Category: mcu

Spider-Man: Homecoming – A Screenwriter’s Review

Let’s get real here: Amazing Spider-Man 2 was shit. 

It was so shit that Sony decided to reboot the entire franchise rather than make the third planned film.

And dammit am I ever glad they did.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is my favorite Spidey flick since the first Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi outing. Sure, the general consensus is that Spider-Man 2 is the best, but I still like the first one a little better. And first I should mention that I’ve been a long-time SM fan since my days as a comic book head in the early 90’s (aka the MacFarlane era), but I haven’t paid attention to the comic or it’s story lines after I stopped reading comics a very long time ago.

But with that said, I really liked Homecoming, it fired on all the right cylinders: a likable protagonist who the audience can relate to, a smoking hot Aunt May (played by a still smoking Marisa Tomei), great supporting characters, and an awesome antagonist, played by the newest comeback king on the block: Michael Keaton.

The movie probably could’ve been a titch shorter, 133 min, but that’s mainly me getting to a place in my storied movie watching career where anything over 2 hours is getting to be a chore. Still they manage to cram a LOT into that time, and the movie flew along at a great pace.

As much as I love breaking down structure in film, it’s really kind of pointless to discuss it here for a Hollywood blockbuster flick, as they all adhere to structure as a rule, like a moth to a flame. So I’ll just get into the other areas that I think Marvel just always seems to get right:  character and story.

CHARACTER

We really feel for Peter in this one, even more so than in the previous films. Tom Holland brings a great new take to the bespectacled hero (though Holland doesn’t wear glasses), a new vulnerability not seen in Maguire or Garfield’s performances. He’s genuinely excited to have these new powers, anxious to get out there and fight crime, to the point where he drives Happy Hogan up the proverbial wall. To the point where he screws up so bad that Tony takes his suit back from him, outright stating the theme of the film to Peter: “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” 

We also get to see how being the wall-crawler really fucks up Peter’s regular life. And, by the way, I’m SO glad they didn’t go all comic book 101 and have the bad guy kidnap a loved-one, that has to be the most played out trope in hero films. Beyond saving people’s life, he just wants to be a teenager in high school: go to the prom, kiss a girl, compete in a math competition, but Spider-Man just keeps messing up everything. There was a great balance between both lives, with there never being too much focus on one or the other.

And Peter’s ying was a perfect yang to Keaton’s Toomes/Vulture, a character in pretty much the same boat as Peter, minus being bitten by a radioactive creature of some kind. Keaton NAILS the baddie here. A guy that “made it on his own steam” (#namethatquote!) by scavenging parts from cleaning up after super-hero battles and stealing whatever else he could. He’s just a guy sick of being stepped over and trying to get ahead in life, which he did for the most part, albeit illegally. Even with how big a dick he’s being, you still kinda like Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, especially in his interactions with Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Then there’s the reveal (SPOILER ALERT) that he’s Peter’s girlfriend’s dad, I totally didn’t see that coming!!

Then there’s Ned, Peter’s bestie and some great comic relief. If there was one gripe was that sometimes it seemed a little too try-hard with Ned being the funny guy, but he played his role well. I really liked the decision to not go with the typical All-American jock guy to play Peter’s high school nemesis, Flash Gordon, instead going with a rich, smug type kid who reflects a modern take on bullying. Though his obsession with making fun of Peter, even going as far as to call him “Penis Parker” at a party he wasn’t even at anymore, made it seem like he has some bizarre fixation with him. There’s Peters love interest, Liz, another interesting take by going with a girl of color, and a senior that he barely talks to at first.

STORY

What I love about Marvel movies is they aren’t afraid to try something different with a franchise, and with HC it really paid off with the choice of characters. And it’s why they are continuing to kick DC’s ass, while destroying the box-office time and time again. I’m always excited to see the studios next film, even if it’s a character I’ve never paid much attention to, like Black Panther or Captain Marvel.

That being said, they didn’t really break the mold when crafting the story here, even with a writing team of six, yes SIX, screenwriters, one being the director John Watts. That sounds like one crazy writer’s room. Okay I know, feature films aren’t really written in writer’s rooms like with tv, but you get what I’m saying.

The story itself is pretty standard, with the usual archetypal characters, but the characters where so strong that they enhanced a rather by-the-numbers story (except that twist, DAYUM!!). I never mentioned Tony Stark in the character section mainly because RDJJ always does a great job, but he was the perfect mentor for Holland’s Peter Parker. A seasoned veteran in the super-hero game by now (to the point where he’s berating Peter via his suit while chilling at a party on the other side of the world), Stark is like the dad Parker always needed.

A dad that makes really dope suits full of cool gadgets, but isn’t afraid to put him in his place when he gets out of line. Stark taking the Spidey suit back from Peter was the perfect low point for the story, even though he isn’t totally powerless without it. This all leads perfectly into the ultimate all-is-lost moment, where Peter’s trapped under rubble, and the audience is literally thinking: “how’s he going to get out of this?!” With the power that’s been inside him all along of course!

“The power was inside them all along they just have to believe” is pretty much Hollywood storytelling 101, and here I was kinda hoping they’d try something different. Even though it was a kick to watch him lift that rubble off himself, because let’s be honest: we all want to see the hero win. And Spiderman: Homecoming was the hero’s journey to a T.

Yet, it was still immensely enjoyable. The same tropes, characters, and story lines are used over and over because they have proved successful with audiences time and time again. And if there’s one thing Hollywood does is stick to what works, until they drive it into the ground like Fred Flintstone with a foot cramp.

Thanks for reading.

Keep writing,

Tim

Marvel VS DC – Why The MCU Is Owning DCEU Right Now

With superhero films becoming a staple of the blockbuster summer lineup, it’s natural to compare how the two comic book movie titans are doing.

And honestly, right now, at this exact moment in movies: Marvel is straight up DESTROYING DC.

It’s not even a competition, especially this year with DC releasing TWO very hyped up films, Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, that ended up being VERY disappointing for fans and critics (I’ll try restrain myself and not to go off on what an utter PIECE OF SHIT Suicide Squad was).

To be honest, Batman VS Superman wasn’t that bad, but that’s not the most glowing review. Especially since Captain America: Civil War was AWESOME and the highest grossing film of the year. Then there’s Deadpool (yes, I’m including it in the Marvel Universe because it’s MARVEL and I don’t acknowledge the studio BS about who owns what property), probably the biggest surprise hit of the year and it was the perfect blend of R-rated violence and comedy. Granted, X-Men: Apocalypse was the worst X-Men flick since X3, but it was still better than the aforementioned DC debacles. And then there’s still Doctor Strange coming out next month, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

So why has Marvel had more hits than compared to DC lately? Let’s take a look at probably the biggest reason:

STORY AND CHARACTER

Since the MCU officially started in 2008, with the exceptional Iron Man and the (surprisingly) pretty darn good The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios have been doing their homework on their writer/director choices. In the writing department Marvel just seems to know who is the exact perfect writer for that specific film. They once even had their own Marvel Studios writing program with their own little stable of writers, which is where Nicole Perlman came from to help knock Guardians of the Galaxy out of the park.

In the case of Iron Man, writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were flying by the seat of their pants most days when there wasn’t a solid script written by the time filming came, but they had to shoot something. According to it’s trivia page on IMDB, they stay focused on story and character, which is why a lot of RDJ ‘s lines were ad-libbed. And yet the end result was still pretty stellar.

The point I’m taking too long to get to is the writing focuses more on the character and story, and not about having as many set-piece scenes as possible. They took the time to craft a great back-story for all the characters, whether it be an ensemble film like The Avengers, or a single-hero outing like Thor. Okay I’ll be honest, neither of the Thor films out so far did much to excite me, but they nailed the casting with Chris Hemsworth, and spend a significant time in the first film to set-up his story. Plus the first Thor was directed by Shakespeare thesp Kenneth Branagh, a pretty interesting choice IMO.

With Batman VS Superman and Man Of Steel, it felt like the studios glossed over their origin stories, either from sheer laziness or assuming everyone knows their back-stories by now. The latter could be true considering the DC heavyweights are easily the two most recognizable superheroes in the world, but their set-up was still lacking, even if I’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot like four times by now.

RISK TAKING

Marvel’s clearly not afraid to takes risks on unproven comics, considering the recent success of GOTG and Ant-Man. Sometimes it doesn’t always pan out exactly like they planned, like ALL the Fantastic Four movies for example, but more often than not, they do really well at the box office and score with fans/critics.

One of the other reasons I’m loving the MCU right now is the directors they choose, who they’re also not afraid to take a chance on. Sometimes they’ll make an obvious choice, like Joss Whedon or Shane Black. But who could’ve predicted how well GOTG (can you tell I’m a fan?) ended-up turning out thanks to director James Gunn, previously known for lower budget films like Super and Slither. Even back in 2008 when John Favreau directed Iron Man, he at was just starting to direct bigger films and was still unproven, but now he’s a bonafied blockbuster director. And honestly, who in the hell had the foresight to pick the Russo Brothers, previously known mainly for television shows, to direct that last two (and really effing good) Captain America films?

Kevin Feige that’s who. The Marvel Studios head is as a big a film nerd as he is a comic book nerd, and he just seems to be making one smart decision after the other. He’s almost single-handedly turned the studio around, as it was struggling in the early/mid 2000’s with disappointing films like Daredevil and Electra.

Just look at two of Marvel’s future releases, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), directed by Taika Waititi , and Black Panther (2018), directed by Ryan Coogler. Waititi is mainly known for obscure, indie films, and Coogler only has TWO features under his belt, granted his last one was the Oscar-nominated Creed.

Side note: if you have the chance to watch Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople, DO IT, it’s freaking hilarious.

DC has kept it mainly on the safe side. Sure, Christopher Nolan was clearly the best choice for the truly spectacular Dark Knight Trilogy, but he was also kind of obvious. Then there’s screenwriter David S. Goyer, who DC can’t seem to make anything without some kind of input from him (not knocking him as a writer though).

And now practically the entire future of the DCEU lies squarely on the shoulders of director Zack Snyder, who, let’s be honest, has only done a mediocre job so far. While David Ayer was an interesting choice for writing and directing the (disastrous) Suicide Squad, the result was a total, absolute mess, but who knows who fault that really is, **cough** Will Smith stealing spotlight **cough**.

Ben Affleck is penning and directing the next Batman movie (aptly titled The Batman), and while he has a good track record, it almost seems like it doesn’t matter what Oscar-winning director they pick, their movies just end up being a big let down. I honestly don’t even know if I want to spend any more money on a DC film, considering I was burned twice in a row this year 🙁

THEY PLAN AHEAD

It feels like DC has been trying to play catch up in the last few years. The three phases of the MCU were all planned out in a specific order, with every Marvel movie coming out until 2019 and beyond already in the works. And phase four is definitely being mapped out right now.

It’s only been recently that DC has tried to expand, FINALLY releasing a Wonder Woman film next year, and a Justice League film, also directed by Zack Snyder. A film that will no doubt be one long, heavy-handed set-up for each of characters solo film in the coming years. But are they going to keep playing it safe?

Currently, the DCEU has films set to release up until 2020, but beyond that, there’s rumors of a Lobo film (which has been a rumor for a LOOONG time), Swamp Thing, and a Joker film, among others. But why in the HELL has it taken them this long to make a Joker film?? It seems like the studio is desperate, but still not enough to try something different. I guess time will only tell how that pans out for them.

Keep writing,

Tim