Spiderman laying on his back

No longer will we have to explain to our less superhero-obsessed friends why Spider-Man doesn’t do things with the Avengers in the movies even though he’s a Marvel character. After his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, we finally have the first collaboration between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios in an attempt to help Sony make a Spider-Man movie that’s not awful. And – surprise surprise! – Spider-Man: Homecoming is actually pretty good.

Homecoming benefits quite a lot from being part of the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man works best in a setting filled with other superheroes. There have been entire comic series based on him teaming up with other characters because friendly, chatty Peter Parker plays off them so well. So while Iron Man stops short of stealing the show, his constant involvement in the background gives everything else a context that the previous Spider-Man movies have lacked.

So while it’s a reboot, Homecoming isn’t quite yet another Spider-Man origin story. He’s not the only hero, a kid bitten by a radioactive spider who faces off alone against similarly outlandishly-powered villains. No one falls into a pool of electric eels. The creators of the MCU have already laid the groundwork, seeding the world with super-suits and alien technology and magic. He’s already got his powers. He’s swiped Captain America’s shield. Now he has to learn how to be a hero like the others while still getting his homework done.

And little teenage Peter, played by an actor (Tom Holland) who actually looks like a teenager for a change, is absolutely charming. Unlike his predecessors, Holland is great as both Peter and Spider-Man, perfectly balancing teenage mischief with a good if naive heart.

Villain-wise, Michael Keaton is always good for chewing up some scenery, and his dad-joking blue collar take on the Vulture – a character whose defining characteristics are “can fly” and “is old” – is as fun as a Spider-Man villain should be.

While Homecoming sticks with a white male main character, the supporting cast looks like what you’d expect in a New York City STEM magnet school. Most of his friends, even those who are established characters from the comics, are people of color, up to and including the MCU’s version of Peter’s long-time love interest. While Marvel has shied away from race-bending their main characters, touches like this are really welcome, and they’ve shown a willingness to do right by many of their existing characters of color like Luke Cage and Black Panther. Homecoming also hints at the existence of Miles Morales, a Black Hispanic teenager who has taken on the role of Spider-Man in the comics, so here’s hoping he makes an appearance in the future.

So will we see Fox working with Marvel Studios on X-Men next? There was a time I’d have kept my fingers crossed, but after Deadpool and Logan, I think they’re doing fine on their own. They could stand to talk to them about the Fantastic Four, though.


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