A long time ago, in a middle school far away, I sat at the last lunch table with the only person who would talk to me on purpose, and we dreamed of one day getting to see a Spider-Man movie. Far too many years later to vulgarly describe using numbers, the experience of watching Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t exactly like we envisioned it back then—mostly because Spidey wasn’t played by a pre-Subway-sandwich-birthday-party-loving Kirk Cameron, and I didn’t attend with Alyssa Milano on my arm. But the film sparked the very same feelings I had when my best (and only) buddy and I used a spandexed surrogate as an excuse to feel better about growing up dorks. Homecoming is basically everything I love about comic books, movies, comic book movies and life. Now there’s a pull quote for ya, Marvel…

Homecoming is the first super-reboot to evolve past retelling an origin story, dropping Uncle Ben and that radioactive spider like a prehensile tail. Oh, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is still here, but mostly just so far too many dudes can creepily make jokes about wanting to bang Spidey’s surrogate mom. Although early on, the film focuses on how Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) involved Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Iron Man’s tickle-fight with Captain America (Chris Evans) in Civil War, this is strictly an Avengers-adjacent affair. Instead of fighting an alien horde or a legion of super-douchebags, Pete’s just trying not to outright suck as Spidey.

He and his best bud, Ned (Jacob Batalon), are kind-hearted nerdy nerds. They crush hard on fellow academic decathlon team member, Liz (Laura Harrier); get mocked by the school bully, Flash (Tony Revolori); and try to leverage Peter’s super powers for high-school celebrity. When the Vulture, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), runs afoul of Spidey by selling crazy weapons on his turf, our hero tries to clumsily defeat him while disappointing his date at the big dance. And who doesn’t remember what that felt like in high school, am I right?

It’s the little things that make Homecoming perfect. It’s Peter’s genuinely heartfelt exchange with the artificial intelligence that runs his supersuit. It’s the tears of self-doubt and self-hatred he cries when Tony Stark takes that supersuit away. It’s the half-masked reflection he sees in a pool of water during the film’s climax. It’s Donald Glover in a great bit part, Zendaya as clever comic relief and Keaton’s uncanny chilling-to-charming ratio. It’s how intentionally diverse the film is; although the main heroes and villain are (yawn, per usual) white-as-hell, the supporting cast is populated nearly entirely by actors of color.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that Homecoming is basically everything I love about life. Not only is it blissful escapism built on the kind of singular spectacle that cinema alone is technologically capable of providing, at its heart is a message of humility and kindness. My whole life, I’ve loved Spider-Man because he always fails when he’s selfish and he only succeeds when he’s empathetic. Lately, the world has felt so hateful and shallow, so arrogant and self-obsessed. Homecoming is shared, mass-marketed fiction filled with limitless pathos and optimism. So, you know what, maybe it’s even better than my buddy and I could have dreamed.

Grade = A+

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