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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.
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.
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.