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#TAPReviews | “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

The Marvel + Sony duo spins their silk-slick tale of shared franchises
Dulani Wilson 10th July, 2017 Comics, Movie, Reviews
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We remembered when Sony got her ass hacked and numerous Amy Pascal emails surfaced showing a bit of a scurry between them and Marvel over the future of Spider-Man. This brought up many theories of Spider-Man possibly coming back to Marvel in the film-rights department. Ultimate, when Spidey first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, it was truly an iconic moment for comic fans worldwide. Now, we have the first solo outing for the webhead in his own Marvel / Sony film Spider-Man: Homecoming. It is a moment we’ve been waiting for. And there seems to be no qualms of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man from the jump. He’s a gymnast for Christ’s sake.

Now the Spider-Man: Homecoming feature has seen the light of day, how does it measure up as a solo film and part of the MCU as a whole?

So let’s spin this intricate Mandelbrot-perfect web of a review, shall we?

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Spidey senses tingling?

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The film starts off with the Sony/ Columbia ident and an uneventful but important sequence of Adrian Toomes and his crew cleaning up NYC after the famed Avengers’ “Incident” on contract by the city. He then get’s interrupted by the suits who take over the operation on some higher authority bullshit. So Toomes, a guy that spent a lot of money securing equipment and workers for this contract is now in the hole. To make matters worse, the city gets Damage Control, funded with Stark Industries, to salvage all alien tech from the incident. Stark Industries. Tony Stark. Iron Man. The guy involved in the incident and partially responsible for the damage done to it. Is profiting from its cleanup. That sounds like a 1%, douchebaggery thing to do. This short scene sets up very succinctly Toomes, a diligent family man, being screwed by Stark and his hate for his type of aristocrat for the entire film. I personally thought this was such an awesome infusion of Spider-man and Toomes / Vulture into the MCU. Nothing that felt crowbarred in.

But essentially what started as a salvage operation where Toomes decides to keep some alien tech he forgot to declare to the suits becomes a fully fledged gun-running operation crafting alien-hybrid weaponry for sail on the black market. 8 years later – via the time-hopping slides that was one step away from being visually jarring – Toomes has made an industry for himself.

Insert Marvel ident. We’re together, but not together

And by this time, Spider-Man has had his first tussle with Captain America in Civil War. He’s high on the prospect of becoming an honorary member of the Avengers complete with his teched-out suit. But when Spider-Man barely foils a robbery where assailants are using the deadly, precarious alien weapons, with no tangible help from his Stark or his handler, Happy, Spider-Man finds himself having to track down the suppliers of this dangerous tech. Which means taking on the Vulture by himself.
 

Keeping Close to the Ground

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We’re not entirely sure if this was Sony’s contribution to the team-up, but “Keeping close to the ground” has done wonders for this MCU film. And what do we mean by that? For Iron-Man, when he said the same to Peter, was meant to instruct Spider-Man to remain local and not to take on anything that was too big of a scope for him to handle. But in the narrative sense, it meant that we had a more centralized narrative, nothing on the scope of Civil War which chocked appearances left, right and center. We’re paying to see Spider-Man. This is about his character. His maturing into a full-fledged hero. And you’ll be happy to know Iron-Man’s presence in this has not been as prominent as the posters would have indicated.

This is the first true outing of Peter Parker in the MCU, and by keeping the narrative more focused on his growth and decisions, essentially gave fans a well-sculpted story that had me invested in its outcome.

 

Vulture: MCU’s most layered villain yet?

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From the very first sequence, we get a sense of Adrian Toomes character. He values his family. And anything that threatens their livelihood is bound to send him off the deep end. A deep end that will involve violence. Now we admit his bad-guy monologue with Spider-Man in the empty warehouse could have been delivered with more oomph like the Punisher did for Daredevil, but we did get more the sense of a tragic hero who’s fallen too far from grace. Something MCU villains lack. That humanizing characteristic. That element that makes us understand and relate. Not just some villain who’s just up for doing bad things.

And I felt we’d have sympathized more if we saw a slightly troubled home life at the Toomes due to money troubles, but implication and subtlety can go a long way too. Plus it’d have been tricky to not reveal his daughter to be Peter’s main crush.

Also, there seemed to be little remorse when Toomes accidentally kills a “Shocker” henchman with an experimental alien weapon (in Toomes defence, he thought was a non-lethal anti-gravity ray gun). We don’t necessarily think he should have been a bleeding heart, but a whiff of regret wouldn’t hurt. The fact he doesn’t give up Peter after learning his identity means he feels something for the kid. Or it could just mean he wants any carving of Peter’s neck to be done by himself. Hm.

Anything that threatens his business, ergo a means for providing for his family, is subject to violence and death. Including Spider-Man. But when offered a chance to hi-jack a Avengers transport using the hypothesized ‘High Altitude Seal’, Toomes scoffs at the idea as being too risky. A risk that would set his business and family straight for the foreseeable future.

It is only after Spider-Man foiled his last heist, putting future contracts in jeopardy, does Toomes give his team the go-ahead to plan the risky heist. A nice little sequence, which had Toomes highjack a Avengers plane carrying tons of Avenger and Iron-Man gear using the wings of his suit to form a vacuum-seal in the entry point of the hull while phasing through the plane’s hull via alien-molecular altering portal-type tech. Then highjacking the auto-pilot tracking signal, duplicating it in a miniature UAV and escaping with a plain full of goodies. A sequence that didn’t have to be explained excessively but felt intuitive at first watch.

In any case, the Villain, like the heroes of the MCU, was fighting for someone else rather than self. Quintenssially, something that has been infused in us to be seen as selfless and the ‘right thing to do’. It is this antithesis, that connects Vulture to Spider-man in many ways.

A particularly fun moment was finding out that the girl Peter has been crushing on, mustering the courage to take her out to prom is actually Toomes’ daughter. The odds. And can we say Parker’s got taste? But as Daddy Toomes drives the two to their prom, he eventually clocks Peter’s voice and the too-convenient coincidences that had Peter, Spider-Man and Vulture’s foiled capers occurring back-to-back. And seeing Toomes threaten Peter with the death of his family for some reason struck a cord. Why, because of Aunt May. Peter’s lost too much already.
Which leads to another interesting factoid which we’ll discuss right after this.

Toomes felt more of a complete villain than any other villain we’ve seen in the MCU. Facts. What more can you expect from a guy who played Batman? I think Toomes could have struck even a deeper cord if his family life was more fleshed out and even more of a hint of private remorse in an aftermath of instigated violence, but we’re pretty happy with Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Down to the fighter helmet, night vision and Falcon-wings upgraded all the fuck the way up.

 

MJ – [(F)an]nie are you okay?

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After the race-fuelled “controversy” of the concept of a non-white Mary Jane, we have Zendaya‘s Michelle character premiere in Homecoming, complete with cynical quips and delightful commentary. Randomly eating toast at a party to shutting down a teacher’s historical gerrymandering and schooling him on the fact that the Washington Monument was built by slaves. My type o’ gal. But it was the final reveal having joined her debating team as team captain that she reveals her friends call her “MJ”.

Simultaneously, a million fanboys cursed the heavens with epithet-infused incantations. Was this just a rip, or is this rough-around-the-edges Michelle the MJ that would steal Parker’s heart. And seeing Zendaya played down her sultry side for this role, plus we have 5 more Spidey-related films to look forward to, our hearts-of-hearts hopes she is the MJ of the comics. We all see she’s secretly crushing on Parker too. Again, Parker knows how to pick ’em. He just needs for that Spidey-sense to kick in.

 

Uncle Ben is truly Dead

Ben is dead. And has been for some time. And in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Aunt May seems happy. And gorgeous. In a MILF-y sort of way, if you’re into that sort of thing being, I don’t know, male. But we get a sense that Uncle Ben’s ghost still haunts May and, especially, Peter. But what really pleases us is there is absolutely no direct mention of Uncle Ben or his death. Rather it’s hinted, albeit twice. The first was when Peter’s alter-ego gets discovered by his pal Ned. Obviously, Ned wants to tell the world his best friend is only the biggest superhero on YouTube but Parker doesn’t want Aunt May to find out “with everything that’s happened”. The anguish in the delivery of this line and Parker fighting back the tears hugging Aunt May telling her, “I don’t want you to worry about me” is what really sells it. Kudos Tom Holland.

But as much as you want to praise the MCU for this subtlety, credit has to be given to Sony’s Spider-Man, particularly The Amazing Spider-Man for turning Ben from a dead man to a ghost who haunts. This provided much of the context for young people to know who Uncle Ben even is, minus the comic aficionados.

 

The Man and the Suit

Spider-Man’s suit, in a sense, is perfect. Conceptually, it doesn’t feel alien to that of the comics. Spider-Man’s suit fits into the tech-enhanced world of the MCU whilst still retaining that Marvel comics charm in the looks department. And Karen, the AI that controls the many functions of the suit, is absolutely adorable. Her giving Petey relationship advice – “now is your chance… kiss her” – hilarious. Maybe Stark could have laid out the finer details of sexual harassment to the AI while he was busy installing the “Baby Monitoring protocol”.

The suit also proved an important opportunity to show Parker isn’t a normal kid by any means. Other than the spider-thing of course. He’s intelligent beyond his years and with Ned’s help (or maybe just Ned) hacks the barriers placed on the suit by Tony Stark to unlock its full functions. That and realizing the element powering Toomes’ precarious weapons was a timebomb waiting to happen.

From the formula of his web to mastering the many web variable (took him a hilarious while though), Peter started to become comfortable taking full advantage of his suit’s capabilities. “Kill mode” is something we definitely want to see in Infinity War.

 

Spider-Man’s Homecoming is a Trial by Fire

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It could not have been an easy thing getting Sony to share the film rights to Marvel’s Spider-Man. Undoubtedly. And it wasn’t going to be an easy walk for Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming either. Hardship builds character, and it is no truer here.

Judging from the trailer, I made a few predictions, much of it which came true. My first was, seeing Spidey say “I’m nothing without this suit” and Iron-Man taking said suit from him, I know Peter would have to discover that “Spider-Man was beyond a teched up suit. It was his drive. His ideals. So any ultimate showdown would be ‘barebones’. The hero starter kit. Like Daredevil with a cloth tied over his eyes. A ski-mask wearing Batman.

And can we just speak about Iron-Man briefly? How repulsive he was in the aftermath of the ferry scene. It was slightly out of frame, but Robert Downey Jr. fully-channeled Trump and gave us that shitty ‘OK’ thumb-index-connected-with-middle-through-to-pinky-extended gesticulation that made me hurl in my mouth a bit. And again, him saying “if you’re nothing without this suit, you don’t deserve to wear it”. What mofo? You’re whole trilogy was about the suit you wore. GTFOH.

My second prediction was Iron Man would come to his senses and would offer him a shiny apple of some sort. A big part of me wanted Peter to refuse it, but in the most ballsy way, like “fuck you Iron-Man, I did this myself. And I’ll keep doing what I have to”. But of course, Peter is a classier man than I, so his refusal to join the Avengers for more grassroots community service was done more gentlemanly.

Spider-Man had to be put through the ringer, firstly by showing him he was way out of his depth with that first sky-high meeting with the vulture and later at the ferry. It was very strange to hear a hero frantically saying “no, no, no” as desperately and quite intuitively under pressure tried his best to hold the collapsing boat together with his webbing. It was fear, anguish – human responses to unsurmountable incidence. Instantaneously relateable.

Even at Peter’s lowest moment, left under a pile of rubble by the Vulture, was particularly great because he was crying. And in pain. Screaming for help to an unforgiving silence. And when there was no answer from the Iron-Man or the holy Avengers, Peter knew he was the only one that could salvage this moment. Mustering up the strength to pull himself from the rut of failure. I felt this scene should have kept the “Peter” moniker than him eventually calling himself Spider-Man. Sounded self-aggrandising. Whereas the narrative should be trying to teach us that “Spider-Man”, like the Stark-built tech suit, is only an extension of the man, of Peter Parker.

 
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Spider-Man: Homecoming was a great outing. It is ultimately an ornate fixture the tapestry of events birthed by Civil War. Which is what as one would expect from an MCU-feature not having been made in Phase 1. However, these MCU elements – namely references to the Avengers and Iron Man – are not overpowering in their presence. They are just there to anchor Spider-Man’s existence into the tapestry that is Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

What we are left with mostly is a narrative that is centered around Peter Parker and his growth in becoming the friendly neighborhood Spidey. Him turning down becoming part of the Avengers felt like a triumph on many fronts – for the narrative and we suspect for future outings of the Parkey as long as he has appeared in the MCU. Whilst Civil War felt like a prelude to Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man feels more like a monolith onto itself. A more complete, succinct narrative. Something the MCU hasn’t had in a long time.

As far as the post credit scenes, Toomes in prison, not really sure where that was necessary going other than to tell us certain heads will be hunting for Spider-Man now. And Steve Rogers gives the audience a public service announcement – mimicking the many Cap’n videos littered throughout the film – that us waiting for some Infinity War post-credit was a colossal waste of time as it was not coming. Only for us to be patient. Either have post-credits hinting at something bigger, or don’t. Seeing the new Spidey-suit was more of a post-credit scene thant the post credit scene.

Spider-Man: Homecoming may not have had a showdown on the school grounds at the prom for the whole student body to see, but it had Peter Parker making some tough decisions, many of which saw him forsake a good time with friends to perform his duty to serve those in need. Good man. And Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is ultimately ‘fun’, but not bereft of peril. An element that Sony’s Spider-Man missed out on.

No film’s perfect. Surely. But we have to say as far as the MCU goes, Spider-Man: Homecoming is unequivocally the best MCU film Marvel has ever produced. I said it. Get at me, bro. And bring Aunt May with you. At least now we know she has a potty mouth.

 

RATING: 7.8 out of 10

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