Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming ★★

"A Film by Peter Parker".

After rebooting the property twice in the past decade, you’d think the studio and filmmakers behind Spider-Man: Homecoming would try to mix things up a bit this time around. And even though many people seem to love this new interpretation of the character, I was not. And my biggest issue lies within main point of the film, where Peter Parker (played energetically by Tom Holland), is trying to live up to the symbol that his mentor Tony Stark thinks of him as.

After the events of Civil War, Tony sees something in Parker and starts grooming him to become an Avenger. Or at least, train him to get there someday. By doing so, he tricks out his suit with hundreds of upgrades, but at the same time watches his every move, making sure he won’t mess up or act out. At one point, the film even warns us that Spider-Man might not become Spider-Man because Stark doesn’t think he’s ready just yet. This might sound like a cool “passing of the torch” angle to some, it’s possibly the safest route Sony/Marvel could have taken with this new iteration. In reality, we just ended up getting a film that’s a fail-proof attempt at creating a narrative based entirely of off false stakes instead of real ones.

Everyone knows that Spider-Man is going to be Spider-Man. There’d be no movie without that. So even though the film tries to once again build tension for something that isn’t there, we all know how it’s going to end. I will say, they do try their damnedest to give this fool-proof plot some sort of tension. But by doing so, they just give us a Spider-Man that’s really bad at his job and who really shouldn’t be Spider-Man. That, however, would never happen because this is the start of this rebooted franchise. Duh. So instead, we’re given a “hero” who only succeeds because the plot tells him to. Hell, Spider-Man puts a lot more people in danger in this film than he does help them, but what do I know?

What’s annoying about this is that when genuine stakes do pop up, they’re shooed away almost immediately. One of those moments shows up right at the beginning of the third act, where a twist is revealed and surprisngly threw me off. However, the initial moment of suspense is ruined when I realized that there was no build-up to this event. It was once again more at the convenience of the plot rather than coming organically. It all “shock-factor” with no real emotion behind it. There was even potential to salvage at the end and turn it into a truly sticky situation for the web-slinger, but instead it’s dropped and will likely never be mentioned again.

The real bummer of the film, however, is The Vulture. It's disappointing because he's easily the best villain the MCU has had to date (I find Loki, it's only ever promising villain, to be quite annoying now). That being said, Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton), is also its most frustrating. On paper, his character is strong. He walks and talks like a slightly out-of-touch middle-aged man who feels like the world hasn’t given him what he deserves. He will definitely remind you of someone you know in real life, as he comes off as an "everyday man" that you want to feel bad for (maybe). He even complains that he and his other hard-working, blue-collar workers get merely scarps when compared to billionaires like Stark. But we never actually see that. In fact, you find out later in the film that, despite hating the upper class so much, he certainly seems well off. And his plan didn't really have a true end-game, which felt more out of connivence than anything else.

This leads me to pointing out Marvel’s odd fascination with creating “emotional” characters who, time after time, give us reasons to think Stark might not be that good of a person (no way!). But for some reason, they always tries to play up how “cool” he is or give him genuinely funny lines to make him more likable. Sure, in this case it makes Stark out to be more like the character from the first two Iron Man films compared to his softer, Disney-ified version as of late. And even though I’ve been longing for that side of him for quite some time now, they take it too far by making the villain of the film (a Spider-Man film) his own rather than Spider-Man’s. And by doing so, they turn him into a unspoken villain. It’s almost as if Marvel doesn’t want to fully turn him into an anti-hero because that’d be harder for them to sell toys, same way they would never fully adapt Demon in a Bottle. It's morphing Tony into a shallow character who doesn't really deserve to be called a hero, even though that's what he's perceived as.

One thing they did do right is play up the high school angle a lot more like they promised. And while that was one aspect I was worried about going in, some of the film’s best moments come out of it. Peter’s best friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon and the film’s shining star, Zendaya, both deliver the film’s funniest one-liners and both succeed at what they’re told to do. Sometimes they feel under-used (especially Zendaya), but I think both will become well-liked enough by audiences to play larger roles in the sequels.

The problem is that, for the most part, it just plays out like a thinly-drawn Harry Potter-esque story. And it sure does pander to a crowd that loves the 80’s, giving us forced/tired jokes that apparently make it “John Hughes-inspired”. Instead, it just copies moments (ie; the Farris Bueller gag) and pastes them into the narrative for cheap laughs. And even when it’s obsessively trying to make sure its audience understands all it’s 80’s jokes and references towards them, it becomes clumsy at even referencing the franchise it’s now a part of.

For example, a slew of Captain America PSA clips are shown to classes by comedian Hannibal Burress (who’s funny here, if only because he’s horrible at hiding the fact he took the roll for its pay), but the superhero cameo doesn’t really work because in this universe, Captain America is a wanted fugitive. Sure, the film jokes about that, but it’s concerning that a school would be okay with teaching their kids by using a well-known criminal as their spokesperson. It’s moments like this where I realize these films are made up of telegraphed jokes, spewing every minute, just to please the lowest-common denominator rather than actually be worthwhile to telling the story at hand.

After a film that plays it too safe for it's own good, the film disappoints yet again with a blown-out, CG-heavy set-piece to end the film (a trend that needs to go away sooner than later) and dusts off its hands before serving us what’s to come next on Marvel's never-ending menu. Fans of the comics will eat up all the little references and love trying to pin-point where Spider-Man might find himself in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of the reasons why I really liked Marvel previous outing, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, was because it was so focused on its own story that it didn’t care about advertising what’s to come next. That film was in the now, while this film is literally built around the idea of what the next film will offer for the famous hero.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds very similar to the film that screwed over Sony with their last Spider-Man series.

Austin liked these reviews