Spider-Man: Homecoming is officially the third cinematic rendition in the past 15 years of Marvel’s most famous hero. Recently, I posted a long review on every Spider-Man movie to date since Sam Raimi’s 2002 film. In that post, I talked about the various successes and failures (but mostly the latter) of the two previous series. I also talked briefly about what I was expecting from Marvel’s very own reboot of the franchise:
“I’m not excited about Marvel’s first go at a “stand-alone” Spider-Man movie. Rather than speculating about what I think will be its downfall, I think it is much simpler to just say that Spider-Man is exhausted. He was a pleasant addition to Civil War, sure, but I don’t think audiences are ready for another Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man is going to undergo two reboots within a span of five years… and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a high-schooler.”
Well, the film is out, and I went to see it this past weekend. It’s time to talk about whether I was right or wrong.
For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised that Marvel took the time to craft a story about 15-year old high-schoolers that actually act, sound, and look like (for the most part) real high-schoolers! How rare is it to see a movie about high-school that doesn’t use 25 or 30-year old models to portray the students (looking at you, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone)? It’s so rare that you can hear it moo when you bite into it… is that an appropriate analogy for this situation? I don’t know, but I’m using it anyway. The point is that Peter Parker is finally getting a movie adaptation that shows him at an appropriate age, because being a “kid” is central his character. Despite what I said about Tobey Maguire’s performance as Pete, this Peter was so well written that it would have blown his Peter out of the park no matter who was playing him. The writers were able to expertly create a Peter that embodies that sense of innocent naivety that always causes him to do the right thing, but not necessarily the smart thing. This Peter Parker will make a fine addition to the MCU, because his character fills in that black-and-white mentality gap left by Captain America; who’s worldview changed dramatically to one shrouded in grey once he was thrust into the future.
That being said, be warned right here and now not to look any farther than Peter for a character-driven story. The rest of the characters in this film aren’t really flat, but you can tell that they’re only purpose is to elevate Peter’s story. Don’t know what I mean by that? Well, here’s a few examples [Warning: Potential Minor Spoilers]: Ned has no life outside of being Peter’s best friend, Liz has no personality outside of her short conversations with Peter, Karen (the new Jarvis) is only there so Peter doesn’t look like a crazy kid when he thinks out loud, and if you isolate the story arc between Peter and Tony, it seems really superficial and makes Tony look worse than a flip-flopping politician.
Before you say I’m being too nitpicky, let me clarify that I’m not saying these are all bad characters… though there are a few here and there (cough Flash and Liz cough). I’m saying that Peter is the only character in this movie that is given the power to make decisions which will influence the plot or progress characters arcs. There are plenty of moments that feel like Peter is the only person that isn’t a computer program come to life.
I have one more thing to talk about, but I’m saving it for my X-Factor, so skip ahead if you want to read about it.
Acting: 8.1/10 I’ll run through this quickly, everyone’s performance is
good at the very l
east. If they seem mediocre, then it’s a product of their lack of dialogue.
Shout out to Tom Holland. I think he is a terrific young actor, and I really hope that he doesn’t follow the same trail that a lot of young successful actors find themselves in – as in becoming so well known for one particular role that they’re not really wanted for anything else (i.e. Tobey Maguire, Haley Joel Osment, and anyone from Harry Potter).
A few honorable mentions are Jacob Batalon (Ned), Zendaya (Michelle), and of course, Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes / Vulture).
This isn’t Jon Watts’ first rodeo. His directional debut came in 2015 with the overlooked and underrated film Cop Car that starred Kevin Bacon and a couple of kids. Needless to say, Watts has proved with this film that he is excellent when it comes to working with younger performers.
Anyway, this section, like most Marvel movies is going to have a lower score because Marvel is a studio that (ignorantly) prides itself on making safe decisions. I would not be surprised if Watts was discouraged from taking this movie off the rails and doing whatever he wanted to do. However, I added a few points because there are small moments in this film where Watts seemed to add his own flair amidst the highly conventional and boring shots that make up this film.
X-Factor: 6.4/10, for thinking it’s smarter than it actually is [Warning: Potential Spoiler]
As the title of this section suggests, I’m about to spoil something that happens towards the film’s climax, so stop reading if you don’t want to know about it. Liz, the girl that Peter has a crush on, is Vulture’s daughter. The movie keeps this a secret until the film’s climax because it must think a lot of audience members are not clever enough to figure it out. Well, they were wrong.
First of all, you can’t play up your character to be a “family man” and then never actually show his family. Ergo, the writers either don’t really want us to have a connection with the character (which, if this film’s attention to character is any indication of their intent, then no), OR they’ve already shown you his family and just didn’t tell you about it. Secondly, how convenient is it for Liz’s father to be gone often enough for her to throw parties for her friends? Trick question; it’s not convenient because he’s a criminal! Third, this is Spider-Man’s first villain, there has to be some way to make their conflict an emotional one.
And that leads me to what I really wanted to complain about. All the major villains in Spider-Man know Peter personally because they are either related to his best friends, work with him, or they are his best friends. There’s gotta be another way to form an emotional aspect to these fights; Peter can’t be best friends with everyone in New York!
Interestingly, Marvel and DC got their shit together at relatively the same time. I gave Wonder Woman the exact same overall score. If I had to choose which one to see again, I would probably choose Wonder Woman simply because it feels more important (and also because I’d rather watch a World-War I movie than one about high-school). Fans of Marvel are sure to go crazy over this movie. Nay-sayers – such as myself – are sure to give a thumbs-up and then keep their mouths shut as they’re inevitably blasted with a bunch of “we told ya so’s” and “you were wrong’s”. Just you fans wait… they’re not even close to being done disappointing you.