Spinning A Web
When it was first announced that Sony and Marvel had come to an agreement to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, geeks like myself rejoiced. I personally enjoyed both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as everyone’s favorite wall crawler, but Sony flubbed Maguire’s run with a terrible third film (ya know, the one with Eric Foreman as Venom) and couldn’t piece together a story interesting enough to win over audiences for Garfield (despite Spidey’s awesome Rogues Gallery).
If anybody could right the radioactive arachnid ship, it had to be Marvel, right???
Yes and no.
Before anybody goes into fits, understand that I really did enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming, but something was missing and I just can’t put my finger on it. Let’s look at what I liked about the film first and then try to pick apart the more problematic areas.
Just FYI, there be spoilers ahead!!!!! Stop reading NOW if you haven’t seen the film!
Casting directors are three for three when it comes to putting a new face into the Web-slinger’s suit. When I first heard that Tobey Maguire was going to be Spider-Man, I shuddered. He wasn’t very impressive in anything else that I saw him in, but I was wrong about him as Spider-Man. Maguire did a great job. Garfield impressed me even more, adding a little more attitude to his version of Peter Parker.
Tom Holland was brilliant. He portrayed Spidey as a hero desperate to fit in with the big league talent like Iron Man and Captain America. His awkward and humorous attempts at heroism early in the film won me over. His constant harassment of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) in order to get called up by Iron Man was believable and funny. I really enjoyed his attempt at using his suit’s “interrogation mode” to shake down Aaron Davis (Donald Glover).
On the flip side, Holland portrayed Peter Parker to perfection. Peter was your typical nerdy kid in love with the popular, older senior. His awkward attempts at fitting in with her and her friends and the way that he looked at her for just a little too long brought back plenty of terrible memories for myself and plenty of other audiences members, I’m sure.
Jacob Batalon was hilarious as Ned, Peter’s sidekick and Spidey’s eventual “man in the chair.” His reaction to finding out that Peter was Spider-man was great. Had I been put in the same situation, I’m sure I would have been just as excited and eager to help as Ned was in the film.
Robert Downey, Jr. basically walked through his now well-worn Iron Man shoes in this film. Thankfully he didn’t overshadow Holland or any of the rest of the cast. He was mainly there as a mentor. I hope Marvel keeps it that way. Chris Evans had a couple of cameos as Cap. They were some of my favorite parts of the film.
Marisa Tomei (hot Aunt May), Laura Harrier (Liz, Pete’s crush), the aforementioned Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine (Herman Schultz, Shocker), and most of the rest of the cast were excellent, but there were a couple of misfires that I’ll get to later. Oh, and how can I forget to mention the hilarious Martin Starr, who portrayed Mr. Harrington, Peter’s Decathlon coach. You might remember him from Freaks and Geeks.
The real stand out in this film, at least in my opinion, is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture. Keaton is no stranger to comic book films (Batman, anyone?), but his portrayal of the Vulture was one of the best I’ve seen as a Marvel Cinematic Universe villain. I actually felt a little sorry for the guy. I totally saw where he was coming from in the film and as a father myself, completely understand why he kept a piece of the Chitauri pie for himself. He was protecting and providing for his family. He was using criminal methods to do so, but I honestly believe that his heart was in the right place.
Keaton’s “dad talk” scene with Holland was my favorite part of the film. It took the “meeting the dad for the first time” moment and made it even more uncomfortable and lethal.
Michael Keaton stars in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN™: HOMECOMING.
Fitting in is something that we all go through at some point in our lives. It’s an extremely basic thing but we can all connect with it on some level. Peter sees taking down the Vulture as his ticket to an all expenses paid trip to the Avengers squad. He also sees being a part of the decathlon team as way of fitting in at school at getting to be around his crush. He makes poor choices with both and suffers the consequences, but manages to come out ahead in the end. Peter learned that being the popular kid like Thor or Hulk isn’t necessarily the best thing in the world. He also learned that getting a date with the girl he really likes can be just as much of a daunting task as taking down a super villain.
There was plenty of action in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Peter faces off against two versions of Shocker at different times in the film (and to different degrees of success). He also has an epic action sequence that takes place at the Washington Monument. His first encounter with Vulture takes place on the Staten Island Ferry in a sequence that mimics a similar encounter from Spider-Man 2 where Maguire’s Spidey faces off against Doctor Octopus (the brilliant Alfred Molina) on a train. The big battle between Spidey and Vulture takes place above New York City and is quite the spectacle.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is funny. It’s really funny. There’s more humor packed into its run time than both Guardians of the Galaxy films combined. The laughs don’t become tiring or cheap as they did in the second GOTG, either. They are consistent, believable, and memorable. They rely on Peter/Spidey’s awkwardness and need to belong to deliver, and they work almost perfectly every time.
And Now For The Complaints
I’m sure that many of my complaints will be seen as petty, but they bothered me nonetheless. Here goes.
Flash Thompson, where art thou? Flash Thompson is Peter’s big bad in high school. He’s one of the best bullies to ever grace the printed page and received two fine portrayals on the big screen via Joe Manganiello (the Maguire films) and Chris Zylka (the Garfield flicks). In this go round, Flash is portrayed as a snarky rich kid who can’t get over the fact that people like Peter more than him (at least on the decathlon team). He’s smarter than old school Flash (he’s on the DECATHLON team, not the FOOTBALL team). He verbally abuses Peter more than anything and loves to flaunt his wealth. The character is portrayed by Tony Revolori in Homecoming, and his verbal abuse and more intelligent ways are supposedly based on the more modern style of bullying that kids go through today. Really? I have a teenager and last time I checked, kids are still getting beat up at school. This straying from type for the character bothered me. I would have much preferred that Flash stay more like the traditional Flash. His style of bullying is timeless, like it or not.
Also, I have absolutely zero problems with Zendaya. In fact, I think she’s a pretty cool actress/singer. I enjoyed her on Shake It Up and have listened to her music with my daughter. Heck, I once stood in a line full of ten to twelve year old girls to get her autograph for my daughter (who wasn’t with me at the time). Here’s the proof:
However, she was entirely miscast in this film. Her character, Michelle Jones, who we later learn goes by MJ (sheesh), would throw a rod into the spokes of the film almost every time that she popped up on the screen. The character was completely unnecessary.
Yes, I mentioned the action as a pro earlier, but it was definitely a con as well. As wonderful as the climactic battle over the skies of the city could have been between Spidey and Vulture, it just fell flat in my opinion. Why? Because you couldn’t see what the heck was going on. The scenes were shot at close range, blurry, and went by faster than you can say, “Can the real Flash Thompson please stand up?”
The best action sequence in my opinion was the Washington Monument elevator rescue. You could see what was happening, humor was injected into the scene, and feelings of peril manifested easily.
Plus, Spidey bulging out his muscles in an attempt to hold the Staten Island Ferry together looked eerily similar to this:
See what I mean?
The Music (Or Lack Thereof)
Michael Giacchino helmed the score of Spider-Man: Homecoming. He also scored the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films, Jurassic World, The Incredibles, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Doctor Strange as well as many more successful films. He does a very good job of blending themes from previous composers into his own work. He did it with the Star Trek theme from the original series and from the first films/The Next Generation and the work of John Williams from both Star Wars and Jurassic Park. He included the old Spider-Man theme in Homecoming, but after the initial introduction of that theme, the music takes a backseat to the rest of the film.
On films that Giacchino doesn’t have an existing theme to base his score on, he falls back on the same rhythms, beats, and tones. I’m no musician, but I can recognize repetitive sequences in music. Just listen to the soundtracks for Abrams’ Star Trek films and the Doctor Strange film. You’ll hear many of the same sequences in both.
Plus, Giacchino also sucks the emotion out of great themes. The music was severely lacking in both Jurassic World and Rogue One.
Music helps build characters, emotion, and tension. It is a character in its own right in films in my opinion. The music doesn’t do that in Homecoming. It’s just sort of there. The biggest pop received from me was at the end of the film whenever The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop was played.
So, despite some of the casting choices, action sequences, and the music, Spider-Man Homecoming is a pretty cool film. It’s funny, catches the vibe of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and hinted at a few other baddies including the Tinkerer, Prowler, and Shocker (who I hope gets more screen time in another film). It had one of the best villains since Loki, and managed to take place inside of the Avengers timeline without necessarily being a part of it.
Oh, and I loved this costume:
So I do recommend that you check out Spider-Man: Homecoming, but don’t get too caught up in the hype surrounding the film and Marvel’s involvement. There are better Marvel films out there. Heck, there are even better Sony films out there (Spider-Man 2). HC is fun and you won’t regret watching it in the theater.
As always, thanks for reading. See ya next time!