Now I may have mentioned in the past several times that I am much more a DC fan than a Marvel fan. This probably because I was brought up with DC franchises like, Superman, Batman and Justice League, but when I was younger, I really loved Spiderman. Spiderman has always been one of my favourite Superheroes, he had cool powers, an interesting back story and a really good rogues gallery.
Obviously Spiderman is proving popular since he has had five films up to this point, all made by Sony. While I really enjoyed both the Sam Raimi trilogy and The Amazing Spiderman films, I never thought any of them got it completely right. There was always one or two things to nit pick. In some senses The Amazing Spiderman kind of annoyed me because it meant Marvel wasn’t getting the character back for the MCU. Fortunately when The Amazing Spiderman 2 tanked and the writing team split, one of them going on to make The Mummy of all things, Sony knew they were in a pickle and decided to cut their losses and sell the character back to Marvel as we saw in his first introduction of Captain America Civil War, which you will recall, was one of the best films I saw last year, and to my mind possibly the best Marvel film to date. I really got a kick out of Tom Holland’s Spiderman, even though he was only briefly on the screen, which made me very excited for this film: Spiderman Homecoming. There was a brilliant cast list announced and of course the MCU sound like they are doing a good job. The directing job was given to John Watts, a rather inexperienced director whose only directed feature films prior to this, most notably, 2015’s Cop Car. He is certainly an interesting choice and the screenplay received a ton of re-writes, hence the fact that there are seven credited screenplay writers, so has that confusion affected the final product and how does Spiderman Homecoming stand up now that this is Spiderman’s third re-boot in the space of fifteen years.
Spiderman Homecoming takes place a few months after the events of Captain America Civil War, I am also assuming Dr Strange has happened in that time since most of the MCU films appear to be in chronological order at this point. After their mission in Berlin, Tony Stark, aka Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr) takes Peter Parker aka Spiderman (played by Tom Holland) home, instructing him to keep a low profile, get used to his powers and eventually he will get him into the Avengers once he has received more experience. The problem is that Peter thinks he is due for bigger things especially considering when he was last in action he took down Giant Man and stole Captain America’s shield. His big break comes when he finds a group of smugglers selling weapons to criminals made from chitauri technology that had been salvaged after the invasion in the events of The Avengers film. They are led by Adrian Toombes aka the Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) who proves to be a powerful foe using the technology to its fullest advantage and get what he believes is owed to him that was taken away by the rich. Can Spiderman overcome the odds and take down the Vulture, despite the fact he is doing this against Tony Stark’s wishes.
Ok, so we are now well into phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and while it does feel a little late to be bringing Spiderman into the mix, this film serves as a pretty good introduction for him. Anyone familiar with Spiderman topes will be aware of this, most of the tropes are still here and most of the supporting cast is here: Aunt May is back, this time played by Marisa Tomel and we also have his typical bullies, mainly Flash Thompson, this time played by Tony Revolori, who you may recognise from The Grand Budapest Hotel. It, however, gives us one thing that none of the other Spiderman films have really given us: Peter Parker in High School!!! Yes I know he was in high school in Amazing Spiderman and to a certain extent Spiderman too, but he was coming towards the end and Graduating. This one, we actually get to see him in his day to day life. In that sense, it kind of reflects to the Ultimate Spiderman series, which I really enjoyed. However, I think this film may be a mixed bag for many fans. The major reason being, I think people will be expecting something different this time around, though I think those expectations will actually hinder their experience because what we are getting is something that feels refreshing, or at least in my opinion is refreshing. One of my biggest problems with the Amazing Spiderman films is that they mimic the Sam Raimi film way too much, which meant the film would often struggle to have its own identity. It’s almost as if the writers and directors didn’t have enough confidence to try something different. This one certainly has a lot more confidence. This is a very different Spiderman story. We trade off a lot of exploration of the character, though not entirely and in return, we get a much more simplistic, but well told story in a way that hasn’t been done in a Spiderman film yet. It’s very simply, get to the bad guy doing a thing, Peter Parker wants to prove himself by stopping him, high jinx ensue.
The film really realises that Spiderman is now in the MCU and takes full advantage of it and in all honesty I think this is the first Spiderman to really get the character down almost perfectly. Tom Holland has brought everything that was with the character in civil war to this film, which means everything that was set up by the Russo brothers is now going to stick. The biggest problem we got with Toby Maguire was that he was a bit too geeky and not a wise cracking smart ass when he was in the suit. Whereas Andrew Garfield was the reverse. Tom Holland is the perfect middle ground and he not only looks the part, he seems to mould himself into the part almost perfectly. This is an excellent decision because this film also chooses to forgo the entire origin story. There is no mention of Uncle Ben and he is not seen on screen at all, we don’t even get a flashback to his death and the Spider bite is only mentioned in passing. But, frankly at this point we are so familiar with Spiderman that I don’t think it is necessary. So, the film gets down its main character almost perfectly in a way that I don’t think the other Spiderman films achieved. If people are expecting the big character study that the original Spiderman trilogy was and the two Amazing Spiderman films were, however, I think they might go in a bit disappointed, by this point that’s been done. We get enough of the main character and his struggles of being Spiderman and the need to prove himself without having to go through half of the same stuff that the other films did and it’s to the films benefit, this is a different kind of Spiderman that works, for the most part, and with an actor who can really pull it off. I don’t think we’ve seen the character closer to his comic counterpart in any other film.
The villains are actually a rather interesting bunch. I know the MCU doesn’t have villains that are as interesting as their heroes, but I must be honest, I think this film has kind of bucked the trend for the most part. I actually kind of liked the Vulture in this film. They messed around with the characters origin from the comics quite a bit but considering how much Marvel have been messing around with the character over the years, this character is well open to interpretation and to be honest, at least these changes are within the spirit of the character. There is an interesting motivation there. We get a flashback early on to him running a clean-up crew to deal with the alien technology after the invasion of New York in the Avengers, which he gets cut out of after Tony Stark brings in his own crew to deal with it and he then feels a sense of entitlement from what has been taken from him. Again a rather interesting motivation, ok, granted he is not quite on the same level as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil or Zebediah Kilgrave in Jessica Jones or even Cottonmouth in Luke Cage and he is certainly not nearly as entertaining as Loki, but I would definitely put him up there as one of the better MCU villains at this point. There is nothing too complex about his character but he serves the purpose and he does it pretty well and he has a rather honourable motivation and trust me, the change in the origin pays off big time later on in the film, though I don’t want to give away spoilers, but let’s just say it also leads to a trope of Spiderman films that I am amazed that people are not getting sick of by this point. I would also like to say, it’s a bit weird having Michael Keaton in the role considering he has played Batman in the past, but really, who is going to turn down a role in a Spiderman film.
The Vulture isn’t the only villain in the film, we also have the Shocker played by Bokeem Woodbine and while he is basically just the number two to the Vulture he at least gets some decent scenes and does a decent job. The supporting cast is also pretty good as well, including Zendaya playing Michelle who is a barrel of laughs, Tony Revolori makes an excellent Flash Thompson, though I don’t think they quite got down the fact that Flash Thompson is essentially a Spiderman fanboy. I actually felt that Tony Stark was really good in this film, they do a pretty good job of making him a good mentor figure and I do get a sense that he is holding back Peter Parker because he doesn’t want him to go down the same path that led them to the events of Civil War. As usual, we also have the love interest, who, this time is Liz ,played by Laura Harrier, who is a rather obscure reference unless you are rather familiar with the 90’s Spiderman cartoon, she serves her purpose, even if she is kind of lacking in the personality department, but she is certainly better than the cutout that was Mary Jane in the Sam Raimi films, no offence Kirsten Dunst, you tried your best, but that part was badly written!!
The standout of the cast though is Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, who may be a bit of a clone of Ganke from Ultimate Spiderman but I really enjoyed him and I think he makes an excellent friend to Peter especially after he finds out he is Spiderman and tries to get him more involved in his Superhero work, by the way, that is not a spoiler, that was in pretty much every trailer for this film. Honestly, everyone is written very well and the cast also give excellent performances, I haven’t even mentioned Jon Favereau doing a brilliant job as Happy Hogan, but again the stand out performance is Tom Holland as Peter Parker, who I stand by, is the best actor to play the role to date.
This film also has a brilliant aesthetic: the costume designs are fantastic, especially Spiderman’s costume and even the subtle detail to the Shocker’s hoodie that was a subtle hint to the costume design in the comics. I didn’t mind the Vulture’s costume re-design even if it takes a bit of a liberty with the comics design. Honestly there isn’t really much more to say, the Ironman suit looks the same as ever and they all blend pretty well into the action scenes, which I might add are also, for the most part pretty good, a couple of them are slight fails, but again, this is mainly because many of them were shot in very dark environments. Though I think most of the action scenes in Washington were done pretty dam well. My only complaint with the new Spiderman suit is that it does come with the artificial intelligence, which I felt is borrowing a little too much from Ironman, but it still had some good moments.
Now I only saw the film in 2D, so I can’t comment on the 3D presentation, but I would recommend seeing this film in 2D because there are some darker moments that will be hindered by the 3D glasses. There isn’t really much more to say, if I had to nit pick I would say there are a couple of tropes I wish they had cut, while I did think that one of those tropes is over used I do think it was used better here than it has been in a couple of the other films and I am glad they only try to expand on one villain rather than them both, which again was a mistake that Spiderman 3 and The Amazing Spiderman 2 made.
So that’s my very long thoughts on Spiderman Homecoming. I will be interested to hear what your thoughts are.
Come back next time were I will be giving my thoughts on the next instalment of the Planet of the Apes franchise “War for the Planet of the Apes” and I will also have a mini review of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and possibly a mini review of Despicable Me 3.
Thanks a lot for reading my review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and I haven’t got a good friendly neighbourhood Spiderman joke to end this review out with, so go and watch my vlog.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
Ren’s view of Spiderman Homecoming
A new approach to the classic superhero tale (sans origin story), Spider-Man: Homecoming features Tom Holland as high schooler and titular character, Spiderman.
Returning to the roots of the franchise, Homecoming gives us Peter Parker at the tender age of 15, a period in most people’s lives where change is to be expected, though typically they are more hormonal changes than superhuman. Nevertheless, puberty is an especially tumultuous time for any youth, and is often fraught with developmental obstacles, social struggles and fleeting romances.
Homecoming is a unique mix of Superhero and High School comedy, lending itself very effectively to both styles to create an accessible film for fans of Disney’s MCU and Sony’s previous iterations of the character. In contrast to earlier films however, Jon Watts chooses to touch only very lightly on Spiderman’s origins, altering the pace of the film to reflect this. His reasoning for this (I theorise) is that Spiderman (Toby McGuire), and The Amazing Spiderman (Andrew Garfield) both heavily rely on Uncle Ben as a device for Spiderman’s vigilante mindset; however Holland’s approach to the character acts out of a childlike moral compass, dictating right and wrong based on one’s actions and motivations.
Like many high school movies, Homecoming explores the theme of fitting in, and finding one’s place in the world. With encroaching exams, competitions, and the homecoming dance on the horizon, Parker struggles to balance his nightly vigilantism with normal life, leading to overlap in the form of his best friend and confidant Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) discovery of his secret identity. Despite all this, Parker maintains his hopes of one day joining the Avengers, seeking the approval of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Due to his often thoughtless approach however, Spiderman repeatedly finds himself clashing and losing to Vulture (Michael Keaton), causing Stark to lose faith in him. Parker’s own inadequacy is a flaw that is frequently presented in Marvel continuity, and is noted to be the biggest limiter on his powers, so the culmination of his losses to Vulture and Stark’s diminished opinion of him do not bear well.
Beyond this is spoiler territory, so I won’t delve into anything much deeper, save to say that as with many high school films, adversity is often dealt with through introspection and confidence, and the same holds true here.
Regarding action sequences. I’ll leave a disclaimer, I am quite critical when it comes to fight scenes set at night. Abundantly so, mainly because it’s very difficult to tell what goes on, especially when portraying high-octane melée between superheroes. I feel it has to fit the theme of the film. To use an example, John Wick – a remorseless assassin methodically dispatching an endless sea of lackeys as he ploughs through to reach his target, that justifies a dusk-lit action sequence. However, the gaudily dressed Spiderman locked in superhuman combat with an alien-tech bolstered super villain requires lighting and spectacle for it to remain visually impressive.
Regardless of this fact and visual issues aside, some of the superhero clashes we were given were nothing short of innovative. Boats bisected, jets crashed, monuments invaded. Marvelous.
As I mentioned before however, what I think action genres as a whole need to escape from is a reliance on low-lighting to dictate mood and motion during combat choreography. To use an in-universe example, and to play on the strengths of the superhero, the fight between Spiderman and Doctor Octopus in Spiderman 2. A multi-level fight on the side of a building, taking into account gravity, reactions, the need to protect the innocent, and the imminent risk of death by falling. All of these things combine to make a compelling, visually trackable and exciting clash between two well-known villains. A lack of discernible shapes and lighting causes confusion, and generally detracts from what ought to be a satisfying and climactic clash between protagonist and antagonist.
Spider-Man: Homecoming boasts a most impressive set of actors, appearing in main, supporting, cameo, and comedy roles (Stan Lee, we know you’re in there).
Doing a brief role-call: Tom Holland (Captain America: Civil War, The Impossible), Michael Keaton (The Birdman, Beetlejuice, Batman), Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef), Donald Glover/Childish Gambino (Community, The Martian), Hannibal Buress (The Eric Andre Show), Kenneth Choi (The Wolf of Wall Street), Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel). Not to mention Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Evans rounding out the big hitters of the cast.
Notably, I praise Jacob Batalon in the role of Ned Leeds for an exceptionally amusing performance. Having only performed in one movie prior to this (North Woods, 2016), it’s difficult to gauge Batalon’s prior experience in larger roles, but his tone, timing and general inflection lend him well to a supporting role, and I look forward to seeing him in the modern-day retelling of the classic story The True Don Quixote, currently in post-production.
In addition, Zendaya (child of Disney) cements herself in the role of Michelle as a wryly comedic addition to the cast, less as an integral character but more as an absurdist caricature of high school outliers. She has some exceptionally funny parts, and boasts her talent as an up and coming actor, particularly noting her role in The Greatest Showman alongside actors Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and former-Disneyite, Zac Efron.
To conclude, Spider-Man: Homecoming, its stylistic choices, pace and story feel entirely different to the Spiderman films we’ve seen in the recent past – and rightly so. Sony and Disney compromising a middle ground on the label may be the best thing to happen to our favourite web-slinger over the course of his tumultuous movie history. Indeed it feels a lot more MCU, fitting with his recent appearance in Captain America: Civil War, and it is with tentative enthusiasm that I hope this trend continues with Homecoming’s unnamed sequel set for theatre release in 2019.
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