SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING review

It’s about time.

Spider-Man has certainly had his ups and downs when it came to his cinematic adaptations, huh? Might as well talk about ’em, but since there’s so many, I’ll just talk about the respective franchises.

Obviously, like many in my age range, the Sam Raimi films were practically landmarks in superhero history. They were fun, light, funny, but still bad-ass. At least, up until the third one, which… yeah, let’s not get into. Tobey Maguire was a new millennium icon and everyone loved him.

But then the dawn of taking comic book movies seriously took a serious turn (pun intended) and it seemed like Spider-Man wanted to go that route too. Enter the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies and personally… I prefer them. Oh sure, the conclusion of that series ended in much the same way as the Raimi films, but everything was so much better in my opinion. It took the character in a new direction and I loved them.

But Sony’s hold over Spider-Man must have been pretty weak by that point because they just allowed this movie to be made under Marvel Studio’s banner, rebooting the webslinger once more. And before seeing this movie, yeah, I had some high hopes. Spider-Man had a pretty fun, albeit forced, introduction in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), and now we’ve officially got his stand-alone outing. It looked funny, it looked intense, I was looking forward to it.

Well, here’s the on screen star power. Starring as the titular superhero is Tom Holland (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR,  THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY [2010], and upcoming Marvel films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel [2019]), and his villain, the legendary Michael Keaton (THE FOUNDER [2017], WHITE NOISE [2005], MR. MOM [1983], and upcoming films AMERICAN ASSASSIN [2017], and Disney’s live-action remake DUMBO, due out… who knows when). In support, we have newcomers Jacob Batalon (the upcoming as-of-yet-titled Spider-Man sequel), Zendaya (known for a ton of Disney channel stuff), and Laura Harrier (TV show ONE LIFE TO LIVE), and returning veterans Robert Downey Jr. (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, TROPIC THUNDER [2008], A SCANNER DARKLY [2006], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE [2019]), Marisa Tomei (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, THE WRESTLER [2008], and MY COUSIN VINNY [1992]), and Jon Favreau (CHEF [2014], IRON MAN [2008], and DAREDEVIL [2003]).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Jon Watts, known for COP CAR (2015). MAJOR RED FLAG ALERT!!! A grand total of FOUR other writers: duos John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (VACATION [2015], CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 [2013], and HORRIBLE BOSSES [2011]) and Christopher Ford (COP CAR) and Chris McKenna (COP CAR and the upcoming JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017]). Composing the score is the ever-amazing Michael Giacchino, known for THE BOOK OF HENRY (2017), DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FORGOTTEN KINGDOM (2018) and Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Salvatore Totino, known for INFERNO (2016), FROST/NIXON (2008), and CINDERELLA MAN (2005).

Overall, yeah, I was pretty stoked for this. Bought a case of caramel corn for the occasion because a Marvel movie is always a caramel corn occasion.

This is my honest opinion of: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

(SUMMARY)

Several months after the events of CIVIL WAR, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to simultaneously readjust to his normal life at home with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and school, while also trying to prove his worth as a superhero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his right-hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Soon, he happens upon what seems to be a like a run-of-the-mill bank robbery. However, the robbers are armed with high tech weaponry that nearly kills him. Despite Stark’s insistence that Peter stay away from them, Peter believes that the inactions of everyone more qualified to handle it aren’t doing enough to stop them and takes it upon himself to do it himself, even if it costs him the chance to become an Avenger.

(REVIEW)

While I hesitate to call it the best Spider-Man movie, nor do I consider it even one of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe installments, but it’s still a good film and a worthy entry to both the MCU and the Spider-Man franchise as a whole.

I guess maybe it’s best if I started with the things I didn’t like so much as there isn’t… much, but they’re worth addressing. I’ll go off on a tangent later about how much I adore Holland as an actor, but as much fun as he is, he unfortunately has a few too many whining scenes. In fact, the first red flag was during the trailer when Ned hacks into his suit and finds the “training wheels protocol” and Holland hops onto the bed saying that he’s sick of being treated “like a kid.” I disagreed when Ned said, “But you are a kid.” Heavily. First off, I’m a big fan of “teenager” is not a kid. By this point in a person’s life, they’re able to comprehend choices and consequences, start making more adult decisions. Peter is fifteen years old. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure wasn’t whining and jumping on a bed when I didn’t get my way. That’s how a child would act, not a teenager who’s been through enough adult situations with high stakes to act so… kindergarten. Some things make sense, like when Toomes (Michael Keaton) figures out Peter’s identity, Peter’s so paralyzed with fear and uncertainty, that he’s bowing his head like a punished dog and quiet the entire time. He’s not exactly the most established superhero with years of experience under his belt. He’s still young and doesn’t have everything figured out either as Peter Parker or as Spider-Man, so his brain isn’t constantly thinking of ways to stop Toomes. I enjoy that idea that he’s just afraid and realizing that he’s in over his head. But more often than not, he’s complaining how he’s not given a chance to prove himself and rushes into a situation half-cocked and yeah, it sours the character a bit.

And there is a big problem that I had with Stark and Happy in general. So when Peter figures out where these high tech weapons will be sold to next; on the ferry that gets torn in half and put back together with Iron Man’s help. Before Stark takes the Spidey suit away, Peter says that he tried to tell him and Happy that this was happening and they didn’t listen. But Stark goes off and says that he believed in Peter, in the context that he could be an Avenger. First off, that line is incredibly preachy and made me cringe a little bit. Second, no, I’m siding with Peter on this one. Both Happy and Stark should be painfully aware of Peter’s desires to prove that he’s the hero that Stark believes him to be. By all accounts, Stark does know that, as he has a tracker in the Spidey suit. But teenager who is that gung-ho about this superhero thing, how could either of the adults supervising him not see this brazen act of lone-wolfing coming from a hundred miles away? You’d think, if only to shut him up, they’d look into it. But no, Happy’s concerned with moving and Stark’s… well, who knows what Stark is actually doing. I do feel like many of the problems that Peter was trying to fix could have been if Stark contributed to the solution. But no, his job seems to be more of a disappointed surrogate father and chastise him the entire time. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I agreed with Peter’s complaints.

***SPOILERS***

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This isn’t a complaint toward the movie itself, but there is something that I didn’t think was very smart for Kevin Feige to say. For those of you that don’t know, Feige is the President of Marvel Studios and has produced every single MCU-related film and been an associate/executive/co-producer (whatever they mean) for several film adaptations of Marvel Comics properties since BLADE (1998). He’s a respected driving force behind the MCU and is arguably the reason why they’ve been so good, outside of solid writers. He recently stated that Michelle is not intended to be Mary Jane Watson, despite the character saying, “My friends call me MJ.” Um… then who is she supposed to be then, Kevin? Quite literally, this “MJ” nod is supposed to be a quirky “hehe” moment. But… no, Kevin, audiences who aren’t reading up on these interviews, will be treating Michelle like she will be. Personally, I don’t care that she’s a different race, nor a traditionally labeled “bombshell” like she’s depicted in everything else, but… yeah, no, she’s our new Mary Jane, just without the name… or really the personality. Honestly, the writers could have just said, “Screw it, she’s a new character and we’re going to roll with it. No Mary Jane, no Gwen Stacey, just… a new character.” The whole MJ thing could be taken out and no one would be the wiser. Throwing it in there doesn’t make the movie any better. It just makes it a pointless detail.

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***END SPOILERS***

For all intents and purposes, those are my only complaints. They may not be the most major complaints, but they hampered it a bit.

But enough of the bad, time to rave about the good. First off, despite his complaining out of the Spidey suit, I love this take on Spidey. I feel like each Spidey film has led up to this performance and this movie’s tone. While Maguire’s Spider-Man movies are their own classics for that generation of superhero lovers, the movie as a whole, while tonally appropriate for the character, wasn’t very funny. At least, not compared to Andrew Garfield’s Spidey, or certainly Holland’s. Nor could you take the movies very seriously. By today’s standards and the dawn of the MCU, superhero movies can be light in tone; funny and occasionally goofy, but still have a perfect balance of drama that anyone can relate to and be taken seriously. Maguire’s Spider-Man films were pretty campy and even cartoonish at times, and I’m not just talking about the dated CG. You couldn’t take it very seriously. Then Garfield’s Spidey films went maybe a little too dark for the character, despite them being, in my opinion, better movies with more intriguing ideas. The way Holland’s Spidey is written takes everything that made the character great from the previous films, the light-hearted nerdy character from Maguire’s and the legit humorous Spidey from the Garfield’s, and yet still makes it his own. Peter is still socially awkward, but doesn’t seem to be too affected by his bullies. He’s a smart-ass, but he takes things seriously when he needs to. He loves being a hero and his intelligence is showcased a lot more than I expected.

Now let’s talk about Keaton as Vulture. I feel like I’ve seen one too many opinions circling around claiming that he’s still not one of the better villains. I might disagree with that, actually. Okay, he’s not as entertaining as Loki, but I think he’s given more screen time and development than most villains. He’s not at strong as Loki, but he’s given just as much development as Zimos from CIVIL WAR, and everyone was saying that he broke the streak of bad villains in the MCU. He starts off as a normal construction, demolitions guy and because of red tape, he’s forced to surrender alien debris that could help him take care of his family and the families of everyone that he’s in charge of. I do think it’s a weakness that we don’t actually see his personal struggles, hence why he’s not exactly breaking the bad streak. In all actuality, I may just be bias because I think Keaton’s performance elevates the role quite a bit because we see his desperation and defiance and why he steals the tech to make the weapons he does. Keaton knows how to act and Vulture and how good or not good he is as a villain probably depends entirely on how much of a fan you might be of Keaton. Since I am, I enjoyed his performance more than many other villains.

Even though this Spider-Man isn’t the best of the six that now exist, I do have to say that it’s the one that I appreciate more. Holland is more age appropriate to play a fifteen year old Peter Parker (he’s twenty-one years old), whereas Maguire was twenty-seven, and Garfield was twenty-nine, both unconvincingly playing high-schoolers. Holland both looks and sounds like a teenager. And I know that this was showcased in CIVIL WAR, but I love how expressive the Spidey mask is. Maybe it doesn’t express sadness or anything, but the eyes glare when angry, or widen when frightened. By the way, did anyone else catch this? The voice in Spidey’s suit, “Karen,” is Jennifer Connelly’s voice! Dude! I wish I hadn’t missed that as the credits rolled by! I also enjoy that this movie teases that the technology that Toomes takes and modifies to create weapons are also meant to create future villains, like Scorpion. Mac Gargan is teased. There’s little things like Spider-Man in a suburban neighborhood struggling to web-sling around because there’s no tall buildings to swing from, so he has to comically run across neighborhoods. Heh, hey, friendly “neighborhood” Spider-Man! Did I just get it? And the movie does get creative with how Spidey uses his webshooters. Making a hammock, a timed web-mine thing that explodes a web when a bad guy passes by… so I guess that’d be “proximity,” not timed. In any case, it gets pretty creative and I hope to see more of that in future installments. Donald Glover plays a character named Aaron Davis, a petty criminal who helps Spider-Man in the movie, but refuses to take the weapons that Toomes offers him, later on commenting that he, “has a nephew that lives here,” referencing the now popular comic character Miles Morales, a half black, half Puerto Rican kid who eventually becomes another incarnation of Spider-Man. I doubt the MCU will be around long enough to take this character in that direction, but it’s a nice little easter egg for comic book fans.

The supporting cast is also really good. Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned is really funny and they have incredibly enjoyable banter and scenes together. I especially enjoyed the montage-y scene where… actually, I forget the particulars, but I think Ned and Peter were waiting on a hacking that Ned was doing on the Spidey suit and they’re so bored out of their minds that they’re constantly cut to a new bored position around the room, resulting in Ned in the Spidey mask. No explanation, no rhyme or reason, no comment from the characters, he’s just in the mask. I cracked up, I won’t lie. Zendaya as Michelle is also pretty compelling, being this character that has a seriously sarcastic and sharp whit when interacting with Peter, but still has an unflinching care for those around her as well. She’s definitely a compelling character that I’d like to see return in the sequel.

*** SPOILERS***

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While Tomei’s Aunt May was a little underdeveloped in my opinion, it’s hard not to talk about her big reveal in the end when she discovers that Peter is Spider-Man. First of all, her reaction is freakin’ hilarious when she screams, “WHAT THE FU-” and the end credits cut her off. But more than that, this is a new dynamic that fans of the films have never seen before and I’m really looking forward to seeing that develop in the sequel and how this affects their relationship.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I think this is definitely worth the time of day. It’s fun, energized, hilarious, great performances all around, it’s great time. It’s got some weaknesses plot and character-wise here and there, but they’re not enough to prevent the movie from being good. Is it the “best” Spider-Man movie? No, I don’t think I agree with that one. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) are better in my opinion, but this is one that should be appreciated in its own right for how it will affect the future of this character and taking a few risks that pay off for the most part. Just nick “Whiny-Spidey” for any future appearances and I’ll be a happy camper. If you’ve been a fan of the MCU, this film is for you.

My honest rating for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING: 4/5

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