- A SUPERVILLAIN ATE MY HOMEWORK: Tom Holland stars as a teenage Spider-Man in Jon Watt's addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The latest addition to the interconnected web of awesomeness that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Watts' "Spider-Man: Homecoming" brings Spidey back to his high school roots, without the burden of an origin story.
Ignoring Sony's previous films, the bulk of "Homecoming" takes place several months after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," in which this version of Spidey first appeared after being drafted by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) for an epic airport battle, only to be sent home immediately afterward.
The film's opening shows a group of men cleaning up the mess left behind after the Battle of New York, which took place at the end of the first Avengers movie. Their leader, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), and his crew have been hired by the city of New York to sift through a wrecked Grand Central Station and find what may be saved, including bits of alien technology. While hard at work, a group of government agents working for a fictional agency come into the building, claim jurisdiction and order Toomes and his men to turn over what they have or be prosecuted. The agents also tell Toomes that his services are no longer required. Toomes and his men decide to keep a truckload of alien tech for themselves.
Fast forward eight months, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is documenting how he got to Germany's Leipzig/Halle Airport — and how he got the new Stark-designed Spider-Man suit. After the battle, it turns out, Parker was dropped off by Stark and his butler, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who Stark reveals will act as a go-between. Stark leaves him with Aunt Mae (Marissa Tomei) and advises Peter not to get into trouble.
It is later revealed that Toomes and his men have somehow engineered extremely powerful weapons using the aforementioned stolen alien technology and are selling it on the black market. Peter, against Stark's advice, decides to stop Toomes from accomplishing his goals.
We get to see a 15-year-old Peter Parker dealing with all the things that teenagers go through: school, being awkward with girls, finding a date for the homecoming dance and grappling at forming his identity with a band of social outcasts (including classmate Michelle, played by Disney star Zendaya). Desperate to prove himself Avenger-worthy, he takes on more than he can handle with hilarious results, forcing Stark to intervene more than once.
Ultimately, the film's about how Peter Parker learns how to be Spider-Man, with plenty of baked-in Marvel references for superfans — notably, a cameo from Stan Lee early in the film, and Captain America (Chris Evans) in a series of funny educational videos that Peter is forced to sit through in class. Downey's performance is on point, as is Holland's. Adding to a long legacy as the perfect villain, Keaton's Toomes is nearly agreeable. He's not hell-bent on destruction, stealing from those who — in his mind — stole his livelihood. If there's anything to complain about, it's that Tomei is underused. "Homecoming" is a jovial, welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Be sure to stay after the credits — that last jab from Captain America is a good one.