Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

One of my favorite moments each year is sitting in the theater as yet another movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe starts to play. Nowadays it happens two or three times a year. But it never gets old. The advertisements end. The trailers start. The anticipation through each trailer is high as you realize you are closer and closer to the movie starting. Then the trailers finish and you get one more blurb or two from the theater and then there it is. The epic Marvel logo shows up and gets you absolutely pumped! This weekend it's time for millions of people across the world to experience this feeling yet again! Kinda. We had a minor little caveat this time around as the moment where the Marvel logo was supposed to show up, the Sony and Columbia Pictures logos showed up instead. Because even though most people now believe that Spider-Man is Marvel's franchise, Sony kindly reminded us that they still own the character. They just struck a deal with Marvel so that Marvel can help them actually make good movies and in turn they'd let Spider-Man join the MCU. So we got the Sony logo first. Then an opening scene involving Michael Keaton, not Spider-Man. Then they let the Marvel logo show up. And we were officially in business with another MCU superhero movie!

For comic book fans, this is the moment that we've all been dreaming of ever since the Avengers initiative began with "Iron Man" in 2008. When is Sony going to man up and let everyone's favorite Marvel character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, it took the financial and critical disaster that was "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" to happen before Sony caved and came whimpering to Marvel for help. And now we have it. Spider-Man has been rebooted for the second time this millennium, but this time Marvel has a say in the matter and they are doing it their way. We're going to wipe the slate clean, pretend that both Sam Raimi's trilogy and the Amazing Spider-Man movies don't exist, cast a nobody baby face as Spider-Man, hire an unknown director and boom! Marvel's Spider-Man. Then we throw on there the "Spider-Man: Homecoming" title, which is has a duel meaning with this being Spider-Man returning to Marvel as well as it reflecting the style and tone of this movie, which is a straight-up teenager, high school drama in the vein of a classic John Hughes movie such as "The Breakfast Club" or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but with superheroes. Yeah this is a very different Spider-Man movie than what we are used to, but in this case I think that's a good thing.

Now in regards to my personal opinion of the Spider-Man lore, it's worth noting that I have been a Spider-Man fan since I was a young kid. I remember the animated Spider-Man TV shows and the Spider-Man video games. He was a comic book character, along with Batman and Superman, that I really loved. Then as a 13-year-old kid I was elated with the fact that Spider-Man was finally coming to the big screen courtesy of Sam Raimi. Toby Maguire put on that Spider-Man mask for the first time in 2002 and I loved it. Then I loved the sequel in 2004. Unfortunately the third entry in that franchise is one we don't talk about in my household and sadly it was so bad that it killed that specific franchise. But because Sony owns the character and has to continue to make movies or they lose the rights, they rebooted the character with Andrew Garfield in 2012. Even though it was a retread of Spider-Man's origins, I thought it was done fantastically. I even enjoyed the sequel two years later that most of the world likes to tear apart and throw in a dumpster. But because I was in the minority, that movie killed the franchise, too. So now we get what is either going to be three strikes and you're out or third time's the charm. Luckily it appears to be the latter.

The big question that everyone will face with this new Spider-Man movie is how does this stack up against the previous five? Well, I'm not going to answer that yet. I initially planned to do a Spider-Man marathon to refresh my mind and reassess my opinions on everything so I could come up with an honest ranking in this review, but I ended up not having time to do that, so that will come at a later day. When it happens, I will throw in a comment down below as to what my rankings are in addition to a facebook post on my personal page. But for now I'll just say that I enjoyed all of the Spider-Man movies outside "Spider-Man 3." And I have a feeling that this one is going to be a bit tough to figure out exactly where it stands because quite frankly this is a much different iteration of Spider-Man. For one, as I said earlier, the tone is much different as this is a high school drama with superheroes. But also, Tom Holland is much younger than Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield  were when they took on the mantle. Maguire was 27 when "Spider-Man" was released in 2002 and Garfield was 29 when "The Amazing Spider-Man" was released in 2012.  Tom Holland is 21 right now. But he honestly looks like he is about 16, which is what Marvel is going for here.

If I'm comparing the three actors in their portrayal of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, I'd still probably say Toby Maguire does the best Peter Parker while Andrew Garfield does the best Spider-Man, but Tom Holland is the most well-rounded in playing both. He's very natural at playing the nerdy Peter Parker who is very socially awkward and, as we learned in "Captain America: Civil War," he is great when he puts on the suit to become the famous web-slinger as he may have been the best part of that airport sequence. The high energy level that he brought to that scene is present throughout this movie once he becomes Spider-Man and it's a lot of fun to watch. But in this movie, Marvel has done something really fascinating that the other two sagas didn't do. They made Spider-Man a kid. Sure, Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield were technically supposed to be high school students in their first movie, but no one ever bought it due to how old they were. In this movie you do. And anyone who knows the Spider-Man comics, that's how it's supposed to be. Spider-Man is a kid who got superpowers and has to balance school life with superhero life and sometimes fails at both. That's the story Marvel is telling here. He's a kid trying to be an adult with these powers.

If you're looking for classic Spider-Man story arcs in this movie, you're not going to get them. There's no Harry Osborne or Mary Jane Watson in the movie. Instead his best friend is named Ned and his love interest, or rather high school crush, is a girl named Liz. There's no Uncle Ben in the movie, only a subtle reference to Aunt May going through hard times, which I took to be Uncle Ben's passing. Speaking of Aunt May, she actually looks like an Aunt May instead of the Grandma May that most versions interpret her as in terms of age, which I appreciated. Having Aunt May be in her 70's shouldn't necessarily be a requirement. In fact, younger, hotter Aunt May made for a lot of great comedic moments. Although those complaining at Aunt May being too young may not realize that Marisa Tomei is 53. A pretty dang good looking 53-year-old if I might add. Moving on, we also don't have Norman Osborne or any Green Goblin/Hob Goblin references. With no Uncle Ben, Peter's mentor in the movie is Tony Stark, which I'd be willing to bet is not the case in any previous Spider-Man stories. So yes, Marvel has gone in a completely different direction with this new iteration of Spider-Man. All things considered, though, I think that was necessary. Another rehash would not have been accepted.

But despite the movie being completely different in terms of our specific, classic Spider-Man stories, Marvel nailed the spirit of Spider-Man as this young kid figuring out this thing called life. He had quite the initiation to the Avengers in "Civil War" and now he is completely obsessed with all of that. He starts dropping out of all his school programs and putting his full energy into becoming Spider-Man, but much to his dismay, Tony Stark is mainly ignoring him. He doesn't get to go on any more cool adventures with the Avengers and thus he becomes really frustrated at this whole process as he tries to simply become a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, but finds himself kinda bored with it. To me this felt like real teenager emotions. If a kid got super powers, this is how he would act. He'd probably try to be a superhero, but he'd probably fail because there's a lot more to being a superhero than having powers and putting on a costume. These are the lessons that Peter has to learn the hard way. He thinks he's ready, but he's really not. Thus while the movie itself is not an origin story -- the spider bite is only referenced in passing -- this is a movie about kid Peter Parker learning how to become Spider-Man and it's a really beautiful arc that he goes through. 

So yes, I loved Tom Holland's version of the character and I loved the arc that he went through. But if I'm being a bit nit-picky, the movie as a whole is not quite as sharp and focused as some other previous Spider-Man movies. This is more of a high school drama than a superhero movie for a lot of it and while I enjoyed that, I did also feel that we were kinda wandering through high school for a while without having a traditional three act movie. I didn't know where the movie was going for most of it. While not as bad as the first half of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" from earlier this year, I did feel there could've been a bit more focus and direction. Thus while I don't know exactly how I will rank all the Spider-Man movies, I do know this one won't be on the top of that list, but it does have a good chance at being in the top half of that list and that is actually because of Michael Keaton as the Vulture, which I was surprised by. I don't want to dive too much into his character because I want that to be a surprise for you, but he got a lot more attention in this movie than I thought he was going to get and, based on trailers I'd seen, he has a lot more depth and humanity to him than I was expecting. This is one of the best Spider-Man villains if I'm being honest.

Overall, this definitely is a very enjoyable movie. Kudos to Tom Holland for nailing both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Kudos to Marvel for deciding to go with the teenage Spider-Man instead of the adult Spider-Man we've gotten in the previous movies. More kudos to Marvel for being bold enough to take this in a completely different direction, thus making this feel fresh, despite the fact that this is our sixth Spider-Man movie in 15 years. I know a lot of people that were sick of the character after the past three movies and I think Marvel has done a perfect job of getting everyone excited again for their most popular character. I also have to dish out kudos to our supporting cast, which includes Jacob Batalon as Peter's best friend Ned, Laura Harrier as his crush Liz, Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, Zendaya as a girl named Michelle, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. They were all great. Then of course RDJ was great again as Tony Stark, this time in a mentor role. And a huge round of applause to Michael Keaton for making this movie work. This is the fourth best superhero movie of 2017, which is more of a testament to how great this year has been for the genre as I'm giving "Spider-Man: Homecoming" a 9/10.

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