Spider-man has been my favorite comic book character for as long as I can recall. Being born in the 80s but a child of the 90s, it was mostly Bat-central growing up with the Michael Keaton movies, but due to some old tapes I was able to pledge my early allegiance to Spider-Man by watching Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Shortly into the 90s the animated series would debut on Fox Kids on the heels of the successful X-men series and near the end of High School the first live action films with Tobey Maguire debuted. The movies lined up perfectly with my own life: The first movie I was a senior in High School like Mr. Parker, Spider-Man 2 was while I started college and the 3rd movie in 2007 was when I too was post-college figuring out life. Much like Batman, Spider-Man has had both highlights on the big screen (Dark Knight and Spider-man 2 respectively) and lowlights (Batman and Robin for Bats, Spider-Man 3/Amazing Spider-man 2 for the web-head). With this month’s release of Spider-Man Homecoming we are like Batman seeing the 3rd attempt to launch a film series.
Similar to my Civil War review I wanted to briefly talk about things I liked about Spider-Man Homecoming but since the movie hasn’t been out long, I will be careful about spoilers. Here we go! (Twhip!!!..…that’s me shooting a web to swing into this review):
It Feels Fresh!- Despite this now being the 6th time we’ve seen Spider-Man at the theater and the start of a second reboot, Homecoming feels very, very fresh for the character. It could have been us seeing a Spider-Man right in the middle of where he belongs in the Marvel Universe so that he can finally interact on-screen with Iron Man and friends or maybe that it’s such a departure from the last 2 Spider-Men. Whatever it is, this certainly didn’t feel like a 6th Spider-Man movie.
No Origin Needed- The problem with starting a superhero movie is that we always start with a origin story. For some of our bigger heroes we’ve seen the origin play out so many times that even non-fans know what happens. We’ve seen Thomas and Martha Wayne get gunned down so many times we stopped feeling bad for orphan Bruce Wayne, we’ve seen Krypton explode a handful of times, we have to wait at least an hour until our hero looks like the hero we want to see and then we see them fight (and often kill) their biggest foe (which means for a more fun sequel usually, but using the silver medalist instead from the rogue gallery). With Spider-Man Homecoming we only got the slightest mention of the spider bite that gave Peter Parker his powers. As a result we get to see Peter Parker as Spider-Man much sooner than later.
A Full Villain Buffet That Isn’t Over-Stuffed- I think since Superman fought both Zod AND Lex Luthor in Superman 2, there’s been a trend of superhero movies adding more bad guys each round. It would make sense that you would want to go bigger and badder (probably b/c the more well-known bad guy got killed in the first movie) but a very common side-effect, practically a guarantee, is that the movie becomes pretty bloated and the villains aren’t properly given enough time to develop and come off as a bit lame. Spider-Man Homecoming does have one major villain but a treasure trove of others that either are put in as a Easter egg, future teases or as a henchman that somehow still gives the character justification. I counted 5 watching the movie (found out a more subtle 6th character was shown as well) and while some were more blatant the others were more of a wink to Spider-man fans.
Not Being Over-Shadowed by Iron Man- Last year’s Civil War was the first time Spider-Man was able to be used in the Marvel Universe (Crash Course: Sony has had the rights which is why they couldn’t talk about Spider-man in the Avenger movies or vice-versa, but a recent deal allowed a joint agreement to use each other’s characters). Fortunately that debut was perfect: He appeared right in the middle of a Avenger battle royale! For Spider-Man Homecoming, Iron Man is a supporting character and with unquestioningly the most popular Marvel Cinematic Universe character, I was worried that Spider-Man would be overshadowed, but thankfully even with a good amount of Iron Man/Tony Stark screen time, it still felt rightfully like it was Spider-man’s own movie.
Diversifying the Cast- Any mention of changing a well known characters ethnicity or even not using an opportunity to do so in recent years have set the internet (namely Twitter) on fire with folks arguing for/against either side…..just look at the fiasco surrounding Iron Fist last year (which I liked the show BTW). In Spider-Man Homecoming we get to see a few characters within the Spider-man universe with a different ethnicity and characteristic. Take for example Flash Thompson: You may recall him as the bully that Peter Parker lays out with one punch shortly after gaining his powers…it’s almost as big of a part to his origin story as the spider bite.
Flash while in the comics is a blonde, athletic Caucasian is played in Spider-Man Homecoming by Tony Revolori who may be best known as the Lobby Boy from Wes Anderson’s The Grand Hotel Budapest. Revolori whom is of Guatemalan decent, brings a fun new twist to Flash Thompson. Rather than a jock muscle-head bully, Flash is more of a rival to Peter Parker academically and less of a bully and more of a rich kid prick. It worked out perfectly and gives Flash something more to do than be punched by Peter Parker (Flash does have cooler stories later in comics, including becoming a host to Venom). By doing this, I think we’ll have more Flash to come.
Another character is played by Zendaya and she brings quite a bit of humor to the movie and may or may not be playing a version of a VERY well known Spider-man Character depending who you believe (very-spoilery link)
Vulture- Michael Keaton was fantastic as Vulture. After 16 Marvel movies, we haven’t quite had that many great villains outside of Loki (Yellow-jacket might have been forgotten by now). Fortunately Vulture was perfect and puts him really close to the top right by Loki. I think what works for him is that he can be menacing and downright scary when needed and he’s not really a major world-ending threat like Ultron or Ego. He’s just a guy doing some arms deals to keep a upper-middle class life going. We even see what would motivate him to doing shady business. By making him a neighborhood level threat, I think it made for a better villain. Plus Keaton is really awesome.
Spider-Man has Fun!- I think this was the most important aspect of the movie for me. I didn’t embrace the last attempt at Spider-man because in order to distance itself from the Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi movies, they went for a grounded, moody take on Spider-Man. Some characters the serious tone has to work for others just need to have fun: Look at Guardians of the Galaxy. In the comics Spider-man is one hell of a shit-talker while bantering with criminals as he fights them. The portrayal of Spider-man in Homecoming is exactly how he should be!
Not Killing Vulture- As stated twice in this review, a problem with many movies is that the villain is killed. The good thing is that the bad guy won’t be bothering us anymore, but the bad thing is that if they were a really good bad guy, we don’t see them again! After probably the best and most tense moment of the movie I immediately felt dread feeling like they were going to kill off the Vulture. Sparing Vulture’s life not only shows Spider-Man being a hero but it allows us to have fun with the character in later movies. Speaking of which…..
Sinister Six Tease!- So one of my favorite cameos was that on the ferry Vulture and his men are selling to a Mac Gargan. For fans of the comics/animated shows, Mac Gargan eventually becomes the Scorpion (and a later Venom host). We later see Mac in prison with Vulture/Adrian Toombs and he talks about buddies on the outside. This could hopefully be a tease to a Sinister-Six lineup. We got 3 villains already with Vulture, Scorpion and Shocker, but who will be the other 3? Ock? Kraven? Black Cat? Rhino? Electro? Sandman? Tombstone? Mysterio? Chameleon? Morbius? Prowler? Smythe? Those are all exciting characters and I didn’t even mention Venom or any Goblins. I’m super-excited about future movies!
Miles?- Since his campaign to play Spider-Man before the role eventually went to Andrew Garfield, fans have clamored to have Donald Glover play Miles Morales instead. Miles Morales is a relatively recent character having been created in 2011 in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe (a fresh take on telling stories with characters free of decades of continuity and canon) Miles becomes Spider-Man after the death of the Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker. With a set of similar powers and different abilities (camouflage and venom stingers) Miles became a pretty popular character. While he hasn’t debuted in live action yet, fans of Miles were treated to a mention by Donald Glover’s character Aaron Davis (aka Prowler) during a interrogation by Spider-man. Aaron Davis/Prowler mentions he has a nephew which comic fans may know would be Miles Morales. Whether this is a bit of a wink to the fans or a potential doorway in a few years after we have fun with this Spider-man remains to be seen but it was still very cool and fitting for Donald Glover to be the one to mention this. On a similar note some eagle eyed fans have suggested that academic team member Cindy may be Cindy Moon, a even more recent creation known as Silk.
Iron Spider!- In the comic event that Captain America: Civil War drew much of its material from, Spider-Man is given a suit made by Tony Stark with lots of bonus goodies including A.I., retractable “Spider legs” and basically much of what Stark has in his Iron Man costume. While Spider-man’s suit upgrade designed by Tony Stark was what many fans of Spider-man’s Iron Spider suit expected to be the closest we’d come to the famous suit worn in the Civil War comic series, we were surprised at the end of Homecoming to see a brand new suit upgrade be offered to Peter Parker. While asthetically different from any comic suits, this suit has some unknown features potentially inside. Fortunately we’ll find out sooner than later as reports from this weekend’s D23 expo (Disney’s big Comic-Con style event where they announce upcoming movies) revealed that Peter Parker will in fact wear the suit revealed at the end of Homecoming.
I didn’t post a list of things I didn’t like because frankly there wasn’t anything I disliked. I haven’t felt this great leaving a Spider-Man movie since he fought Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. I left the movie on an incredible high very excited for future movies.
Spider-Man will once again swing into theaters with next Summer’s Avengers: Infinity War where he will join the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy to fight Thanos.