It only took me a fortnight, but I finally got the chance to go into the theater last night and watch the newest Spider-Man film, the first under the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After seeing the new young Peter Parker in action during Captain America: Civil War, I felt safe in Marvel now having their own official Spider-Man film, one that should’ve fixed all the problems the previous films from Spider-Man 3 onwards had caused.
In a way they’ve done this by producing a very fun and comical film, but they still fail to avoid a couple of key mistakes, not to mention creating one major mistake on their own.
Right off the bat, I will admit that with a new Peter Parker, it was quite weird for them to not even briefly show the spider bite and the discovery of his powers. I completely agree with the notion that we didn’t need an entire origin story again, but let’s be honest folks, if this is a younger viewer’s first Spider-Man film, wouldn’t it be a little confusing as to how this high school kid has superpowers? At most, just take a couple minutes to flashback to the beginnings, don’t bother with an Uncle Ben story or anything like that, just show the bite, show his first trial runs with the suit and boom, you’re done.
The actual movie starts off really cool, with a Blair Witch, Cloverfield style view of Peter’s first real mission in the fight against Captain America and others during the events of the Civil War film. It looks cool and gets you nostalgia and ready to go again for a brand new film. From there on, we get a bit of a high school story featuring bullying, the pursuit of romance and…science trivia? I was weirded out a bit by how much time the film actually spends on this Academic Decathlon to be honest.
Admittedly, the film also gets a little weird trying to go in the romance pursuit as they have Laura Harrier who plays Peter’s love interest of the film, Liz. She’s 27 in real life, but we’re to believe at most, Liz is 16 or 17 in the film and yet she’s walking with a bit of cleavage, short skirts and even gets a brief swimsuit scene, albeit it’s a one-piece. It certainly fits in the story of a young Peter Parker who’s growing up and adapting to his newfound powers and pathway through life, but at times I felt like it broke my immersion in the film. I never really felt an attachment to Liz, so when she’s in danger later in the film, I felt zero emotional attachment to anyone except the best friend, Ned, who is a riot throughout the film.
What really irked me throughout the film was the constant beating you over the head with a blunt object about the fact that Peter Parker is a kid. Over and over again, we’re given the “You’re just a kid!” shtick and while it’s done at a key moment and works, it’s also done in extremely minor and pointless moments and just comes off terribly and breaks your immersion in the film every single time, at least it did for me. Yes, we know Spider-Man is technically Spider-Young Man in this current iteration, we didn’t need to be told a hundred times throughout the film.
My last negative comment overall is the new suit. I’m not sure how I feel about Spider-Man now being Spider-Man with Iron Man technology. Sure, they keep the same look to the suit, but adding all these gadgets, camera recording, voice recognition, an AI that Peter names Karen, making this AI his equivalency to Tony Stark’s Jarvis, the new suit to me is too much, too fast. I’ve always remembered Spider-Man as being a superhuman in a suit, whereas in this film, one could argue it’s the suit that makes him superhuman. Yes, the primary ability he has comes from his own body through the radioactive spider bite, but all these other additions now kind of completely changes what Spider-Man is capable of doing. It really does feel like he’s become Tony Stark Jr. with how he’s got Iron Man-like gadgets and of course with the father-like mentoring that Tony’s giving him.
Now that I’m done nitpicking, onto the good stuff. I didn’t ever feel insulted watching this film, that was the biggest takeaway I can have from watching Homecoming, I didn’t at any point in the film think I was watching something made by someone who didn’t care about the license, about the characters. I may have felt they tried to evolve it a little too quickly, but care was definitely taken with this film in making it fit within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not having it come off like a bastard child. What I mean by that, is that the film does what every other Marvel film aside from the extremely serious Captain America films, it’s funny, has a good time and doesn’t insult the fans by making terrible changes to the canon, or bashing the audience over the head with things as if they’re saying “HEY! LOOK AT THIS! REMEMBER THIS?! WASN’T IT AWESOME?! YOU LOVE THIS RIGHT?! SO YOU LIKE THE MOVIE, RIGHT?!”.
The shining stars of this film are of course Tom Holland as Peter Parker and most importantly, the villain is Michael Keaton as Vulture. Both are fantastic, along with more minor characters like Jacob Batalon (Ned), Zendaya (Michelle) and yes they count as such, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, who has easily one of the funniest post-credits moments we have seen in the entire stretch of the MCU. But the real standalone for sure was Michael Keaton, who apparently will never stop being good in superhero movies. This time however, I’m seeing him in a villain role and boy oh boy does he sell it well. He slow descent into madness going from a common blue-collar man to a high-rolling weapons dealer, he showcases how desperation and money can change anyone. There is a specific scene (without spoiling anything) between him and Spider-Man that really becomes an uncomfortable and downright terrifying 5-10 minute exchange where you truly do feel for the Peter Parker character. Any person in that situation would be rendered speechless.
Lastly, I enjoyed the overall progression of the story. While I was still bothered by not at least getting a quick refresher without going into a full origin story, the mixture of a high school kid trying to find his place as he starts becoming a young adult and on top of that trying to figure out where he stands as someone capable of fighting crime and making a difference in the world, the film takes its time going through it, rather than rushing through layers and layers of story in an hour flat like a lot of films make the mistake of doing. The progression is natural, albeit a few coincidences that lead to the action sequences beginning, but from start to finish, there really isn’t anything pasted in there that comes off being a last minute entry, time was taken with this script.
In closing I’m going to make one final point about the film. Is the movie good? Absolutely. But the film does not do anything to separate itself and become something over-the-top. The acting is really good and the story’s good, but there’s one big issue in the movie that I just can’t look past, especially when it comes to superhero movies. Zero and I mean zero of the fight sequences in the movie were memorable and honestly, they weren’t really as good as we’ve seen in past Marvel films. Is it a limitation of the characters involved? Perhaps, but when even the final battle is less a fight and more of an airborne struggle for position, while tension is high, the actual fight itself wasn’t that exciting. And that’s my major problem with the overall film, it’s a good movie but there isn’t anything remotely memorable about it. Nothing about the film is better than all the others, it’s not funnier, it’s not more interesting, the fights aren’t better, the story isn’t overly memorable, it’s just a good movie. It’s not a bad thing, but in comparison to many other Marvel films I’ve watched, I can’t rate it nearly as high as many of the others.
I absolutely think if you can catch the movie before it leaves theaters, do it. Just don’t go in expecting the best movie ever. It’s a great Spider-Man movie, that’s all I wanted and that’s what I got. But it’s nowhere near being the best Marvel movie.