Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Figured I was in some trouble with the opening's insincere brush with class frustration, gave up somewhere around the patronizing Ferris Bueller citation, and by the time a battered Spidey finds the motivation to save the day by hearing a voice over of techno-fascist daddy Stark, I was too dejected to be angry about the lameass requisite showdown barreling around the corner. Before this, I was naively interested in the prospect of Spider-Man joining the MCU; a street-level do-gooder attempting to maintain a secret identity would add a unique, more personable perspective to a universe in which superheroes have been normalized and renown. But this is hardly concerned with matters as mature as identity or responsibility; it even joshes around during its one emotionally difficult revelation, which is played as some profane comic stinger before the focus-group approved Ramones needle drop announces the end credits (but stick around for those teasers!!).

Instead, Homecoming repurposes teenage aspirations toward the "freedom" and respect of adulthood as fervent fanboyism for the powers that be. He's a reluctant neighborhood Spider-Man, friendly out of politeness, but don't believe he wouldn't hop over to that shiny corporate tower on the other side of East River at the drop of a hat. This movie only works if Peter turns against Tony at the end, recognizing his grossly omnipotent control over all things political and private, as well as freeing himself from the oligarch's gross manipulation. He brainwashes an unassuming minor to be his pet project/indentured servant using cool tech like doggy treats, making him swing and fling at his beck and call. Though Peter eventually says no to Stark, it's an arbitrary development, made on the basis of self-doubt and that he's maybe not cool enough for the cool kids’ club just yet. But that Comic-Con footage already leaked; we know his decision is a dead-end in the eyes of franchise expansion. So instead the movie rushes toward a drawn-out "tune in next week!"

This aversion to anything resembling a character arc is enforced as a means of presenting the most palatable product possible, one caked with enough quips and levity to pass it off as entertainment and exhaustively programmed to ace any given CinemaSins test. If nothing happens at all, what can go wrong? It's one thing for the reboot to forgo the origin story, but it's quite another to take our culture's investment with Spider-Man for granted. Early in the film he dashes into a burning building to save a citizen, and the film immediately cuts to him running out with the victim. Tangential acts of altruism are presumed instead of depicted. As a result, none of the set pieces have an ounce of tension. Collateral damage is less of a concern than "what Mr. Stark will think." When Spider-Man is holding together the ferry, we aren't worried about the citizens. We are given no access to their terror or relief except in the form of a single vocal civilian whose playground cheers are played as little more than brief and circumstantial. And, besides, Iron Man is already on the way! He’s got it handled! Oh no, but what's he going to say???

The mere idea of mounting stakes or excitement is too niche for this ostensible thrillride. Why have Spidey swing from skyscraper to skyscraper to get to the final battle when he can try to drive a car? Ha ha, teenagers have to learn to drive! How relatable! I love it when my nine-digit summer tentpole looks like it was meant to be streamed on Netflix. Just compare the menace and dread of Doc Ock's awakening in which a dozen doctors are impaled and dismembered by sentient metallic tentacles to the Vulture's passive-aggressive one-hit K.O. pewpew glowing gun where the murder is an accident because “ha whoops wrong gun” and think about how fucking far we've fallen. Goop sensation Gwyneth Paltrow showing up at the end of this to piece together some bullshit collection of platitudes to sell to the eager public is the moldy maraschino cherry on top of this sundae that barely even tastes vanilla. Accidentally drop this squeaky-clean synergy poster boy in a Porta-Potty and you'd have Suicide Squad.

This is probably a little bit funnier than I'm giving it credit for. The cast is generally solid, though still completely wasted, and there were a few good beats. Sometimes you just reach a breaking point though. Back in 2014, we were all making fun of those Sony emails for suggesting Spider-Man should say "NBD" and feature dubstep and have social media. Flash forward to now and "NBD" is on the cover of freaking Entertainment Weekly (on a similar note, the shorthand for this film's title is literally "smh") Tony Revolori rallies teenagers using air horn sound effects, and the opening minutes of our hero's latest reboot is essentially an obnoxiously long Snapchat story. And suddenly these are all good ideas? Why? For being part of the MCU? Because if we're going to keep normalizing branding as the bottom line of blockbuster culture, I'm seriously scared that I'm in too deep.

Ranking 2017 (at the bottom)

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