So I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming opening day here in the UK. It’s getting fairly universal praise. The friend that I saw the film with enjoyed it. Others I know enjoyed it. I’m sure the people in my screen enjoyed it. But I didn’t. I have a lot of opinions about this film and so I would like to write them down rather than keep them to myself. This will be a spoiler heavy post. Spoiler Warning.
Now upon reflection I think I understand this film a little better. Or to be more appropriate, I understand why I didn’t enjoy it to the extent I wanted to. Kevin Feige is a genius. The man knows what he’s doing. The MCU is not just a marvel for superhero movies (pun intended) it’s damn near unheard of for a movie studio to create a cinematic universe capable of 22 movie arcs. No matter your opinion of MCU films, Marvel Studios deserve respect for what they’ve created.
How did they manage such consistent success? Because they know how to connect their heroes to genres. Superhero is not a movie genre. Maybe it was two decades ago but Marvel Studios knows that if the superhero trend is to continue then it must evolve. Look at their recent films, each one has a specific selling point. Ant-Man is a superhero heist movie. Dr Strange is a superhero magic movie. Winter Soldier (and to an extent Civil War) is a superhero thriller. Fox surprisingly seems to be picking up on this too with the success of Deadpool (comedy) and Logan (western).
So my problem with Spider-Man looks more apparent to me now. It’s a superhero kids film.
I was secretly bitter to finally be older than the actor playing Peter Parker but I think I’ve outgrown Spider-Man movies in more ways than one.
Now with that said I still want to write out what I think about the film. It’ll be therapeutic. If a blue moon shines then maybe someone will read this and see they feel the same. Let me make it explicit that this post is not an attempt to change your opinion of the film. This is simply me having some fun with a film I didn’t enjoy much.
I reckon the best way to go about this is to list what I like followed by what I don’t like.
I had my reservations but Tom Holland plays a good Spider-Man and Peter Parker. It’s too soon for me to concern myself with ranking him among the others but from seeing the movie once Holland’s Parker is incredibly relatable. He has a wholesome quality the others have lacked which certainly adds something to the movie. You believe he really wants to help.
Michael Keaton’s Vulture
I both love and mildly dislike Keaton’s Vulture. From the beginning I think he’s a great character. To my knowledge the Marxist style ‘for the workers’ character hasn’t been done in the MCU. He was one of the first MCU villains that had a relatability. For once Spider-Man isn’t fighting a mild mannered scientist who accidentally becomes an animal of some sort. His character falls apart a bit towards the end but for the most part he gets a thumbs up.
They look like kids
It is nice that for once 15-year-old Peter Parker could pass for 15. He’s not 17 going on 29 this time. Additionally the entire cast of school kids look like genuine children. My suspension of disbelief was on hold considering I was watching a kids film about a guy that sticks to walls, but it was a nice touch.
The scene with Donald Glover
The ‘interrogation’ scene between Spider-Man and Glover’s character (who I think is the Prowler but I didn’t catch his name) was legitimately funny. At this stage in the superhero movie trend we need more meta scenes that critique the genre. The interrogation scene is pivotal to all superheroes. The ‘I just got my powers and I’m going to use them effectively’ scene that takes place usually after a superhero has messed around in a training montage. The Batman voice joke is funny and relevant.
The Washington Monument scene
While the action is sparse in the movie, if one scene delivers it’s this one. I truly got a sense that Spider-Man wanted to do whatever he could. Add in the dramatic irony of his classmates and you’ve got a stellar scene that encapsulates Spider-Man perfectly.
The Vulture twist and subsequent scenes
This film was very predictable for me. But the twist that the Vulture is actually Liz Allen’s dad blew me away. As a fan of the comics I want to complain about shellshock to Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin but this twist worked and helped the flow. I was enthralled for at least 15 minutes. The scenes with Peter and the Vulture after the reveal are so wracked with tension. I got Spider-Man (2002) Thanksgiving Dinner vibes.
Allusion to ASM 33 cover
If I had a second favourite scene it would be this one. Overall I didn’t get the sense Spider-Man was all that good at anything but this scene did a great job of proving me wrong. Shame it came towards the end. Holland’s performance almost brought me to tears. I could feel the 15-year-old dread. The way he stood up gave me chills. I’d have liked more of this.
Now for the tedious part.
I just can’t get behind the suit. It looks awful. I keep getting flashbacks to Green Lantern. I’m not sure how they did it but almost every scene makes the suit look CGI. And when Spider-Man bounces about buildings it’s clear that it’s CGI. It’s a shame we finally got young looking actors but a suit that looks like a cartoon.
You either don’t mind this or hate it. Spider-Man now has an Iron Man like A.I. in his suit. It’s voiced by the wife of Iron Man’s A.I. which is cute but I don’t care. Spider-Man shouldn’t be Iron Man. We’ve got Iron Man. I’m happy with Peter Parker miraculously sewing together a movie quality costume but the high-tech stuff is too much for me. I find it amusing that Spider-Man is becoming Iron Man in the comics and driving away readers while fans of the movie are reasonably happy with the change.
It IS an origin movie
Before the release I’d heard the sentiment that this wasn’t an origin movie. In fact I’d heard it often. But it blatantly is. Just because Uncle Ben isn’t there to die doesn’t mean this isn’t an origin. Spider-Man is useless for about 90% of the movie. The entire film is him learning how to be a hero. That’s the definition of an origin story. He may have existed before the movie, briefly in Civil War, but this is his origin as he develops and grows into the hero we paid to see.
There’s no fights in the movie
On the topic of origin stories, there’s no fights in the movie. I’d read in an interview that Holland put this down to Peter learning how to fight etc. It’s a subtle thing honestly. It was a few hours after I’d seen it that I realised Spider-Man didn’t punch anyone. He just dodges a bunch until whoever he’s fighting falls over or Iron Man saves him. I understand many people will like this but watching my favourite hero fail for two hours isn’t my style of entertainment.
Likewise, no real spider sense
A minor gripe but Spider-Man never acknowledges his spider sense. I reckon he does have it, I remember Parker saying something in Civil War about his senses but this movie abandons that. Which leads to a more prevalent issue I have…
He is nothing without the suit
So he doesn’t fight, they don’t mention his spider sense. What’s his powers? He sticks to walls from time to time but you don’t get the impression Spider-Man is strong. He needs the suit for mostly every scene in the film. Every moment of tension is relieved when a part of his suit reveals a new plot convenient trick. Now I know Spider-Man uses tracking devices and I thought that was cool, but I would have preferred a mix of gadgets and powers. For all its faults the scene in ASM 2 where Spider-Man catches a cop car is impressive for highlighting that Spider-Man is strong. I’d accept the argument that Holland’s Spider-Man just doesn’t know what he can do yet, but that’s pretty dull. I’d prefer this ‘not an origin story’ wasn’t an origin story and had Spider-Man showing his powers and his brain together.
New York doesn’t feel like a character
Another smaller problem but New York is mostly absent from the movie. Raimi’s Spider-Man occupy a special place in American history, set in New York 2002. Maybe those films had too much of an impact on me but I’ve always felt that the New York setting helped emphasise Spider-Man’s ‘everyman’ quality. The bridge scene in Spider-Man (2002). The train scene in Spider-Man 2 (2004). Even the crane scene in ASM (2012). New Yorker’s coming together has always been associated with Spider-Man. Part of the problem people have with the current comics is that Parker is constantly in another country. It’s a shame that one of the best action sequences takes place in Washington. This also means there’s no swinging through New York scene.
This is one I don’t get yet. I have no problem with his ethnicity. I just don’t understand why he needs to be in the film if he serves no purpose? He simply exists. He’s a bit irritating to Peter but Peter never seems to care. He’s shorter than Peter too. It’s so bizarre.
‘My friends call me MJ’
From the first scene with ‘Michelle’ I said to myself, how will they reveal her to be Mary Jane. As soon as I heard her name was Michelle I thought, okay we’re one letter down, give us the J. And they did. And it meant nothing. The people in my screen let out a collective ‘oh it’s that person I remember.’
Young Aunt May removes tension
Having a young May is certainly different. The Ultimate May was younger, not quite this young but still. I was open to see how the film dealt with this but it turned out to be a joke for the most part. Marisa Tomei is attractive. That’s the joke. The first time I giggled but then they kept bringing it up like the size difference between the Rock and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence. Having May be so young removes any tension for Spider-Man. She could probably fight back if attacked. Probably do better in a fight than Spider-Man too. Having her discover Peter’s Spider-Man removes another aspect of his character but I think they’ll play that off as a joke.
The Uncle Ben problem
Fans didn’t want to see Uncle Ben die again. But does that mean they had to omit the character entirely? Without Uncle Ben Spider-Man had no lesson to learn. This is probably my biggest issue. The lack of power and responsibility means it doesn’t feel like Spider-Man. He just wants to be an Avenger. It’s cool but it’s not Spider-Man. I thought when the deli blew up at the beginning the cashier would die and they’d use that as this film’s Ben but no, everyone was fine and Spider-Man learned nothing. He doesn’t learn anything until the very end and even then it’s a little abrupt that Spider-Man had decided he’d do good with his powers.
Uncle Iron Man
Ben is essentially replaced by Iron Man. Stark serves as the father figure, literally telling Peter he wants to be a better father to Peter than his dad was to him. I’d be ok with this if it didn’t cut the single most important aspect of Spider-Man’s character. He was cocky and tried to get popular with his powers but this led to his Uncle’s death which taught him to always do his best. It’s simple. Could they really not have mentioned this in passing? Not even a ‘power and responsibility’ line? To me having the central plot of the film be ‘Spider-Man wants to impress Iron Man and become an Avenger’ is too close to ‘Spider-Man wants to win money to buy a car to impress MJ’ from the Raimi film. He just wants fame until the end. This is a fundamental character flaw I can’t look past.
The threat is intentionally small
As this is an origin story the story is fairly small scale. It’s some low-grade villains stealing tech. Beneath the Avengers I believe Happy says at one point. I understand the point but again, it’s boring. I want to see Spider-Man foiling something significant. I don’t want another blue light shooting into the sky but something more than an old man stealing guns. That’s the MCU problem though, they already have their large-scale heroes. This unfortunately leaves Spider-Man feeling inconsequential.
Overreliance on anti-climax jokes
Back to aspects of the movie, what has become an MCU staple, the film features way too many mood killing jokes. Just about every dramatic moment is immediately undercut with a joke. Every one. This way the audience are always laughing and never feel too much. People complained when Guardians 2 and Dr Strange did it but I haven’t seen anyone mention it here yet.
The music is silent
Except the amazing intro theme this movie falls into the MCU trap of boring, forgetful themes. This is the first Spider-Man movie I’ve left without the theme playing in my head. Every Frame a Painting goes over this wonderfully here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vfqkvwW2fs. I thoroughly recommend you watch this video, it highlights everything I have to say about the music in Homecoming.
Disney’s Marvel’s Sony’s Spider-Man
When the Ramone’s scene started I became aware the film was specifically created for my demographic. It was a strange experience to realise everything in the film was arranged for me. To elaborate, Tom Holland’s Parker is somewhat dull. He’s intentionally vague so everyone can relate to him. But the setting, the music choice, the humour. It’s all been meticulously chosen by the Disney higher-ups to appeal to me and people like me. Add to that the lack of fighting/ violence and Disney can even please the parents. It’s so precise I can’t help but notice it. Had I been maybe 5 to 10 years younger this could have been my favourite film. But as it is I’m just too cynical to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll get into it with subsequent viewings.
One final whine. Similar to the ending of Star Trek Enterprise, this film pushed its main character to the side in favour of the more famous one. The closing scene in the New Avengers facility felt like a post credit scene. When I saw the Iron Spider suit I nearly cringed. ‘Oh don’t do it Pete’ I wanted to shout. Thankfully he didn’t. Instead he left the scene truly aware of power and responsibility. I was happy. Then Pepper Potts appears and I remember Spider-Man isn’t important in the long run, Iron Man is. For fans of the MCU this was probably good but I just want to see Spider-Man. Irritating is how I’d describe the feeling.
So that’s my feelings about Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thank you for reading this far, I’m sorry to put you through that. Hopefully I didn’t annoy you if you do like this film. If you like the film or not, I hope you got some enjoyment out of this rant. At least I got some writing it.