Tuesday, July 11, 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Is Amazing and Spectacular

There’s probably no other fictional character that I got to care for more than Spider-Man.  In fact, there was a time where I thought that a great disservice was being done to the character that I was compelled to write at lengths about it.  I’m deeply fond of Spider-Man.  Not only do I adore his terrific characterization and mythology, but I actually consider him as a role model; he genuinely inspires.

That’s why, I admit, I’m biased of my assessment here.  I’ve always been when it comes to Spider-Man media.  Heck, I even consider Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as good movies, an opinion that many will disagree with.  Nevertheless, I truly have had tremendous fun with Spider-Man: Homecoming.  So far, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year.  And I doubt that it will fall from the top 5 in my year-end list for best 2017 movies – guaranteed top 3 even!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is not the best Spider-Man film ever made.  That remains to be – and might likely forever be – Spider-Man 2.  But it’s a pretty good one, and deserving to be described with the same adjectives that Spider-Man is most identified with: “amazing” and “spectacular.”
The plot is focused on Peter Parker (Tom Holland) who is raring to do something bigger as Spider-Man after his experience in Captain America: Civil War.  He believes to have found that opportunity when he stumbles upon the arms trafficking operation of Adrian Toomes a.k.a. the Vulture (Michael Keaton).  His mentor Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) thinks that he’s not yet capable and experienced enough to take on such dangerous criminals, so he tells him to stay away.  But Peter, driven by determination or stubbornness (or both), proceeds to do so anyway – while also trying juggle his high school life at the side.

The story’s core arc is mainly about Spider-Man growing into maturity as a hero.  And it’s done quite well.   Tom Holland’s Peter Parker isn’t quite there as Spider-MAN.  He’s still very much a Spider-Boy.  He’s very green and prone to make mistakes.  His heart is in the right place, but he still lacks foresight and discretion.  He’s intelligent, but he also makes poorly thought decisions.   Moreover, he still hasn’t ironed out the facets of what Spider-Man is about.  There’s even a scene where he gets a bit shaken because he’s at a high height.  It’s a fitting depiction of the teenage, still-learning-the-ropes Spider-Man.  And this makes Homecoming unique from other Spider-Man films.
Tom Holland is a brilliant Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  He already showed this in his debut in Captain America: Civil War.  But it’s in this solo movie where he really knocked it out of the park.  Aside from being smart, funny, resolute, uncompromising, admirable, awkward, and flawed, Holland’s depiction of Peter Parker is spot on for being the embodiment of a lovable geek.  Every eager geek who goes to watch Homecoming will easily relate to him because he’s exactly the type of person that will eagerly go watch a movie like Homecoming.  In addition, Holland displayed great range in his performance.  He sold whatever emotions needed to be sold.  He’s especially excellent in that scene referencing Spidey’s iconic “pinned under rubble” moment from Amazing Spider-Man #33.

The script is clever and inspired.  It has the perfect feel of a high school movie.  It captures the charm and drama of such without the cheesy teen angst.  On top of that, though it doesn’t fully capture the essential themes of Spider-Man (that what makes Spider-Man 2 superior, since it did), it at least successfully nails the tone.  As far as the other technical stuff goes, I found no problems.  It has fantastic visuals, the pacing doesn’t drag, the narrative is consistently fun, and it’s well-acted all around.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is not necessarily the perfect live-action movie adaptation of the Spider-Man mythology.  But as a “Spider-Man in the MCU” movie, it’s nigh impeccable.

Miscellaneous musings (with SPOILERS):
  • I’m a bit torn about Iron Man having a significant presence on Peter’s life.  On one hand, it’s always fun to have Robery Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark around.  On the other, this kind of discounts Spidey’s heroic development.  Sure, Peter has been inspired by other people, but he basically figured out the whole “superheroing” thing for himself without receiving any direct mentorship.
  • Same thing with the Tony Stark-designed Spidey suit.  On one hand, it’s pretty cool – with its various functions and AI and all that.  On the other hand, it somewhat discounts Peter’s genius.  Now, in the comics, his current suit somewhat reflects the high-tech, gadget-y Spidey costume in Homecoming.  But it’s something he has personally developed.  Even when he was younger and poorer (he’s, by the way, extremely rich in the comics now), he relied on his own resourcefulness and wits with regards to his costume and equipment.
  • Nevertheless, Iron Man mentoring and providing technology to a teenage Spider-Man makes sense in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, wherein Iron Man was basically its first superhero and Spider-Man is only a recent addition to it.  I can find this acceptable through a “reimagining” perspective.   But, yeah, I would have preferred for Peter to make his own stuff, crude and simple they may be at this point of his superhero career.
By the way, this shot from the trailers is NOT in the actual movie.
  • Peter Parker vlogging at the beginning is pure genius.
  • Does Holland’s Spidey have a spider-sense?  The movie never explicitly demonstrated it.  It seemed like there were several times he was sneaked upon or jumped on.  I wish the spider-sense will be clearly shown in future appearances.  It’s an essential, distinctive Spider-Man power after all.
  • Another great Tom Holland acting moment is discovering that Adrian Toomes is the father of his crush, Liz.
  • I got confused about the setting of this movie.  It’s established early that the events in the movie is set eight years after the battle of New York.  This means the movie is set in 2020.  Usually, the events in the MCU occur at real time, or at least close to it.  This is the first major timeline issue in the MCU.  I don’t really care, though.  It’s peripheral to the quality of the storytelling.
  • The reveal that Zendaya’s character, Michelle, is supposed to be the MCU’s Mary Jane reminded me the “Robin” twist of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in Dark Knight Rises.  Meh.
  • Marvel filmmakers love their Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  First was the post-credit scene in Deadpool.  Now, in Homecoming, a couple of references are made.
  • Michael Keaton’s Vulture is the best MCU villain since Loki.
  • The fact that Batman is Vulture is awesome.
  • Vulture and his gang’s whole shtick is scavenging tech from the aftermath of events in previous MCU movies.  That’s a nice touch about the character since vultures are scavengers.
  • I was slightly disappointed of the movie’s treatment of Shocker.  I know he (or they; there are two “Shockers”) was just there to serve as a goon rather than as a secondary supervillain.  That’s why I wasn’t too annoyed.  But a more faithful portrayal would have been more appreciated.
  • Also, one of Vulture’s men is an obvious reference to the Tinkerer.
  • Mac Gargan a.k.a. Scorpion is also briefly in the movie.  And it seems he’ll be around in the sequel.  Hopefully, as a proper supervillain of a Scorpion – with suit, tail, and all.
  • The post-credits scene of Captain America is some savage, hysterical piece of trolling.  His other PSA videos from two different moments in the movie – one during gym class, the other during detention – are hilarious, as well.
  • It’s implied that Miles Morales is also in this universe.  I’m excited how this will eventually play out.  Will he also eventually become a Spider-Man? Will Peter Parker die, prompting Miles to take his mantle (like in the Ultimate Universe)?  Or will there be two Spideys existing simultaneously?
  • Karen (or is it K.A.R.E.N.?), the AI on Spidey’s suit is voiced by Jennifer Connelly.  That’s some clever casting, since she’s the wife of Paul Bettany, who voiced J.A.R.V.I.S., the AI on the Iron Man suit for a long time before eventually transforming into the Vision in Age of Ultron.
  • There’s a moment where Spidey is upside down facing Liz, and Karen urges him to kiss her.  It’s definitely an amusing nod to the upside down kiss in Spider-Man
  • The “Instant Kill” function in the suit was a hilarious, dark joke.  I’m extremely curious of what it does.
  • My guess is, the sequel’s title is going to be Spider-Man: Graduation.  LOL.
  • There’s going to be a Venom movie soon, starring Tom Hardy and may or may not be set in the MCU (it’s vague right now).  I wish they go the “Agent Venom” route since, in my opinion, that’s the best incarnation of the character.  I understand that it’s impossible for Flash Thompson to now serve as Agent Venom, given the MCU’s timeline and characterization of him, and Tom Hardy is likely playing Eddie Brock.  Still, they can reimagine Eddie Brock’s character by giving him the backstory of Flash Thompson a.k.a. Agent Venom in the comics.  That would be great, if ever.

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