The first Spider-Man movie came out in a day and age that has long past, one that you might not be able to recall. Spider-Man was a big deal, a massive event in theaters that got me to buy my tickets in advance for the first time. All the showings of it’s opening night were sold out. It was the post-9/11 movie we needed at the time. It was also fun and exciting and the first time the character had ever been on the big screen. It’s hard to put into words the energy that film created.
Now, that movie almost feels archaic. It’s a single, self-contained character story that takes place during the most important time in the hero’s life. Yes, it has plot-threads for a sequel, but when you look at the mess that is Amazing Spider-Man or it’s sequel, the first Sam Raimi film almost looks shy about presenting a sequel. It was a different world, one where a film had to actually be released and do well at the box office for it to get a sequel.
But we’re in a brave new world now! And while we’ve had many Spider-Man films since that first, landmark entry, we’ve never had a fifteen year old Peter Parker in a world of superheroes. So, now we have a Spider-Man who gets to interact with Iron Man and potentially join the Avengers. If he looks bad doing super heroics, it’s because other, better heroes have set the standard. And while Spider-Man: Homecoming tackles this, it’s not the area where the movie shines. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes with Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. are fun and quippy. But it’s where the movie feels less exciting.
Peter was in high school for all of ten minutes in the first Tobey Maguire film and the Amazing Spider-Man failed to deliver on that front (as well as many others) even though it was greenlit for that very reason. So while it might seem like a repeat to put the kid in school, it’s not something we’ve actually seen in full effect before. And besides, it’s the story Spider-Man: Homecoming wants to tell anyway. The supporting cast in Peter’s life are memorable and funny and, if the series wanted to go that route, Marvel could set a whole film around just a week of Peter in school, no super heroics, and it would still be entertaining. I mean, I still turn out whenever a kid is bemoaning popularity status or attending parties, but that’s because I hate high school. But, I think that says something to the charm of the movie that I actually cared about Peter’s sophomore life, at least, most of the time.
It helps that Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker. He captures the youth, the enthusiasm, the awkwardness and the strength of the character. He does a great job being over his head and enjoying this new life at the same time. He likes being Spider-Man, which is an important part of the character that can be forgotten when responsibilities abound.
Jacob Batalon’s Ned is hilarious and a great teammate for Peter. Zendaya’s Michelle has a promising future, made brighter by how many laughs she gets in a layered performance. Marisa Tomei doesn’t get the most screen time, nor does her Aunt May really shine, but she’s a pleasant addition.
Really, the only character who the movie fails is Liz, Peter’s crush. I wish I could tell her more about her, but the movie didn’t so I’m at a loss. I think the shadow of Mary Jane looms over all the films that have come since and Marvel hasn’t entirely solved the issue just yet. Liz is nice, she’s smart, but she’s only there to be crushed upon. While the end of the movie does promise a solution to that, it doesn’t change the fact that we spent two hours with a character that doesn’t seem to matter to the writers.
Michael Keaton’s Vulture is… well, he’s fine. It’s hard to beat the scenery chewing of Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin or the visual splendor of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Keaton’s fairly actuate to the comics, visually frightening at times and physically up to the task of being the villain of the movie. But he’s not very interesting as a character and I was never waiting for his next scene. To be fair, in the comics, the Vulture is the second super villain Spider-Man ever dealt with and since we don’t want to see him go against the Chameleon or try to replicate the previous movies’ villains, he does make a certain amount of sense to include. If we have to stick to villains that haven’t appeared in films, I’d prefer Mysterio or Kraven the Hunter.
The action is never incredible, nothing in this film comes close to the train battle from Spider-Man 2 or even the crane rescue from the Spider-Man 3. But, there’s a kinetic energy to the scenes here and they move well. The idea in Spider-Man: Homecoming is that Peter is still new to all of this and not very good at the job. He’s got heart, but little coordination. What might normally be a car chase becomes a run through the suburbs. What normally would be a battle over a crowded ferry becomes an attempt to just do as little damage as possible. So, no, the action isn’t spectacular, but it works because Peter isn’t spectacular at being Spider-Man just yet.
My only other major gripe might not bother many other people. And it might be a minor spoiler, but I doubt it. The movie replicates a fairly iconic moment from Spider-Man comic history, one that Stan Lee wrote himself. In the comic, Peter triumphs because he thinks of all the people counting on him and everyone he loves. He can’t fail them. He overcomes a great challenge because his responsibility is great. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the scene is replicated from panel to screen, but the motivation is lost. Peter overcomes because he wants to be a superhero. He needs to prove it to himself. Normally, that would be fine as motivation, but for those of us who read Lee’s early comics, we know the scene has been done better. There’s a power to that moment that was lost in translation.
Other than that, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fun time. It’s colorful, it’s zippy and it makes me excited to see this version of Peter Parker again. I know I’ve referenced the original trilogy multiple times in this review, but I do think this new entry is the first film to differentiate itself from what’s come before. It successfully stands on it’s own. It has personality, a vision and it makes for a pretty good Spider-Man movie.
2016 is going to have seven super hero movies! There was a time when four was a lot, but 2003 is far in our past now. So, now it’s time to look ahead at these movies and see what I’m excited for and what I’m less than thrilled about.
Deadpool ( February 12)
Now, I’ve already seen this, as have most people who wanted to, so I’ll be short. I was hesitant about this film. I went back and forth about whether I wanted to see it, if I should just wait for the DVD, ect. I wasn’t convinced that this movie had to be R-rated and crude. Having grown up reading the Joe Kelly run of the character, plus the rest that followed in his original series, I had a set idea of what Deadpool was like.
And to be honest, those reservations are still there. The movie was funny, it had it’s moments of genuine comic book glee, but something still felt off for me. Hearing Deadpool drop the F-bomb was hard to get around, because I’m used to it all being bleeped out or struck through with a black bar in the comics. I don’t see the precedence for the character being such a hard R, but Fox is rolling in cash now, so what do I know? Again, I liked the movie just fine, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I’ll watch the sequel(s?) but I want be waiting with baited breathe for them.
Excitement Level = Hesitant
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25)
I won’t talk anymore about Man of Steel, at least not now. But it can’t be denied that this film is battling the bad taste that movie left in my mouth. I’ve slightly mellowed to that first film, as long as I tune in after all the Pa Kent stuff. The trailers and interviews for and about this new movie have not left me hopeful for Superman. I just don’t think anybody involved really understands what makes Superman different. It’s too bad.
So I’m split in two over BvS. One part of me is very scared for Superman and how this movie will further hurt the character. The other part of me, however, is excited for Batman. If Zack Snyder was just making a Batman solo film that looked like this, I’d be thrilled. Give us something like Hush, Under the Red Hood or just a straight up adaptation of the Dark Knight Returns and I think Snyder could knock it out of the park. It’s just too bad he’s been given the keys to Superman and the rest of the Justice League.
Excitement Level = Nervous
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
I didn’t need that second trailer to get excited but it helps. I think this movie shows a key difference between Marvel and DC. With BvS, I doubt a lot of the general audience is going to be rooting for Superman. We don’t know anything about him, his solo film didn’t really endear us to him and he’s going up against Batman. Batman has had more movies, more video games, more cartoons, the guy is beloved.
Meanwhile, you watch a trailer for Civil War and it’s stressful for just those two minutes. Captain America vs. Iron Man is not easy to take sides with. Everyone loves Captain America after right now. Also, everyone loves Iron Man right now. These characters have had multiple movies to grow and enter our lives and now we’re watching them fight. True, the characters themselves have never been super close in the movies (unlike the comics), but they have a certain respect for each other. This movie is going to be like watching Mom and Dad fight and Uncle Spider-Man is just making things complicated.
Excitement Level = Highly Stressful
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
This one is weird for me. I’m usually through the roof excited for a new X-Men movie, watching the trailers over and over again. Not so much right now, even with Apocalypse, a villain I always wanted but never thought we’d get to see. We’ve got a sweet line-up of Horsemen, Nightcrawler and Psylocke and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto!
I think I’m just getting a little tired of Brian Singer’s choices with this franchise. I’ve loved this series forever, but I’m also ready for some color in the costumes, characters who have the same powers they have in the comics, characters who act like they do in the comics, characters who are the same age they are in the comic. I don’t know what I’m trying to say but it has something to do with comics.
Again, I’m plenty excited for this movie and I’m sure it will be great, but the franchise might need another kick like X-Men: First Class to make it fun again. But then, this movie is apparently closing out all six of the main X-films, so I better be careful what I wish for before this series is taken over by Deadpool.
Excitement Level = Controlled
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3)
Man, everyone hated the first movie! Except me! I thought it fun, action-packed and not serious enough to have be bothered by it’s problems. But not everything has to be Civil Wars or Apocalypses, you know? Sometimes it can just be easy popcorn fun.
And this second movie looks like everything is being dialed to eleven. Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder, Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones, Krang in a giant suit and the technodrome? This looks nuts. It looks like the 80s cartoon threw up. I know everyone loves the original movies and the first is great and will likely always be the best, but geez, relax and have a good time that isn’t set between 1982-1991.
Excitement Level = Extreme
Suicide Squad (August 5)
What is it with DC? I want to be excited for this movie, I really do. I love the Suicide Squad and a lot of the characters they’ve chosen to be part of the team, but something is off. Well, it’s really two people.And, surprisingly, it’s not the Joker that’s bothering me!
Harley Quinn and Deadshot bother me. Sure, I’m just going off the trailer so I’m sure I’ll be surprised by how much better they are in the full film, but what I’ve seen is getting to me. I like Deadshot in the comics because the dude is apathetic to his core. He doesn’t care if he lives or dies, doesn’t care who he kills, he just doesn’t care. Again, no idea if what I’ve seen in the trailer is the full story, but it looks like Deadshot has a bit more… care about him. And Harley Quinn? Well, maybe the character is like Deadpool and moved past me. Neither seem to need me anymore, losing some of the appeal that I fell in love with at the beginning. It’s a brave world out there and I’m outdated!
What was the point again? Oh, right. Suicide Squad. Outside of those concerns, I’m pretty excited to see how they pull this off!
Excitement Level = Medium-Well
Doctor Strange (November 4)
I like Doctor Strange. I think he’s cool. I like his mini-series by Brian K. Vaughan. I like when he turns up in Spider-Man stories. I like when people ask, “What sort of doctor are you?” and he answers, “The strange kind”. Classic stuff there.
But I’m excited to see some magic in the Marvel movies. Sure, it’s probably pseudo-science magic, like quantum physics or something, but that will work. Benedict Cumberbatch is looking pretty great in costume and everything I read about this movie makes it seem weird and different from all the weird, different stuff Marvel has done before.
Excitement Level = Spellbound
And that’s it for the year! We’ll see which films meet or exceed expectations and which fall flat. I think each of these films will be interesting and good in their own ways. None of them seem bad or fatally troubled. It helps that, outside of the Bat/Supes/Cap/Stark fighting, all of these movies seem pretty different from each other. I’m on board.