Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming: Dust Off The Cobwebs... He's Back!

The over-saturation of Marvel movies in the last few years (particularly this year-- Spider-Man: Homecoming marks movie 3 out of 4 this year... next year there will be SEVEN) has left most of us, who aren't ardent fanboys/fangirls/fan...people, utterly exhausted. I hear Marvel and immediately want to run away from any and all conversation as I'm just tired. Now, compound that with the number of Spider-Man films there have actually been... not just sequels, but this is the THIRD time we have been given a reboot of Spider-Man. So... like I said... tired. However, if you're feeling as I felt before entering the theater... that I didn't have any desire to see this new iteration of Spider-Man... that I didn't want to waste my time watching Peter Parker have to get more power and more responsibility... that I didn't want to force myself to watch another origin story of another person playing Spider-Man when they're probably going to get replaced and rebooted in five years... to those of you feeling this way I say this: don't listen to your gut. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fantastic. 

I wanted to hate this movie. For those of you who know me or have followed these reviews for years, you know that most of the time when I write a review of a Marvel or DC film, I always begin by bitching that there are too many superhero movies and there's no more creativity and blah blah blah. I still believe all of these things, but I really wanted to hate this movie. I entered the theater ready to hate it. Do you know why I even saw it? Two words: Michael Keaton. Had he not been attached, it would've been a good long while before I even entertained the thought of seeing it. When the film was over, and I was walking out of the theater... I was actually mad at how much I enjoyed the movie and how proud I am of the heads of Marvel for actually allowing some growth with the Spider-Man franchise. The biggest issue facing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is that each movie is trying to be bigger and louder and more destructive and expand further and further with its mythos that it's going to be nearly impossible to top. Logan recognized this and scaled way down to a very manageable feat (which is probably why it's the best X-Men movie), but just look at Guardians 2. This was a good movie, but they literally had to stop a guy from consuming the universe. You can't get much bigger than that! The next Avengers movie is moving to space with fucking everyone you've ever met in a Marvel movie I have no idea how they're going to accomplish this (I mean, we saw how crowded Captain America: Civil War was and that movie was a fucking mess). Spider-Man: Homecoming scales everything way down, and in doing so, has essentially cemented itself as the best Spider-Man film to date. 

Tom Holland plays Peter Parker. In the beginning of the film it is already established and understood that he is, in fact, Spider-Man. We don't get the pleasure of watching his origins for a third goddamn time (thank the Lord baby Jesus we didn't have to witness Uncle Ben get killed again). He's only 15, but the only thing that he can think of is his fight in the Civil War against Captain America. However, he's still just a high school kid. He's not old enough to be an Avenger, but he's too old to responsibly contain the powers he possesses. He's looked out for by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. once again) and given a suit (with training wheels of course) and encouraged not to go after big evil fish, but to be just a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man". Enter Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a hard working father who, over years of being over-looked by superiors, has been collecting scrap pieces of alien weaponry (from the Avengers fights), making new weapons out of them, and selling them secretly to criminals. Due to this technology, he's been able to make and equip a suit that allows him to fly and become The Vulture. 

This all sounds like standard comic book Marvel fare... however, I assure you that it isn't. The movie focuses less on the action, and far more on the evolution of the characters. Keaton's Vulture isn't evil for the sake of being evil... he's become hardened and bitter and protective slowly over time out of necessity. Peter Parker isn't a flawless hero... he's just a kid (and a bit of a wiseacre) trying to figure out not only his place in the superhero world, but his place in the world in general. He's frustrated that he's not taken seriously by Stark and treated as a kid, yet when situations that aren't manageable by a 15-year-old get out of hand, he's legitimately unable to handle them. Then, I think what really impressed me the most out of the movie is that (FINALLY!!!!) a Marvel movie didn't fall into the third act pitfall that literally every single Marvel movie has fallen into. The first two acts are generally pretty original, but the third act everything gets huge and more animated and louder and bigger and it's an all out war of epic proportions. It's the climax... it has to be the biggest thing we've ever seen, right? Wrong. Spider-Man: Homecoming finally shows us that a movie can still stay small, still be exciting, and not have to cling to the pitfall of an overly CGI'd and explosive climax. It's bigger than anything Peter has had to deal with in the film, but in the grand scheme of the MCU, the climax of this film is small potatoes... and totally earned, organic, and intelligent. 

Holland is perfect as Peter Parker. Tobey Maguire was serviceable and I actually quite enjoyed Andrew Garfield (though the first one he was in was so mediocre I didn't even bother watching the second one with purple Jamie Foxx). But Holland is pitch perfect as Spidey. He's headstrong and quippy, yet equally vulnerable and unsure. He's a nice contrast to every other hero in the MCU and well-suited to wear the costume. Keaton slays it as Vulture. You can empathize with him and fear him all at the same time. Marissa Tomei jumps in this time as Aunt May and while she may not contribute much to the story, she's her normal awesome self in every scene she's in. Newcomer Jacob Batalon as Peter's best friend Ned is really the perfect character in the whole movie. He's the literal embodiment of someone who just found out their best friend is a superhero. There's questions galore, there's using this knowledge as a means to gain popularity, there's wanting to be a part of the action... Ned does all of this and more while still being a true friend to Peter. His character is the cherry on top of an already wonderful and diverse cast of characters. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming really had a lot going against it. So many people are sick of the rebooting of the character. So many people are sick of the over-saturation of Marvel movies. And so many writers (literally six writers are credited for writing this movie) are attached to the film. This is almost always never a good sign. However, here it works. And if you look at the track records of the writers it's a good mix. You've got the writer with the flare for the dramatic, the writer with the flare for the epic, a writer who specializes only in comedy. It's six unique voices piecing together a franchise that was on the brink of losing its fandom. And the end result does reflect these voices. It's action-packed, it's got heart, it's very, very funny, it's thrilling... it's everything we've wanted a Spider-Man movie to be since Spider-Man 2. And there's only one minor thing about this movie that actually irritated me. There's a moment where a villain has the perfect opportunity to kill Parker... and no reason he wouldn't do it... and he doesn't do it... for no reason... just doesn't do it. Look, I get it. We can't kill off Spider-Man. But, everything else in the movie has worked out so perfectly, let's give this moment one final rewrite, huh? 

I don't know whether I'm happy or pissed off at how good this film was. Either way, I walked into this movie trying my absolute hardest not to like it... not to appreciate anything about it... not not to even crack a smile... and it ended up being one of the best movies of the entire year... along with being the best Spider-Man film Marvel has ever released. 


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