★★★★☆

AFTER a memorable appearance in last summer’s fantastic Captain America: Civil War, everyone’s favourite blue and red-suited, web-slinging young hero gets properly welcomed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this enjoyably, playful and energetic adventure.

The second reboot of the character’s on-screen story – following a trilogy of Tobey Maguire and a further two movies with Andrew Garfield in the role – finds Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in his high school years mere months after being bitten by that pesky radioactive spider. Thankfully this opts out of telling that been-there-done-that origin story.

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He’s as you would think any teenage boy with superpowers would be: excited, overzealous and generally bursting to try out his powers whenever he gets the chance.

With the help of his heroic but constantly busy mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) who handily provides him with a high-tech version of the Spidey suit, he tries his best to handle his day-to-day life living with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) with his new-found great responsibility.

Breaking the pattern of helping little old ladies in the street, in swoops a new and formidable threat in Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who has taken leftover alien technology from the battle depicted in the first Avengers film to help him become the Vulture. He’s fundamentally an-over-the-top villain but made strangely believable and threatening here, largely thanks to Keaton’s scenery-chewing performance.

Homecoming functions well as many things. Firstly it’s an effective reintroduction to the character with a new actor playing him; intensely likeable and charmingly awkward, Holland fits the role of nervous teen and wisecracking hero perfectly.

Then there’s how it snugly fits the character in the overarching MCU without it ever feeling like he’s being forced in there for the sake of it.

Perhaps most importantly, it works well as a colourful and joyous single adventure all of its own, pleasingly tightening the focus from the world-ending threats that have dominated a large swathe of the MCU’s sensibilities thus far to something more intimate and personal. The age-old theme of what it means to be a hero is satisfyingly explored. “I’m nothing without that suit,” proclaims Peter, to which Tony retorts: “If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t have it.”

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have a sense of scale or visual bravura – far from it. There are several action sequences – from a Spidey crawl up the side of the Washington Monument to literally holding together the Staten Island Ferry – that are up there with the best the MCU has to offer. Jon Watts (Cop Car) directs things with impressive exuberance while always making sure there’s a sense of grounded personality. Some of the film’s biggest joys are in Peter’s non-web-slinging moments, contending with the awkward high school years, geeking out with his best friend Ned (a hilarious Jacob Batalon) about his potential status as an official member of The Avengers, and behaving awkwardly around his crush Michelle (Zendaya). With all the bombast we’ve seen from these series of films, it’s weirdly refreshing to see our hero get worked up about something like getting ready for a prom.

On the sheer fun scale, this Spidey adventure is top notch, full of quippy and knowing humour, creative set-pieces and a well-needed devotion to the idea of this character learning to become Peter Parker as much as becoming Spider-Man. Just make sure you stay until the very end of the credits – sometimes patience really is rewarding.