Never mind “Amazing” or “Spectacular” as a descriptor; how about “Improbable”? As in, what are the odds that a film with six credited screenwriters and a director (Jon Watts) with more Onion content than anything else in his resume could recapture the youthful thrill of superhero movies in general and the youthful appeal of Spider-Man in particular? Not “youthful” as in “for kids” or “about kids” (though there is that), but as in “exciting, earnest, and oh, right, fun.” Watts wisely opens with his villain’s origin story (because here is a villain whose grievance is both understandable and reflective of the hero’s own struggle) before skipping to a homemade video shot by Spidey himself as he gets caught up in the airport punch-up in Captain America: Civil War. Heady stuff, and what do you know, it goes to his head. Suddenly, he can’t travel to D.C. for the academic decathlon, because what if Tony Stark calls him up to help out the Avengers? And what about these guys tearing up his neighborhood with fancy rayguns? He’s got great power – thanks in part to a Stark-designed suit outfitted with a sweet-natured personal assistant – and he wants great responsibility. What he needs is a little seasoning from a salty adversary. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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