SBox Recommends: Spider-Man — Homecoming (Movie Review)

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Welcome back to SBox Recommends, where our motto is “Every film has its fans”. Here I review a movie and then determine who will like it best and who will like it the least.

This was far and away my most anticipated film of 2017. I’ve loved Spider-Man with a passion ever since Tobey Maguire first played him when I was 4 years old. I’ve seen every movie and loved them all (yes, even the bad ones), and few people were as excited as me when Spidey was finally announced to join the MCU. This excitement was further solidified by the fact that the character stole the show in Civil War last year, and making us all wish this movie would just come already. And come it finally did. Was it worth the wait?

Story

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the 6th live-action film and 3rd live-action iteration based on the 1962 comic book character by Marvel Comics. It is also the 16th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After fighting alongside Iron Man in the infamous Civil War, Spider-Man is eager to become an official Avenger. However, Tony advises Peter to “stay close to the ground” for the time being, and not get involved in things that may be above his pay grade. This goes well for the first few months, but when Peter notices strangely advanced tech popping up in the area, as well as a man with mechanical wings, he believes this to be an opportunity to prove himself. Can Spidey defeat the Vulture, impress Mr. Stark, and survive high school all at the same time?

Writing

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One of my favorite things about the MCU is how it tackles a different sub-genre of action with each movie. For example, the first Iron Man is a sci-fi movie, Ant-Man is a heist movie, Guardians of the Galaxy is a buddy-space movie, the first Captain America is historical fiction, and so on. That trend seems to have continued here with Spider-Man: Homecoming as they tackle a sub-genre that has all but vanished in recent decades: the 80’s teen movie. It’s such a strange approach on paper, but in execution it fits like a glove.

A lot of people have been comparing the style of this movie to that of the late-great John Hughes. That comparison is, of course, spot-on, but I’d like to expand on that a little further and explore what exactly that means for this movie.

See, John Hughes had a specialty for making the mundane, often insignificant issues of childhood much bigger than they actually are. Part of what made his films so timeless and special was the fact that you didn’t have to be a kid or teenager in order to relate to these issues. It’s not about how “important” it is to get a date to homecoming or how “important” passing that Spanish test is; what matters is that it’s important to the main character(s). It’s that very idea that is so effectively and lovingly recreated here with Spider-Man, and it works.

On top of that, the film also has a similar vibe to a John Hughes flick. It’s very light, easygoing, innocent, and perhaps a bit slow. In fact, that slowness may be a huge turn-off to those who aren’t used to films that take their time to get to the exciting parts while they build the characters a bit more. To me, I found those slower moments were charming and helped make the world of the film a bit more real, but not everyone will feel the same.

As for the core narrative itself, I found it to be solid with nary a dragging moment or unnecessary plotpoints. They do a great job at balancing Peter’s high school misadventures with the Marvel superhero side of things. Neither aspect outstays its welcome; in fact, they tend to compliment each other due to how the two worlds tend to collide for Peter. You can’t appreciate the action-packed, superhero side of things without acknowledging the day-to-day grind of being a superhero at such a young age, whereas previous films may have struggled with that slightly.

The only issue I had with the writing actually has little to do with the movie itself and more to do with the trailers. Now, I’m happy to report that despite my fears the trailers didn’t totally give away the plot of the movie. I was even more pleased to discover that not everything in the trailers ended up in the movie. However, the trailers did give away a good 50% of the film’s best jokes, which was a real shame. The movie is actually really funny, but the film does lose something if you’ve already seen the trailers.

Effects/Action

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Sure hanging out with Peter Parker is cool and all, but what we really want is to see how Spidey throws down, and it’s during these moments the film becomes like a traditional MCU film. The film’s action scenes are what you’d expect from Marvel. They’re fun, involve a lot of witty-dialogue, and usually rely a lot on CG… What? It’s true.

I will say I’m impressed with the fact that they tried to do as much of Spider-Man’s action scenes in camera as possible. Understandably, those moments are relatively few and far between, though. When you let your stuntmen do half the web-slinging, acrobatics Spider-Man is known for, disaster tends to follow as a result. Just ask Broadway.

To that end, I’d say the effects are very good. What tends to make this movie’s effects work is the design of Spider-Man’s suit, which already looks animated. This makes it hard to tell which scenes use practical effects and which use CG. The same goes for the Vulture who tends to look pretty close to any CG counterpart that may exist of him. And I’m really into the Vulture’s design. I expected cornier, but he’s actually pretty haunting with the eyes and the dark colors. It really looks nice on film.

If I were to nitpick at all, I would say that, while the action scenes are enjoyable, there isn’t really a stand-out action sequence overall. They all kinda blend in terms of quality and feel, with the final battle only serving as the exception towards the end. That’s just me, though. You may very well feel differently about that, and I don’t really mean this as a negative. All the action scenes are equally fun in their own right.

Acting

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This is definitely one of the more character-driven MCU movies ever made, which makes it a good thing that everyone does such a good job. Not every character is a major one, and some have a lot less screentime than others, but all-in-all I enjoyed every performance in the movie.

Those who loved Tom Holland’s Civil War scenes will also love him as he enters the driver’s seat of his own film. He owns the role of Peter Parker, possessing the look, intelligence, and wit we all know Spider-Man for. He’s very identifiable, up-right, and awkward, as you’d expect from a teenage Spider-Man. One thing I definitely enjoyed about his performance was that he’s a good guy to his core, but also isn’t immune to flawed logic or naivete. You don’t always agree with him, but you also never hate him, and that’s a great way new way to portray this character.

As for whether I like him better than Maguire or Garfield, I’d have to see the film again to make that final decision. As it stands right now, he’s a great Spider-Man.

Also great was Peter’s close friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon. He’s somewhat of a comic relief character, but is probably best described as Peter’s pseudo-sidekick who both helps Peter in school and as Spider-Man. His character is great and produces a good portion of the film’s best jokes. He’s neither annoying or unnecessary either, which is a great compliment when it comes to this kind of character.

When you have Michael Keaton playing your main villain, you know you’re in for a treat, and thank goodness he’s one of the greater villains in the MCU. I know that’s not saying much, as the MCU tends to have pretty weak villains, and to be clear the Vulture is no Loki or Ultron. In fact, he probably wasn’t meant to be as great as he was, but Michael Keaton’s delivery is just so menacing. His performance kinda reminds me of his performance in The Founder a few months back, where you understand where he’s coming from, even if it’s clearly the wrong thing to do.

The other classmate characters Peter tends to interact with — Michelle, Flash, and Liz — tend to be enjoyable for the little screentime they’re allotted. Off memory Laura Harrier has the most scenes as Liz, Peter’s love interest, and her character is very pleasant and charming overall. This is followed by Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, who plays a very different version of the character than is portrayed in the comics. Flash is still Peter’s bully, but not in the intimidating jock kind of way. He’s more of a hating dick now which I find to be a pretty good change. Zendaya plays the mysterious character of Michelle in this film and has probably the smallest presence of any character in the movie. She’s in about 7 scenes for a few seconds at a time, but she does a fine job in that minimal amount of time.

Along with Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei is the second Spidey character to return from Civil War. She plays the younger, slightly more energetic Aunt May and is also not in too much of the film, truth be told. However, if the idea of a younger Aunt May still bothers you, I can assure you that the change will feel natural as you keep watching. In fact, I found her very sweet, caring, and witty. She had great chemistry with Tom Holland, and I think she was a great choice for the character.

Jon Favreau also makes his long-awaited return to the MCU as Happy Hogan. Fans of the character will be happy (pun not intended) to know that Happy has a pretty decent amount of time onscreen, and he’s just great. I love how demeaned he feels having to somewhat shadow this kid all day. It’s a great dynamic.

Finally, let’s talk about my man Tony Stark, who… is Tony Stark. I’m pretty sure you know what you’re getting into with his character. However, this may be as good a time as any to tackle a general concern of this turning into Iron Man 4 so to speak. I assure you that this is not the case. Tony Stark is very much a background character as he should be, only popping up when necessary to give Pete a good talking to or supportive pep talk. He’s a great addition to the movie, and I look forward to seeing even more interaction between the two in Infinity War.

There are a ton more minor characters scattered throughout the film like Chris Evans and Donald Glover, but I’ll leave it here since the remaining characters are just that: minor.

Production Value

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You’ll be surprised to note that this film isn’t entirely filmed in New York despite it taking place there almost entirely. With that said, I find it notable of the film to recapture the look of the city so perfectly regardless. It’s good to see all the familiarites and details scattered throughout, and should bring any New Yoker (former or otherwise) to nostalgic glee.

The music is also pretty good throughout the film. Admittedly, I find that the visuals kind of overtake the audio portion of the film; meaning you don’t tend to notice the score as much. Though, I do think that Michael Giacchino’s score is great once you focus on it. I liked the piece that plays for the final confrontation with the Vulture and the one towards the beginning with Peter going through an average day of school. My favorite musical moment, though, definitely goes to the classic Spider-Man theme. I won’t tell you where it is and how it’s used, but it made me all happy when I heard it.

Overall

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I’m so glad that this movie happened. I acknowledge that the Sony/Marvel deal, while desired, wasn’t easy to make. This arrangement was unlike anything that had ever occurred in Hollywood. This movie is unlike anything that occurred in Hollywood. But from those uncharted waters came a beautiful end-product.

This is a lesson in the beauty of cooperation, as this is one of the best Spider-Man movies in recent history. I won’t go as far as saying it’s the best Spider-Man movie ever (I’d have to see it again to make that decision), but I’m sure it sits comfortably towards the top. As far as MCU movies, I’d also say it’s far from the best, but definitely one of the greats. I had a wonderful time with this movie! Now more than ever I’m looking forward to seeing this definitive Spider-Man in Avengers 3 next year.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Recommendations

  • For any fan of Marvel or (at least the very first 2) Spider-Man movies, this is a must-see. Then again, you already knew that, didn’t you? I will advise you, however, to not get your hopes too high. It’s a good movie, but I doubt it’s going to absolutely blow you away.
  • Fans of the Spider-Man comic, as long as you can accept the creative liberties, should enjoy this.
  • If you’re hesitant about seeing yet another reboot of this series, I still highly encourage you to give it a chance to prove you wrong.
  • For hardcore fan of John Hughes, I’d also consider watching this movie if for nothing else than a blast from the past. (Maybe a rental would suffice in that case).
  • Those who absolutely detest the character of Spider-Man, depending on whether you like the MCU you may want to wait for this to come up on TV.
  • For the causal moviegoer who can give a shit about Marvel or Spider-Man and just wants to have a good time in the theater, I think this is a safe bet for you.

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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