Spiderman: Homecoming Review

Disclaimer: I’m not a Marvel comics reader.  I’ve read a few and enjoyed them, but not enough to be an expert on anything.  All I really know is that I want to see a Kamala Khan movie already.  That’s about it.  So I don’t have an opinion on how well this movie represents the Spiderman comics.

My faith in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been restored!  I’d been feeling a little bit “meh” about some of their Phase 2 movies and Civil War, but I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the new Spiderman so much that I’m looking forward to what’s next again.  They’re well-made, well-told, fun movies.

Like Guardians 2Spiderman: Homecoming stands out by having a great villain: Michael Keaton as the Vulture.  His connection and relationship to Peter doesn’t start to get truly interesting until the third act. But his backstory and motivations aren’t needlessly complicated and he serves as a good foil to Spiderman.  I’m not going to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just say that I really liked the way his arc got resolved at the end of the movie.

Tom Holland continues to give an entertaining performance as Peter Parker.  In this movie, he’s just gotten back from his big battle with Team Stark in Civil War.  Tony says that he’ll call with future assignments…and then he doesn’t.  He thinks Peter has potential, but also knows that he’s dealing with an eager teenager who could easily get killed in action.  The film’s conflict centers around Peter trying to prove that he’s capable of officially joining the Avengers while also trying to navigate high school drama and stop the Vulture.

These three different narrative threads integrate well together and Homecoming has good pacing.  For example, Peter uses a school event in Washington D.C. as a means of transportation when he needs to track the Vulture’s movements out of state.  And as you’d expect, Peter hopes that his investigation of the Vulture will impress Tony Stark.  I appreciate that the plot never gets too complicated but doesn’t play dumb either.  It’s full of jokes concerning Peter balancing a normal teen life with his double life as Spiderman, yet these jokes don’t get old after a while.

Speaking of which, it’s nice to watch a Spiderman movie that didn’t play up the drama of Peter’s secret identity as much.  I know everyone loves Spiderman 2 from the Sam Raimi trilogy and I agree that it’s a good movie.  But I felt that it rammed you from all sides with Peter’s struggles until the third act.  Everything was going wrong for the guy in that movie.  He loses his job because he keeps abandoning it to be Spiderman.  His best friend hates him because of his connection to Spiderman.  His crush, Mary Jane, hates him because he can never make it to her play, because he keeps showing up late after fighting crime as Spiderman.  Then he watches her get engaged to another man.  He’s failing college because he’s spending all of his time crime fighting as Spiderman.  On top of that, he’s so overwhelmed by his life falling apart that he doubts whether he can still be a hero- and that doubt causes his powers to stop working at crucial moments.  The man cannot catch a break.

There’s nothing wrong with a hero who struggles; I prefer one of them over a hero who can do no wrong.  Still, I liked that Homecoming got the point across without dragging it out so much like the Sam Raimi films did.  His secret hero work can and does have negative impacts on his life without utterly ruining him.

It helps that Peter’s best friend knows his secret identity this time around.  Ned’s a fun character.  The way he and Peter react to the whole thing feels so real.  Of course he’d have so many questions about how Peter’s powers work and what he does with the Avengers.  Of course he’d struggle not to tell everyone and of course they’d be tempted to use Peter’s alter ego to impress girls at parties.

The rest of the cast works too, although Peter’s love interest, Liz Allan, doesn’t get a whole lot to do.  I like where they’re going with Michelle, the girl who makes sarcastic comments at everyone else’s expense throughout the movie.  The decision to make Flash more of an academic rival to Peter was an interesting choice.  That said, he’s still a bully who makes Peter’s life miserable, so he hasn’t changed that much, as far as I can tell.

Last, but not least, Spiderman: Homecoming has some spectacular action sequences.  The final aerial battle literally had me on the edge of my seat.  Obviously, Spiderman’s going to survive for more films, but he gets knocked around so much in this movie that it can be easy to forget that he will.  You can see why Tony Stark worries about Peter Parker.  He barely makes it out alive.

There’s also a nice touch of realism in the final battle after Peter lands on the ground and the sound becomes muted.  Having flown in an airplane on vacation recently, I struggled with my hearing because of the air pressure and it makes sense that would happen to superheroes too- especially if it’s accompanied by explosions.  This detail adds to the tension as well.  If Peter’s having temporary trouble with his hearing, then he can’t hear Vulture coming for him.  It was a small addition that didn’t last long, but a good one.

Although Spiderman: Homecoming isn’t a very deep film, it’s a lot of fun.  I’m very glad that I saw it and can’t wait for the sequels!

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“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” Review

I’m not sure that the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy is better than the original film, but it’s definitely a worthy follow-up and a fun movie.  I loved it!

Warning: this review contains some minor spoilers.

In Vol. 2, the Guardians find themselves on the run from an entire civilization that they’ve managed to offend (because of course they did), and in the process, they are rescued by a man named Ego who claims to be Peter Quill’s father.  Meanwhile, Yondu gets recruited by the Sovereign (the civilization the Guardians offended) to hunt down the group, but he’s not sure if he can really go through with it for Peter’s sake.

First, I have to admire a movie that sets up a big opening action scene…and then focuses the camera on Groot dancing to ’80’s music while the other Guardians fight the monster in the background.  It sets the irreverent tone of the rest of the movie.  And that’s not the only funny scene.  When it comes to humor, some sequels fall into the trap of repeating jokes from the first movie over and over until you’re sick of them.  One can only hear, “Why is the rum gone?” so many times before it loses its touch.  Thankfully, Guardians 2 avoids that problem.  The characters still have the same personality quirks, but not the exact same dialogue as before.

But what I really love the most about Guardians of the Galaxy is the relationship between the Guardians.  They’re set up like the Avengers: a group of “heroes” that often bicker with each other, leaving the villains wondering how these guys can ever work together to save the world.  Unlike the Avengers, they sincerely care about each other underneath the bickering and they demonstrate it.  When Peter and Rocket fight over who can fly the ship better and Gamora yells at them for not focusing on the asteroid field, it’s treated as a joke.  Even when Gamora and Peter have a serious fight about Ego, it doesn’t last long.  And as Yondu points out, as soon as Rocket realizes that the group’s in danger, he goes flying across space (almost killing himself in the process) to rescue his friends- because he clearly cares about them.

It’s so refreshing to see them act like the dysfunctional “found family” that Tumblr always wanted the Avengers to be.  When done right, the whole Teeth-Clenched Teamwork trope can be fun, but there’s always the risk that the audience won’t care about the characters if the characters don’t care about each other.  For example, as much as I like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and as much as I think Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End are underrated, there’s something to be said about the way the heroes played off of each other.  Everyone had their own motives and they were more than willing to stab each other in the back to get what they wanted.  So who are we supposed to care about the most and why should we care about him/her more than the others?

Even Nebula and Gamora, who seem like they’re ready to kill each other, end up working out their issues.  Not to mention Peter’s relationship with Yondu- in the first movie, we can see that Yondu’s got a soft spot for Peter, but he still tries to kill him a few times.  By the second movie, we learn more about their backstory and discover how much Yondu has secretly done to protect Peter for most of his life.

Speaking of Yondu, I didn’t like him very much in the first Guardians film, to the point where I didn’t want to see him join the team.  By the time he did join the team in the sequel, I felt ecstatic and wanted him to stay.  I won’t say any more so that this review doesn’t have too many spoilers, but he improved as a character so much in this movie.

Another welcome addition to the team is Mantis.  She and Drax develop a sweet friendship and she fits right in with the rest of the quirky team.  Plus, it’s nice to see another woman on the team.  I’m looking forward to seeing her in more Marvel films.

The action scenes are thrilling and hilarious, just as they should be in a Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Additionally, the writers did a better job with the villains this time around.  They’re not perfect, but they’re more memorable than Ronan the Destroyer.

If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies, definitely check out Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  You don’t even need to see the first movie to enjoy it, although I highly recommend it.  The characters play off of each other nicely, the settings are colorful and unique, the ’80’s music is fun to hear, and nobody ever takes the movie too seriously, which makes the whole experience a cut above the other Marvel films.  That being said, if any parents read this blog, I’d like to add that it is a very violent movie with a lot of sex jokes and a particularly disturbing death scene, so keep that in mind.  It’s PG-13 for a reason.

Everyone else…WE ARE GROOT!