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MOVIE REVIEW: It’s No Rami Wallcrawller, but SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Easily Swings Past it’s “Amazing” Predecessors

I’m not going to lie, this pose looks a lot cooler in a blue and red leotard.

 

DISCLAIMER: Spider-Man is Geek Outlaw’s most beloved superhero of all-time. The following statements with regards to the latest full-length movie adaption of the webslinger are made out of love for the character, his history, and the nostalgia of reading Spider-Man comic books at an impressionable age.

Even with properties like Wonder Woman, Deadpool and the Guardians of the Galaxy occupying most of the superhero popularity bandwith over the past few years, I will always have the softest spot in my heart for the red and blue leotard-sporting wall crawler. The shy nerdy Peter Parker was almost a spitting image of who I was in high school, and his sarcastically quippy spider-powered alter ego was everything I wished I could be.

 

As they say, go big or go Homecoming!

 

Also of important note – which I have mentioned more times than many care to remember on this blog – I’ve always felt Sam Rami’s Spider-Man films (more so the first two) have captured the essence of Parker and Spidey far better than anything captured on screen up to this point in time. (Including the abysmal pair of Amazing Spider-Man flicks Sony released just a few years ago.) In fact, I’ve also long argued Rami’s Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero movies… ever.

With the important stuff out of the way, I can now proceed with my review of Spider-Man Homecoming. The tingly, and the not so tingly.

 

SPIDER-SENSE, TINGLING (aka the Good):

  • Guess who’s back… Spidey’s back (and so is Peter!)
    The “Homecoming” tagline in the latest Spider-Man film holds a multitude of meanings; the obvious one being part of the film takes place during Peter Parker’s high school homecoming dance. Many astute geeks will also see the play one words as Spider-Man’s introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the stealthily hidden, but no less huge interpretation, is that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are back. Not since 2007 (for most 2004) when Rami hit the right balance of nerd, charm and humor with Toby Maguire’s version of the web head, has Spider-Man been so aptly portrayed on the big screen. With the slight exception of some scenes where it seemed like Spidey had a bit too many Starbucks double-shot espressos, Tom Holland nailed everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man from the original comic-books pretty darn accurately, as he did in his cameo from Captain America: Civil War.

 


You gotta give it to the guy, he knows how to make an entrance.

 

  • Marvel: Homecoming
    As hinted at in the prior bullet-point, the biggest news for most will be that Marvel’s most popular superhero is now part of it’s large cinematic universe. Seeing him swing around with Cap, Iron Man, Ant-Man was every nerd’s virtual wet dream (myself not excluded), and knowing the character now lives in the expanded universe with the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and the Hulk is almost too good to be true. Homecoming gave us another big taste of this as Robert Downey Jr reprised his role as iron Man for the umpteenth time, and fans are waiting with baited breath (again, myself lumped into that group) for Avengers: Infinity War where the equivalent of ninety-seven aircraft carriers worth of Marvel characters duke it out on screen.

 

  • It’s a Birdman!… It’s a plane! It’s Michael Keaton!
    The man who made the bat popular on-screen again in the late 80’s and early 90’s, had a bit of a Hollywood resurgence with the somewhat recent independent film Birdman. Mr. Keaton makes his way back into the superhero spotlight on the other side of the DC / Marvel divide with his debut as the Vulture in Homecoming. Probably the best thing Keaton Keaton does with the character is what he doesn’t do with it; overact. The everyday man just protecting his family is played to near perfection by the veteran, and the fact he factors in the positive ways Spider-Man has helped his family makes him a more realistic baddie.

My what lovely green eyes you have Birdman.

 

  • The Web-Beats
    As if stealing a page, or should I say note, from Guardians of the Galaxy’s musical playbook, Spidey’s latest full-length release incorporated a few upbeat tunes from the 80’s of all decades. The songs weren’t as intertwined or as plentiful as they were in Guardians, but their inclusion gave the film a fun and much lighter feel than the last two (not so) Amazing flicks.

 

  • Web-Spinning Effects
    When it comes to Spider-Man, one comes to expect to things, swinging through the city on webs and using webs in creative ways to defeat the villains. Unlike the prior five Sony Pictures Spidey films, Homecoming focuses on the later of the two, especially with the added abilities Tony Stark adds to webslinger’s suit. While I personally would have loved to see more of Spidey swinging through the city on his web-vines, it was fun to see all the different ways in which the friendly wall-crawler used his webbing to try and save the day.

 

SPIDER-SENSE, TINGLING (aka the Bad):

  • Character change for the sake of change
    Look, I get it. The Spider-Man movie franchise has been reboot more times in the past few years than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. You can only keep retelling the same origin story over again within a short time period before movie-goers turn the other cheek. My issue is not with that specific point however, but rather changing the core competencies of what made Spider-Man so endearing in the comics.On the supporting character front, (minor spoiler alert) my biggest issue is how they handle a potential future love interest. In the comics, Mary Jane Watson (better known as MJ) is a popular, spunky, yet sweet classmate of Peter’s. She’s aware of and curious about Peter at first, but not totally enamored with him. In Homecoming, we are introduced to a character that may very well be the new MJ, and almost everything about the new version is flipped upside down. Leaving aside the superficial fact MJ’s iconic look was not used, the creative team involved decided this potential new version of MJ is a creepy Parker stalker type who flips people off and speaks only in mean-spirited satirical wisecracks. I also wasn’t a fan of the new Flash Thompson, but at least he espoused some of the spirit of his predecessors.

I make no apologies for it, I like my prefer my MJs tall, stunning, red and use the word Tiger… a lot.

  • Emotions run as deep as a spider’s web
    Let’s not kid ourselves. Most of us don’t walk into a Spider-Man movie with a box of Kleenex in preparation to ball our eyes out thanks to Oscar worthy performances. Nevertheless, there’s nothing in writing that says these types of superhero films have to be devoid of it either. The previously mention Spider-Man 2 and films like Logan are proof films can tug at our heart strings as well. Sadly, Homecoming is all but devoid of such moments. One futile attempt is made towards the end which, while inspirational, didn’t have quite the wallop all involved may have been hoping for. Outside of the wallcrawler himself, no one seemed to be in great peril and I didn’t feel like Holland had any real chemistry with his supporting cast, with the possible exception of his best friend Ned.

 

  • With great power, comes no responsibility
    In keeping with the theme of change for change sake, I also found the continued disregard of the quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, disturbing. This was also glossed over in the recent Amazing reboots, but at least Uncle Ben was in the first one, and a reference to the responsibility of his powers was made. I can understand how Spidey’s cameo in Civil War wouldn’t allow for such background to be revealed, it’s a major disappointment – to put it mildly – that the quote and his uncle wasn’t referred to once. The iconic words of wisdom aren’t just a part of Spider-Man, but it’s what makes Peter Parker tick whenever he dons the spandex costume. It would be like stripping Superman of his motto; “Truth, justice and the American way.” Oh wait, I guess they buried that one too.

 

For the super spider-powered man in your life who has everything.

 

  • More than a suit
    On a related note, another one of the things that makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man is his superhuman ability to detect incoming danger. Throughout the film, the webhead’s impressive reaction time is on display, but his specifically unique ability, aptly named Spider-Sense, is not mentioned nor is it even hinted at. Instead, what we get is a Spider-Man who uses a special Tony Stark engineered suit about 95% of the time.  Add to the fact the web-shooters are also man-made, and this incarnation of the webslinger feels more like gadget-wielding arachnid version of Batman, than the Spider-Man many grew up loving in the earlier comic-books. And yes, I do realize that over the years, Spidey’s suit has become progressively more advanced, especially with the help of Iron-Man himself. Regardless, Marvel purposely went back to the high school era of Peter to give us a glimpse of the crimefighter to give us a glimpse of the youngster during a time he was just coping with his new found powers, and the, wait for it… great responsibility that comes with it. One of the reasons I, among countless others, love the wallcrawler, is directly related to his natural abilities (spider-sense and web shooting) and the struggles he faces in using them to help others. It’s not because I wanted to see how a kid would deal with a high-tech pair of tights. I can go watch Iron-Man or old episodes of Batman for that.

 

  • Low score for the score
    While my ears drums are about as discerning as my taste buds attempting to tell the difference between two-buck chuck and a bottle of Chateau de Wallet Drainer, I still pride myself on having an iota of taste when it comes to theatrical movie scores. My devout obsession of the works of John Williams and Han Zimmer – just to name a few – should be ample proof of that. Sadly, these days they just don’t make musical scores like they used to. I addressed the recent lack of adequate cinematic superhero scores in my review of the new Wonder Woman film; of which delivered one of the more memorable soundtracks I’ve heard in over a decade. It’s with great regret I report the Homecoming score is about as forgettable as spending 2 hours in rush hour traffic. The Rami Spidey series still contains the best theme to date for the webcrawler, and may remain that way unless Marvel actually decided to start focusing on that aspect of their universe.

 

Please kids, whatever you do, don’t try this at home… please.

 

What is the bottom-web you ask? Mostly good. Tom Holland represents a far better Spidey than Andrew Garfield (although I’m still partial to Tobey), and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man finally feels fun again. Was it the best Spider-Man? Far from it. The second installment of Rami’s franchise still remains the king of wallcrawlers and his original isn’t far behind that.

More importantly though, Marvel’s crown jewel is firmly back under its creative wing within their cinematic universe. Given their creative and financial success, if nothing else, SpiderMan: Homecoming gives us hope that Marvel might one day reign all of their properties in under one tent, no matter which studio owns the right to said characters. I won’t mention any names, however I’ll just say the first word in their name is 20th and the last name is Fox.

Homecoming may not be Spidey’s finest ride, but he’s finally swung back into the mix at Marvel, and for now, being back in the neighborhood is a good start.

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