicities considering that's what the real world is like. The story has heart, and most importantly, is NEW, and something we haven't already seen. None of the same old villains (no Green Goblin again), no Gwen Stacey or Mary Jane, even the primary plot is a brand new story set within the movie universe as opposed to borrowing multiple elements from various Spider-Man books of past and present. In other words, there were a lot of pleasant surprises here. And when you're as well versed in Spider-Man lore as I am, there's nothing more exciting than being swept up in a brand new story without any idea of how it'll unfold.

Few gripes? MINOR SPOILERS, BUT NOT REALLY... 1 - why doesn't Spidey have his Spider Sense? Has it not developed yet? Because he's terrible at keeping his identity secret or sensing danger! Maybe he hasn't figured that out yet. And 2 - zero mention of Uncle Ben? I totally get not doing THAT story again. I don't even want to see it as a flashback, but it's pretty inherent into why Peter feels the obligation to BE Spider-Man. The numerous times Tony Stark tells him to ease off, all he had to say, just once, is "I can't. I have a responsibility because of what happened to my Uncle Ben." As it is now without that, it just seems like he's only doing this whole thing to be an Avenger. But again, minor gripes.

It's a great Spider-Man movie. Is it the best? I think Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN 2 still maintains that honor, despite how much I hate Kirsten Dunst's version of Mary Jane, but this one is pretty darned close. Its also the one movie this year I feel like I might want to see it again on the big screen. Considering how wonderful this was for the die-hard Spidey fan in me, I'm thrilled we'll be seeing more of Tom Holland's Spider-Man for several years to come. Bring on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR!!!!

PS: Both post credit scenes are wonderful. One, a cool tease of what's to come. The final one, just hilarious and spot on.