Simply Amazing

spider12017.63: Spider-man:Homecoming (2017)

This was brilliant. There’s no-one more tired and weary of reboots than I, but this third attempt at bringing Spider-man to the screen just goes to prove the old adage that yes, sometimes the third time’s the charm. More than that, the gap in quality between this film and Justice League, which I suffered through just a few days ago, is remarkable. If Justice League is a lesson in how not to make a superhero movie, then Homecoming is a lesson in how to do it right. It may not be perfect, but it comes awfully close.

Indeed, after so many Spider-man movies during the past decade or two, this should have felt tired and formulaic, but instead thanks to the expert input of Marvel Studios it’s so fresh you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the very first cinematic outing for our favourite web-slinger.

The pace is great, the characters endearing, the fun-quota high, there’s plenty of laughs, plenty of drama, some brilliantly staged action sequences with high-quality visual effects, and it even manages to throw in a decent villain with a great character arc of his own (without making him a tragic villain or something).  And yes, there’s an ending high on action but low on frenzied CGI with a dramatic confrontation between two characters. Yes, no CGI monsters or huge explosions or armies of bad guys, simply exalting instead in a face-off between two characters. So refreshing to see a superhero film dialing it down a little – sometimes less is more.

tinkererIn tieing the events of this film with the aftermath from the New York battle in the first Avengers movie, the writers pull off a fine trick of explaining the origins of two of my favorite Spidey villains, the Vulture and the Shocker, without them feeling dated or silly. And if my eyes don’t deceive me, was that guy re-engineering the alien tech the Tinkerer (he’s an alien disguised as a human way back in one of the very earliest issues of The Amazing Spider-man)?  The way that explains how the bad guys manage to adapt the alien tech and create the Vulture’s wings and the weapons etc, whilst also nodding to the origins of the comic from way back in the early 1960s, is just sheer genius.

There is such a sense of internal logic to this film and its character arcs. Michael Keaton almost steals the film as the Vulture, but of course Tom Holland more than holds his own as Peter Parker and Spider-man (contrast this with DC fumbling the job of portraying both Clark Kent and Superman in the last few DC films). I sincerely hope they don’t bring the Green Goblin into this series and instead bring back the Vulture (particularly as he knows Peter’s secret identity and now has a grudge to settle).

The funny thing is, although everything works so well, it’s telling how different this film is from the original comic. Back in the 1960s comic, Peter Parker was a nerd ostracized by his classmates and nothing ever really seemed to go right for him, every issue ending on a downer, whether it be Spider-man being hated by the public and hunted by the law, or Peter himself failing to get the girl or falling deeper into money problems. Homecoming‘s Peter Parker has a date with a girl, has a close buddy who stumbles upon his secret identity and assists him,  and has a ‘hot’ Aunt instead of the elderly Aunt of the comic. Maybe I should be yelling out “heresy!” but I think all the changes from the comic actually work. It also helps distance this film from the previous films that may have been more faithful to the comic.

Logan Marshall-Green; Photographer select; Tom HollandAt any rate, this film was great fun, the very opposite of Justice League and I really can’t wait for further instalments if they manage to maintain this balance of fun, sophistication and sheer, well, joy.  Not all superhero films have to be dark and serious, and  while I’ve no doubt those future installments will lessen the humor and heighten the drama, Holland’s tenure is off to a great start.  But now I’m starting to sound like a fanboy (I do love the 1960s Spidey comics) so I’ll pack this in. This film may not be high art, but it is great fun though.




6 thoughts on “Simply Amazing

  1. Glad you enjoyed it! It didn’t rank as highly as Raimi’s first two for me, but they’re among the best superhero movies of all (and I haven’t watched them for years, so they may have a nostalgia boost — Homecoming never stood a chance!) It does so much right that it’s very easy to ignore the niggles, though I know at least some hardcore comic fans objected to how much they changed Flash and things like that. You’ve got to roll with the times in adaptations, though — unless it’s literally set in the ’60s, you can’t keep using ’60s social conditions, etc.

  2. Absolutely. I’ve written a few times that I would love to see a Spider-Man movie set in the 1960s, like a Mad Men episode visually, but of course that’ll never happen. The genius of the Watchmen film was that it stayed faithful to the 1980s setting of the original. Sometimes you have to appreciate that, just as films are of their time, so are the original source materials. I wonder if that’s why Superman is proving so difficult to realise on screen now?

    I’m sure that Homecoming’s faults will seem louder on repeat viewing but on first watch it blew me away, frankly. The fact that it pulled off the changes from the comic so well really surprised me- I didn’t see the film at the cinema because I was weary of reboots and the humour seemed excessive, but yes, it pretty much all worked.

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    I waited until this week to watch this as well – Marvel movies are generally rentals for me, too.

    I also enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. If I’d been a 15-year-old this year, I’d have a tough time choosing between this and ‘IT’ as Most Awesome Movie Ever.

    This really does owe its entire success to the established Marvel continuity, and flags up how difficult it is to establish all that stuff afresh (which I don’t think any previous Spider-Man movie managed: I’m not a fan of Sam Raimi’s films either). But all the grounding is already in place, so this film can just coast along having fun without having to do all that heavy lifting. Yay!

    I also appreciated that the final action sequence was just superhero’s flinging themselves at each other and discharging CGI shockwaves / big thing looming over city / blue bolt of light shining into the sky etc etc that we’re used to. There were a few visual elements added that made it genuinely interesting to look at, and I really liked that.

    A pleasant surprise.

    1. Strange to think it’s the, what, SIXTH Spidey film and yet it feels the freshest of the lot. And while it’s almost casually charming I’m pretty sure it’s very sophisticated and as thought-through as Pixar films in their pre-Disney heyday. I used to marvel (sic) at Pixar films wishing live-action films would be made with such care and attention, and here we are.

  4. Pingback: Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – the ghost of 82

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