Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Year 9, Day 192 - 7/11/17 - Movie #2,686

BEFORE: Michael Keaton carries over from "The Founder" in a great bit of casting to play Spider-Man's enemy, the Vulture.  Well, he did play Birdman, after all, that's sort of close, right?  And last night he played the guy who stole the McDonald's operation from the McDonald brothers, so playing another thief in this film seems like it will fit in well.

Plus I've been watching a lot of films about orphans and such - and isn't Peter Parker like the ultimate orphan, raised by his aunt?  So hopefully it all comes together tonight, because this is my last big benchmark film before heading out to San Diego next week.  I can't really show my face at Comic-Con if I haven't seen this film yet, that would be too embarrassing.  Should be a lot of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman costuming this year.  And what a year it's been for superhero movies, right?  I've seen four Marvel and two DC films already in 2017, and after this there's one more of each still to come.

THE PLOT: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as a high-school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.

AFTER:  And so we come to the THIRD actor playing Spider-Man in the last 10 years, after two movies with Andrew Garfield as the "Amazing" hero, it's time to re-boot all over again.  Hey, I'm used to this from reading comic books, which re-boot characters about every five years, or so it seems, and entire fictional universes about every ten.  After the last universe collapse in Marvel Comics, there are at least THREE Spider-Men web-swinging around New York, including Peter Parker, Miles Morales (from the now-defunct "Ultimates" universe) and Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man from the future year of 2099, who time-traveled back).  Yeah, that can get confusing - not to mention the "Spider-Verse" storyline that had 30 or so Spider-Men and Spider-Women from different universes and dimensions teaming up to defeat the evil power.  Yes, even Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. (don't even ask.)

But I get it, this film marks the melding of the Spider-Man story with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes the Avengers films and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but not the X-Men films. (Because that would be ridiculous, apparently.  Why can't Sony, Fox and Disney all get along?). If I'm drawing a reference back to the comic books, a very early issue of Spidey's book in the 1960's had him unsuccessfully trying to join the Fantastic Four.  (He should have known by the name of the group that there were no open slots, because there were already four of them, duh.).  But if Spider-Man had instead set his sights on joining the Avengers, the storyline might have gone something like this film, with Iron Man acting as Peter's mentor and supplier of cool technical gadgets. (It's worth noting that Spider-Man has been in and out of the Avengers in the comics over the last decade or so, first as a "junior" or reserve member, and now on the main team if the writer likes to use him.)

Come to think of it, getting Stark tech makes a lot more sense than thinking that a teenager could invent cool things like Spider-Tracers, different types of webbing, opaque lenses that he can somehow see through, and that device that activates his camera when he swings in front of it.  (Turns out Spider-Man was taking selfies back in the 1960's, before that was even a thing.). Here Tony Stark also supplies him with a new suit that has it's own A.I., among other cool features, including a few designed to keep him in check.  Stark's a busy man, however, so he becomes like the absent father that Peter never had, instead relying on his assistant/bodyguard Happy Hogan to be the point of contact.  This makes sense, based on Stark's character - or was Robert Downey Jr. only available for a few days of shooting?

I'm honestly surprised they didn't go with the Miles Morales version this time around, which would have been so ultra-PC.  I guess they couldn't go TOO far with the main character, but they over-compensated by making the supporting characters overly multi-culti.  Hey, if you want to make Peter Parker attracted to girls of all races, I'm fine with that.  But why the obsessive need to re-cast white roles from the comic book as people of color?  Why not just make new characters with different names?  Flash Thompson, Ned Leeds - they were caucasian in the comic books, now they have darker skin tones, but those are still white-sounding names, so it doesn't make sense.  Flash Thompson is supposed to bully Peter Parker, and this looks much odder coming from a minority, who you'd hope would know something about tolerance.  Oh, but sure, if I complain about this racial-blind casting being forced on me, then I'M the racist.  I see what you're doing there.

Speaking of Ned Leeds, there was just WAY too much of him in this film.  Supposedly Peter's closest friend and confidant, he wanted to be the "man in the chair" and help Spider-Man on a mission, but this kid was not a great actor, so giving him so much screen time was a terrible mistake.  Some of the other kids on the Academic Decathlon were even worse actors, but at least they didn't take up much screen time.  (Why is it so difficult to find teen actors that can SPEAK LINES CLEARLY?).

This film also marks the addition of Damage Control to the MCU - these minor characters (from the comic book of the same name) were meant to be a comedy of sorts, the official people who have to clean up the destruction caused by superhero and villain battles.  It all goes back to the Chitauri invasion seen in "The Avengers", and when Damage Control is called in to deal with all the alien tech lying around, Adrian Toomes and his construction crew are sent packing - which leads in a roundabout way to the birth of the vulture, who steals this alien tech and sells it to other villains (after keeping the best bits for himself).  The Vulture's "wings" here resemble giant drone pieces, and that seems to fall in line with the tech we have now in the real world.

Late in the film there's an incredible contrivance, a coincidence so great that it feels quite unbelievable, however this might be a call-back to something similar that happened in the first "Spider-Man" movie with Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.  For this to happen TWICE to Peter Parker is doubly unbelievable, but I guess I'm not supposed to try and figure out some wacky combination of continuity that makes all of the Spider-Man movies possible.  OK, kids, take those superhero DVDs that your father likes and throw them in the trash, because they don't count any more.  (and as for the other late reveal, which I won't even discuss here, all I can say is "NO NO NO" for reasons listed above.)

At least we didn't get bogged down in ANOTHER re-telling of Spider-Man's origin story - after seeing Cliff Robertson and then Martin Sheen bite it as Uncle Ben, some lucky older actor didn't get stuck in this role (sorry, Steve Buscemi...).  They just started the film with Peter as Spider-Man, and we all caught up just fine.  And I did like the "Homecoming" title, it's got a nice double meaning since at the start of the film, Peter is coming home from his first adventure with the Avengers ("Civil War") and it's also the name of the traditional fall dance that coincides with football season (umm, I think).  But they're already talking about making "Spider-Man: Homecoming 2" and that would be stupid, because there's only one homecoming dance per year - shouldn't it be "Spider-Man: Prom" or "Spider-Man: Graduation Day"?

NITPICK POINT: The Spider-Man continuity has become so convoluted that the geography no longer makes sense.  For starters, it feels like every spot in Brooklyn or Queens can see Avengers tower large-size in a close-up, and this is not possible.  There are spots in Brooklyn where you might get a good view of the Freedom Tower, for example, and a couple parts on the edge of Queens where you might see the midtown skyscrapers relatively close-up, but not everywhere.  Especially since we know that Peter Parker grew up in Flushing, Queens, and from there the Manhattan skyscrapers appear small and on the horizon, assuming a clear view.  Plus, Parker attends "Midtown School of Science and Technology", which I think is a carry-over from the animated series, but the school's name suggests that it's located in Midtown Manhattan, and the school buses in the parking lot all say "Queens County" on them.  So, which is it?  There's just no "Midtown" section of Queens.

NITPICK POINT: 80's music?  As much as I love it, is that really the way to modernize Spider-Man for today's teen audience?  I should say that I love 80's music, except for one of the tunes featured here, which is "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones, what a terrible song.  AND they use it to start the film, and AGAIN in the closing credits.  It's got only 3 chords, which is all the Ramones knew, the lyrics make no sense, it's repetitive and stupid and completely out of place here.  They also played "Space Age Love Song" by Flock of Seagulls in the homecoming dance scene, and I can tell you that today's kids have never danced to that song, and most have never even heard of that band.  The other songs played were better songs, like "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" by the Rolling Stones and "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" by Traffic, but those are even OLDER than the 80's music.  Was there no music available from this century for the soundtrack?

But it seems there was an attempt to pay homage to the 80's films of John Hughes - I caught the reference to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" but perhaps I missed others.  I just felt that chunky Ned Leeds shared so much screen time with geeky Peter Parker that this film reminded me more of "Superbad", with chunky Jonah Hill and geeky Michael Cera.  They could have just called this one "Super-Hero Bad", if you ask me.  But maybe I'm just getting too old for another reboot that puts Spider-Man back in high school.  Plus, I wasn't even ready for my "back-to-school" films yet - I'm trying to delay those until late August.  So I gotta do it - NITPICK POINT: Who the heck wants to see high-school events during a summer blockbuster?  Can't the kids just enjoy their summer vacation?

So by my un-scientific scoring system, that's one point off for excessive re-booting, one point off for forcing the mutli-cultural thing (while treating girls as little more than party decorators and hostages) and one point off for over-using the Ramones song.  Hey, my blog, my rules.

Also starring Tom Holland (last seen in "In the Heart of the Sea"), Robert Downey Jr. (last seen in "Chef"), Jon Favreau (ditto), Marisa Tomei (last seen in "What Women Want"), Gwyneth Paltrow (last seen in "The Anniversary Party"), Zendaya, Donald Glover (last seen in "The Martian"), Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori (last seen in "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), Bokeem Woodbine (last seen in "Riddick"), Tyne Daly (last seen in "The Enforcer"), Hannibal Buress (last seen in "Daddy's Home"), Martin Starr (last seen in "This Is the End"), Kenneth Choi (last seen in "Suicide Squad"), Garcelle Beauvais (last seen in "White House Down"), Michael Chernus, Michael Mando, Logan Marshall-Green (last seen in "Snowden"), Gary Weeks (last seen in "Self/Less"), and the voice of Jennifer Connelly (last seen in "Winter's Tale"), with cameos from Chris Evans (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Stan Lee (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2").

RATING: 7 out of 10 lost backpacks

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