Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming (or The Pathetic Spider-Boy) *SPOILERS*

There are three major rules to making a good superhero movie: 1. Trust your source material. 2. Trust your source material. 3. See Rules 1 & 2. I know many people (and many friends of mine) liked it, but to me Spider-Man: Homecoming was mostly a drastic, politically correct misfire.

Let start with a few things I liked. Tom Holland is pretty good as Spider-Man. He’s a little young, but can probably play Spider-Man for the next 20 years if he desires. Michael Keaton was enjoyable as the Vulture, a bad guy who isn’t truly evil. He believably thinks he’s doing the right thing for his family after being screwed over by a cold, uncaring system. The CGI and FX were great, as always.

The bad: nearly everything else. Again, has ANYONE connected with this movie read a Spider-Man comic? Unfortunately, probably not, unless you count those awful Ultimate stories. I don’t, those weren’t real comics. The supporting cast is irritating. Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) just exists to shout things the movie is already telling us visually. “OH MY GOD! You can walk on ceilings!” “OH MY GOD! You can shoot webbing!” “OH MY GOD ... “ You get the message. Ned, simmer down. He’s Spider-Man. We get it. For some reason, bully Flash Thompson is now an angry Indian boy. That is some inexplicable PC casting. Laura Harrier as Liz does well as Peter’s crush, who actually likes him back. Of course she is shuffled out for the super-annoying Michelle (Zendaya, whoever that is) who has no earthly reason to be in this movie, other than she is a Disney Channel star and they own Marvel. Her character is obnoxious and toxic. The only redeeming feature is that she wasn’t playing Mary Jane (Peter’s girlfriend from the comics and movies) or his love interest. Imagine my bubble bursting when she announces at the end of the movie that her friends call her “MJ.” No. MJ is Mary Jane Watson, not you. This character could ruin the entire franchise. Neither the actress or the character worked on any level. 

The largest problem with the film is that the Pathetic Spider-Boy (title stolen from Diversity & Comics’ review of the film, check it out here) is a failure. In the comics, Peter Parker sure has his share of bad luck, but he mostly manages to save the day and defeat the bad guys. This Peter is a total knob. He manages to accidently destroy an ocean liner, then can’t keep it from collapsing without the help of another hero. In the end, he is soundly beaten by the Vulture, and would have been killed if the Vulture’s armor hadn’t self-destructed. He’s a screw-up and loser. He and his friends are supposed to be around 15 years old, but they act as if they are 10 or 11. OH MY GOD! YOU CAN STICK TO WALLS!   

The great Robert Downey Jr. with Tom Holland
Another problem is that Spider-Man’s uniqueness and intelligence are downplayed if not outright eliminated. In the comics, Peter Parker invents his web-shooters and web-fluid, sews his own costume and figures out the hero thing mostly himself. Being indirectly responsible for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben has put a weight on his shoulders--a weight that helps make him a true hero (as shown beautifully in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films). In Homecoming, Ben Parker isn’t even mentioned. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) invents the web-shooters, gives Peter a hi-tech costume and basically invents Spider-Man. What does Peter do, except lose at every major task assigned him? He screws up so badly that Stark takes away his costume and gadgets in the middle of the movie, and HE DOESN’T GET THEM BACK! Spider-Man goes through the last half of the movie in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. That was infuriating. I paid $11 to see Spider-Man, not Sweatshirt Boy. Who wants to see that? This is true numbskull writing and directing.

Tomei, not Aunt May
Finally, I’m not sure what to make of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. Every Aunt May in comics and the movies has been an elderly woman. Tomei is a very well kept 52 and looks much younger. Tony Stark flirts with her regularly. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but she’s not Aunt May. Read a comic, producers!

Should every superhero movie be exactly like the comics in every way? No. I realize that certain changes sometimes have to be made for different mediums. However, why make a movie with Spider-Man as your source material, then ignore everything that made that character great? I’d understand if this was 1975 and the film was made by a studio that looked at Marvel like a cockroach. However, Marvel Studios was partially responsible (with Sony) for this movie! What hope do we have of anything being adapted well when the company that owns the character can’t get inspiration from their own source material?

The Spider-Man franchise has nowhere to go but up. I hope they make it there. This movie is not recommended.

Rating: ** stars out of 5

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