Ever since it was announced that Marvel Studios had reached a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man Homecoming immediately became my most anticipated film of the year. After being successfully reintroduced in Captain America: Civil War, we saw that Marvel Studios could do what seemed so elusive in many of the previous Spider-Man films by nailing the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in only a short amount of screen time. Spider-Man is my favorite character of all time. The character has been a mainstay in my life since I was born and continues to be important to me for many reasons to this day. It has taken me almost a week to figure out how to write this review. Spending each night trying to process my thoughts on not only the film I had seen but also the emotions that go along with seeing something so important to you brought to life on screen. I’ve come to the realization that I can start by saying Spider-Man Homecoming is everything I hoped it would be.

From the moment the lights dimmed and the score began to play, taking us into the opening scene, I had the biggest grin on my face. The reality set in that Spider-Man was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to stay. Sure he appeared briefly in Civil War and that is one of my favorite movie moments ever, but now this was HIS film. Homecoming at it’s heart is a coming of age story. Director Jon Watts was admittedly inspired by the films of John Hughes in delivering this new iteration of the hero and it is Tom Holland’s excellent portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man that enabled him to nail this vision. It is as entertaining to see Peter (and his best friend Ned) traverse the social perils of Midtown School of Science and Technology as it is seeing him out on patrol as Spidey. It is when the two blur the lines or crossover that the film really excels. Holland’s Peter Parker is easily my favorite take on the character as he embodies everything Peter in the comics does, and does so in a way that has never been properly portrayed as a whole on screen. He is awkward, but not TOO awkward, he is a smart ass but not too cocky, he is a genius and here it comes naturally to him as it should (no watching youtube videos to learn stuff he should already know like in Amazing Spider-Man 2) Many people understandably get most of their Spider-Man knowledge from the Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi films, but Peter there never really progressed beyond the socially awkward nerd. Spider-Man 1 and particularly Spider-Man 2 are great films that deserve the respect they receive. They will always hold a special place in many peoples hearts, myself included. Still, in the comics Peter eventually becomes a pretty cool and confident guy. Andrew Garfield was closer to this version but if Tobey was too extreme on the nerdy spectrum, Andrew was too far into the cool and cocky side of things. Tom Holland plays Peter with the perfect balance of both, and since he is still in high school, you can see his confidence slowly building not only as Peter but also as Spidey. This MCU version of Peter is one who I can easily see fully progressing into the confident and cool Peter of the comics I grew up with who still happens to suffer from that old “Parker luck”.

When it comes to this Spider-Man, it is easily my favorite version ever put to screen. Not only does the costume look absolutely fantastic, particularly the mask and the expressive eye lenses Marvel Studios has implemented into it, but just his entire persona in general. It really just feels like he crawled off the page and onto the screen. This Spider-Man is Peter LOVING being Spider-Man. There is something awesome and truthful about seeing him be so excited about being a superhero that he literally counts down the minutes till he can leave school and don his costume. That is a big difference here than in previous Spider-Man films, while being Spider-Man  can still be a burden to Peter, and causes him to make tough decisions that effect his personal life at times, it doesnt become a drag. He chooses to do it not only because he knows it’s his responsibility, but because he genuinely gets a kick out of being a superhero, what high school kid wouldn’t? It is this youthful excitement he exudes as Spider-Man that makes him such a joy to watch and also makes you really feel for him in the scarier or more dramatic moments. Another big difference here is the emphasis on the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” aspect of the character. Here we see Spider-Man eagerly patrolling his Queens neighborhood as opposed to the usual Manhattan webslinging and it gives us a refreshing, down to earth change of pace for the character. It is a very Queens-centric film in ways, right down to the New York Mets memorabilia and hat in Peter’s room (Something I lobbied for on twitter to director Jon Watts right before filming began, so I will take the credit for that if you don’t mind) Alot of people have been griping about all the gadgets and tech implemented into the suit, and I myself was concerned, but figured it would play out a certain way and I can say, the addition of all these gadets is absolutely part of the narrative of the story and not just some kind of gimmick. It all honestly leads to many cool moments in the film and serves the story and Peter’s evolution well.

The saying goes that a “hero is only as good as his villain” and Spider-Man Homecoming brings us what is in my opinion the coolest looking villain to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date in The Vulture. Marvel Studios has given him quite the menacing upgrade from his comic book look, while still paying homage to the comic book costume. Adrian Toomes could have been a distaster as a villain if he was mishandled (see any villain from Amazing Spider-Man 2) but not only does he receive an awesome visual upgrade, but he is played by none other than Michael Keaton who does a excellent job at conveying just why he does what he does and why he will stop at nothing to keep doing it. Marvel Studios often catch a bit of flack for having underdeveloped villains, but I thought Keaton did a great job bringing alot to the table and the story they have given him not only helps connect him deeper to the MCU, it also helps to paint him as more than a just a one dimensional villain. The fight scenes involving the Vulture are all pretty scary and tense as they have turned him into a credible threat to Spider-Man who stands as one of the best realized villains in this cinematic universe.

Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man Homecoming wears it’s connections proudly without overplaying them. Obviously part of the entire point of Spidey joining this world is to see him interact with and exist alongside other heroes and there are plenty of easter eggs here for those with a good eye. For years fans dreamed of seeing Spider-Man share the screen with other Marvel heroes and upon the announcment of Spidey joining the MCU many comic fans rejoiced. Obviously Tony Stark plays a role in the film, along with his pal Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) as Peter’s link to the Avengers whom he wants to badly be a part of. I was glad to see them appear and also glad that they, just like the tech in the Spidey suit are there to serve the story more than just be a commercial for the next Avengers film. It is great to see Spider-Man get to live in such a fully realized world of heroes and events and this film gives us more insight than any other as to how the normal population (particularly high schoolers) react to living in a world where Avengers, Alien invasions and all sorts of world threatening events have become the norm. One of my favorite things about this Avengers universe is the synergy between films and characters and this film keeps that going without it getting in the way of the story of Peter Parker.

A few months ago, I was having a great conversation with a very close friend and she asked why I loved Spider-Man so much? She wasn’t asking in passing or with any sarcasm, she truly was interested in knowing what it was about him that made the character resonate so much with me. It made me stop and think for a moment before answering, because there are plenty of typical reasons but when it comes down to it, I wanted to give her the most genuine answer I could since she genuinely wanted to know. I have thought about that convo a lot since then. The truth is I have been a Spider-Man fan forever and he has meant different things to me at different points in my life. I think though nowadays my view is when you find something you can relate to and take inspiration from, it is important to explore and embrace that. Spider-Man has always been something that has helped me through times of difficulty. Much like Peter Parker puts on that mask to help escape his problems for a few hours, I have found an escape into his stories to distract me and cheer me up when I have been down or at my worst. I relate to Peter putting on that mask and joking around to hide the fact that he is hurting, scared or insecure. I find inspiration and strength in the fact that Spider-Man puts his mask on and always tries to stay strong and do the right thing for others, even though it means Peter Parker may suffer and not get what he wants in life or feels he may deserve. Peter always tries to look for the best in people no matter what and holds onto that when he finds it. Spider-Man never gives up, even when things seem bleakest he always digs down deep inside himself and gathers strength so that he doesn’t let down the people counting on him most. Some people might say it’s silly to find all that in a comic character, but I say it doesn’t matter WHERE you find it so much as that you do. Spider-Man has always been something I could turn to when life gets me down or deals me a bad hand and for me Homecoming is a celebration of a character who has always been there for me in times of need. Peter Parker is just guy from Queens, just like me, so of course I would latch on to that at an early age and never let go. So yes, while many people may be thinking “Oh ANOTHER Spider-Man movie?” I am thinking, thank god for this one because it has given me something to look forward to and be excited about through alot of ups and downs. So don’t under estimate just what a superhero film does for some people because you think there are too many. This new film showcases many of these reasons I am drawn to the character and for that I am grateful. Thanks to the missteps of Sony with the previous three Spidey movies this film had to be good and it had to succeed. That is why this deal with Sony and Marvel was done, to get spidey back on track. In the end one thing is for sure, Spider-Man Homecoming puts Peter Parker and Spider-Man right where he belongs, alongside the other Marvel heroes in the MCU and it is just a joy knowing that he is finally home.