Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Film Review No. 28 Spider-Man: Homecoming (12+)

Strong Points:
Some great action sequences
Tom Holland works great as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker
Strong supporting cast
Returning cast members
Home-video opening
Trusting the audience to know the origin story
Cameos from other superheroes

Weak Points:
Could come across as whiny
Lacks the scope of other MCU films
Lacking focus

Spoilers ahead:
In-depth Review:

We've been waiting a long time for Spider-Man to really join the MCU, and at the start, it seemed like an impossibility, what with Sony holding the rights to the web-slinger. However, after the Amazing Spider-Man 2 'flopped' with 'only' $709 million at the box office, Sony's version of the Spidey-verse fell into disarray and we finally got a partnership between Marvel Entertainment and Sony for a joint venture. I like to believe that the temptation to fulfil every fan's wishes and be part of the biggest cinematic event of the last decade was enough to draw Sony in, but I'm guessing the real reason had a couple more zeros attached.

Spider-Man's appearance in Civil War was one of the highlights of the movie and Homecoming starts basically right after Civil War finishes, with Stark taking Parker under his wing with the 'Stark Internship'. The father-son dynamic of Stark and Parker is really interesting, and if anything, just highlights the growth Tony Stark has had in the past 15 MCU films. The home-video-esque opening sequence also shows the power of having a cinematic universe. Peter Parker has actually grown up with The Avengers and so is a bit of a fanboy, reflecting the opinions of the majority of the population of the real world.

I get that the Marvel was trying to do a more contained story than their past films, focusing on the character of Peter Parker instead of the greater MCU. I did feel however, that it would've benefited from a more overarching story - the entire Civil War scenario was almost forgotten. And sadly, it could've benefited from being released earlier in the timeline, as I found myself waiting to see how Captain America was doing quite a lot.

But then again, putting Spider-Man: Homecoming at the home-straight for Infinity War, was in it's own way genius. It allowed constant references, from Public Safety Announcements to bank robbers with Avengers masks and one of the best end credit scene I've ever seen. If Spider-Man had always been in the MCU, I think we would've missed some of the magic, and it would have become too Spider-Man-centric. By allowing the other, lesser known franchises to shine, Spider-Man can now come in and take his place in the legion of superheros. Of course, only if Tony Stark allows.

I think this was my main problem with the film. After the superb airport scene in Civil War, Peter's put back in New York to carry on school, constantly waiting for a mission. The audience is also waiting for this mission with bated breath, and we never quite get there. You pity Parker for the first 20 minutes. Until that is another street criminal has been arrested and he's still begging Stark for a place in the team. Then it just starts to become whiny. Which is a shame, because if they lessened that section, and focused more on the set story in the film, it could've been a lot better. Now I realise that above I wrote that the film would've benefited from a less contained story and more scope and now I'm saying the opposite. Both are true (in isolation). It's a difficult balancing act - focusing on the greater MCU or a set story, and it's one I'm not sure they got 100% correct this time around.

Onto some more positives now and another example of Marvel's brilliance. Casting. So far, I can't fault a single casting choice in Marvel's MCU, which compared to the so-so DCEU is really good. They continue that trend here, with Tom Holland a perfect title star - finally being able to play both Peter Parker and Spider-Man convincingly. Then we have his friend, Ned, the classic 'guy in the chair', played by Jacob Batalon and his love interest Liz, played by Laura Harrier. Both brought great energy and conviction to their roles, managing to make them fun and exciting even with the constricting clichés.

Michael Keaton furthers the satire he started in Birdman by playing Vulture, a lesser villain than say Ultron but dangerous none-the-less. I can't really see anyone else playing him. Finally, we have Michelle, played by Zendaya. While she plays it well, the entire promotion of Michelle (being on the poster, constant advertisements etc.) contrasts with how much screen time she actually has. It just seemed a bit odd, and unfair for Laura Harrier, as her character was pushed to the sidelines, even though she had a larger part in this film. I know Michelle, or MJ (the most lacklustre twist in the film) will be in the series more than Laura overall but come on, let them have their time in the spotlight as well.

We now have the three S's: set pieces, suit and Stark. Set piece wise we have a few stand-outs including the Washington Monument chase. I actually felt tense, waiting to see if Spider-Man was going to make it, gripping the edge of my seat. Some of the shots were astounding as well, giving you a real sense of scale and impact. Many times I thought, 'someone's not going to make it here'. Another great scene was less a set piece, and more a montage. It involved Spider-Man trying to get out of a reinforced Government facility, while also trying to make his suit work. Some of the cleverer gadgets were shown off here and it was a nice contrast to the swinging speeds of the rest of the film. It also takes me nicely onto the next S. Quick kudos to the film not creating a large light in the sky and CGI armies though - I think we might be out of that dark age!

The suit is a modern reinterpretation of Spider-Man's powers - instead of being mostly biological or mechanical, they are electronic. It really works. Powered by FRIDAY, the suit is capable of firing web grenades, taser webs, tracker webs and even has an on-board heater. Of course, this only became apparent after the Training Wheels protocol was removed, both to the viewer and Peter. Just how powerful Spider-Man can become remains a mystery but what with the new versions of the suit Stark's developing, I can't wait to see what it's like in Infinity War.

Finally, we have Stark. Going into this film I was worried - what if the entire film is centred more on Stark than Peter? In reality, the inclusion of Stark, Happy and even Pepper was really well done. Besides serving as a reminder at just how much Stark has grown as a person, it also allowed clever dialogues between them and the regular Spider-Man cast. Having Stark sending his suit out to talk to Parker and then finally meeting him in person allowed the audience to quickly interpret how much Parker had messed up. Seeing Stark as an almost father figure was great to watch as well, and shows that Marvel is starting to make preparations for when RDJ finally does leave. Happy was as great as always and the twist of Pepper returning was the third best reveal in the film, as last time I'd checked Paltrow was still in debate over contracts. Which was the best reveal, you ask? You'll have to watch the film and see.

Finally, what this film does well is that it trusts its audience. The entire origin story is summed up in a sentence, Easter Eggs are placed with care and the film doesn't point you to when to laugh. It's nice to see a film company trust its audience that much, as we could've easily had 40 minutes of exposition.

Conclusion: overall, this film slightly annoys me. Not because it's bad (on the contrary it's really quite good), but because, like Peter, I'm waiting for Spider-Man to join The Avengers. It's an awkward middle-man, which while probably better than another origin story, isn't quite the Spider-Man film I was hoping for. Guess I'll just need a bit more patience...

Rating: 78%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.


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