(WABI) - In 15 years, there have been three different adaptations of the popular comic book character Spider-Man in live-action form on the big screen. Sam Raimi's original trilogy starring Tobey Maquire as the high schooler-turned-superhero kicked off in 2002. The character was then re-booted ten years later, just five years after the disappointing Spider-Man 3. That version starred Andrew Garfield, and tried to be a bit more mature and dark, which seemed to be the trend at the time. After its lackluster sequel in 2014, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures teamed up in a rare deal to bring the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Tom Holland's first appearance as the 15 year-old Spider-Man arrived last year in Captain America: Civil War. His first standalone feature entitled Spider-Man: Homecoming will be a real treat for fans of the character. Abandoning the darker tones of the previous storylines, and nixing the obligatory spider bite origin part of the plot that we're already familiar with, this reintroduction to the world of Spider-Man picks up with Peter Parker already thrilled to have his powers, and the movie benefits from the exuberant performance of its lead star. Holland portrays Parker as a kid who's bursting at the seams with excitement for his incredible abilities, and plays the part without an ounce of cynicism.
The film plays that way as well. It's part high school/ John Hughes/ coming-of-age story and part superhero action blockbuster. The humor is fairly kid-friendly and the filmmakers create a consistently light and bouncy tone that embodies the spirit of the character maybe more than any film version yet.
Homecoming largely takes place around Parker's high school experience as he tries to juggle school work, teenage hormones, and his crime fighting alter-ego. Because Spider-Man is now part of the MCU, there's a bit of world building here as well as connections to previous films in the franchise. Robert Downey, Jr. shows up as Tony Stark to act as a sort of mentor to Parker as he trains to be the superhero he hopes to one day become. Every superhero film needs a villain, and that's where Michael Keaton's Vulture comes in. While he doesn't create a particularly memorable character, his presence and delivery is enough to make him one of the better villains in recent Marvel movies. The supporting cast including Marissa Tomei, Jon Favreau, and Donald Glover, while a bit underused, bring their unique talents to their characters to make them just different enough to feel refreshing. Spider-Man: Homecoming delivers as solid summer movie entertainment. While the action set pieces and sequences don't feel mind-blowingly original, they're exciting and fun without taking a radioactive spider-bitten teen too seriously.
I think the original 2002 Spider-Man and its first sequel may be better films, but Tom Holland's portrayal of Spider-Man may be the best we've gotten so far. Despite having a little superhero movie fatigue, and not seeing the need for yet another Spider-Man film, I left the theater thinking this is a good enough movie to recommend to fans of the character or anyone who wants to satisfy their summer movie sweet-tooth. I give Spider-Man: Homecoming a B.