Judging by reviews, Spider-Man: Homecoming proves that, once again, Marvel's wall-crawling superhero can do whatever a spider can — as long as that particular spider can convince critics that a troubled movie franchise can be reborn better than before thanks to an amazing new cast and a spectacular new attitude.
Not everyone is on board with the excitement surrounding the first official Spider-Man entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Hollywood Reporter's own John DeFore, for one, called the movie "occasionally exciting but often frustrating," writing that it "represents a creative misstep for the studio — albeit one likely to ride fanboy enthusiasm to much better receipts than those enjoyed by Amazing Spider-Man, the recent incarnation starring Andrew Garfield."
Screen International's Tim Grierson writes, "[A]s entertaining and engaging as Spider-Man: Homecoming can be, it remains merely a solid reboot that may leave viewers hoping that later installments will be a little nervier."
One of the problems, according to ScreenCrush's Matt Singer, is that it's just too busy a movie for its own good. "The problem isn’t that any of [the movie's many] characters are bad; the problem is most of them are terrific and Homecoming, which runs a brisk 133 minutes, doesn’t have enough room for all of them," notes Singer. "The movie works very hard to place Spider-Man into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all of those connections make sense thematically for a movie about an outsider with big superhero dreams. But the film does very little with Tony [Stark, played as always by Robert Downey Jr.] and Happy [Hogan, played by Jon Favreau], and their superfluous scenes come at the expense of the more interesting supporting characters."
The majority of other critics are far more forgiving, however — and more excited about the movie in general.
For Collider's Matt Goldberg, for example, Spider-Man: Homecoming is nothing less than "a joyous, effervescent picture that may not have the thematic heft of darker pictures like Logan and The Dark Knight, but nevertheless forges its own identity within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a hefty helping of the MCU’s primary virtue: humor." He continues, "It's a movie that will have you laughing throughout even though it's not technically a comedy. Other Marvel films are busy spinning epic yarns, but Homecoming is very comfortable keeping its hero close to the ground."
The appeal of that grounded tone is echoed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, who writes that Homecoming is "as high school as a John Hughes comedy — think The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off — in which teens talk like teens instead of old-school Hollywood cynics aching to sound young." Overall, he went on, there is "a spontaneous charge to the film, a euphoric innocence, that makes it a much-needed antidote to stale franchise formula."
The Guardian's Benjamin Lee lauded the way in which the movie seemed complete despite connecting with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. "Sure, it exists very much within the Avengers canon, but a finely crafted script builds the bridges with care, and storytelling rather than cold commercialism is apparently the film’s key concern," he argues, writing that the pic "is so joyously entertaining that it's enough to temporarily cure any superhero fatigue. There's wit, smarts and a nifty, inventive plot that serves as a reminder of what buoyant fun such films can bring."
If you're sensing a running theme about the movie being unexpectedly … well, fun, consider the effect it had on Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson. "It manages to stoke a craving for more Spider-Man movies, which shouldn't really be possible at this point," he writes in seeming amazement. "And yet, there I was on Wednesday evening, bouncing out of an annoyingly hard-to-get-to theater on the east side of Manhattan, eager for more. Homecoming is just such a summery good time."
Could Spider-Man: Homecoming be the feel-good hit of the summer? Audiences will get to find out July 7, when the movie hits theaters.