director: Jon Watts
writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei
genre: Action | Comedy | Comics
released: 28 June 2017 (USA), 6 July 2017 (Australia & Greece), 13 July 2017 (Germany)
Having already fallen in love with the new Spidey in the 'Civil War' film, we all were ready to enjoy him in his first solo Marvel Studios film and in one that actually deals with him as a teenage superhero with conflicting responsibilities and life ambitions. This was not only accomplished by the production of the new film with flying colors, but was also in addition to having a somewhat down to earth plot that is a good change of pace from what is the usual Marvel fair we have come to be used to.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) loves being Spider-Man, but he has his sights on using his powers for not only to protect the people of New York, but also the world as a member of the Avengers.
Until that day comes, where Iron Man will allow him to be a full member, he will still have to live the life of a teenager with homework, bullies and crushes. At the same time he will have to first find out if he can handle himself on his own and up against the mass arms dealer the Vulture (Michael Keaton). A villain that will push Spidey on the importance of being a hero and the balance between his personal and vigilante life.
Spidey is back at Marvel (at least for now), again in High School and is actually with a cast that looks somewhat the age they are playing. However, did we get the Spidey film that delivered on what it promised? Which is an interesting question, what did this film, its creators and studio promise to make? A Spidey film that is back at Marvel, that has him in high school, doing teenage things and growing up with the responsibility of being Spider-Man. Besides that and being a decent film with the usual Spidey or superhero genre elements, was it anything else more than that? Sort of.
The first Spidey films made by Sony and Sam Raimi were campy films with a great sense of humor, phenomenal action scenes, direction and emotional arcs for both the heroes and villains to go through. The third one didn't turn out to be the film we wanted, but looking back it could have been much worse. Some years later Sony decided to reboot the series directed by Marc Webb and with a new line villains to focus on, while also a conspiracy/mystery plot pushing the series forward. While that was an interesting idea to move forward with, it didn't really pan out. Now, we are with the special Marvel-Sony partnership that brings Spidey to have his own solo films under the Marvel Studios umbrella and with the freedom of him interacting with other Marvel characters.
So, with that history in mind and Marvel being Marvel, it went back to the roots of the character, not entirely mind you, but smartly enough to avoid the treaded path of the previous Spidey films. Sticking with high school and Spidey being a teenager as in the first comics and most likely having already dealt in the film universe with the Uncle Ben storyline, possibly the Osborne one (but doubtful) and him not yet dealing with any known fan favorite characters such as Gwen, Harry and MJ (more on this later). This choice was a wise one for obvious reasons, as you don't want audiences to feel fatigued as if they are seeing the same films all over again. As this was somewhat the issue with the 'Amazing Spider-Man' films. Here the new elements introduced work for the most part and their isn't anything terrible to point out (nitpicking and gripes will come later). It just seems not much effort was made to ante up the emotional arc for Peter as Peter Parker or Spider-Man and the stakes that the plot had weren't that high or didn't feel as important (notice that Uncle Ben and the word responsibility never are brought up in the film). Now, that could be seen as a good thing as not every film should be the destruction of New York or the death of a loved one. Which is a complaint fans of superhero films consistently have. However, it did seem this film lacked a crucial moment extra to make it more dramatic in its climax and for the character of Peter and his rivalry with the Vulture. Furthermore, the place where it could have definitely done more is in the romance which is the film's weakest part, with no evident chemistry between Peter and Liz and no subplot of a new love interest or Peter's head getting caught up in the clouds and chasing the wrong girl.
Moreover, my gripes with the film are minor (as wasn't expecting miracles) and more nitpicky and that shows that the work put into it was significant. But, one way or the other and after so many Spidey films and Marvel films, it's difficult to come out of each one with a glorious feeling of approval.
Nevertheless, they are a few details in the film that have to be mentioned and not be swept under the rug. One for example is the new policy of diversity at Marvel which has also spreading elsewhere in Hollywood and mass media, pop culture. Personally, I have always had the opinion that race or ethnicity play no immediate part in casting of a character if it didn't define them and if it wasn't integral to the plot or to the historical context to the story. A good example would be if you were to hire a Greek actor to play the part of Confucius the Chinese Philosopher in a biopic. You wouldn't cast it that way as it wouldn't make sense visually and also you would alienate audiences. These decisions also let's not forget are free to be made by any production and that they are or should be aware of the financial repercussions of their decisions on casting. For instance back in the 1950's diversity wasn't a topic of debate, but in today's world for better or for worse it is. So if were let's say changing a character such as Luke Skywalker (hypothetically think 50 years down the road if a reboot would ever happen) who isn't defined by the color of his skin or by any ethnicity. He simply is a character defined by his boyish charm, cocky attitude and later on through his arc and personal story becomes a wise and skillful Jedi warrior. So casting a let's say Indian actor to play him would be fine and not a cause for major outrage. As long as they didn't change the character himself.
The problem with the Mary Jane casting in the film isn't with what the whole internet has been whining about the last year and that Zendaya's isn't a white Caucasian as in the comic book or the previous films. As I don't ever remember the character being defined by that as their wasn't anything ethnic about her. More iconic than her skin color we would have to say would be her hair color. And while I do get people's frustration as they don't like the characters they love to be changed. Its bound to happen and its not the end of the world. A worse offense isn't that they changed her race, but her character. As why did they make her from the individual who is this undeniable stunning beauty that aspires to be in show business into a studious, joke cracking nerd. Isn't Gwen Stacy the more studios one of the two and better suited to this role? The whole thing about who Mary Jane was is that she is a bombshell beauty that would fall for the nerd Peter Parker and who was the girl next door and has to juggle between career, her relationship and the keeping of Peter's secret. Here and at least for this film she is made into a different character entirely. Hopefully they rectify this in the next film or what was the point of calling her MJ? Think of how a comic book fan would feel if Peter Parker in the film was changed from the underdog character of a bookworm to a football Jock that bullied others. Additionally, why did they make the new MJ be political? In the film she makes this political comment about that slaves made the Washington monument and that's why she wont go in it. Which is as out of place and was also not 100% historically accurate, but even if slaves did build the monument why not visit it? People visit the Pyramids in Egypt in droves and no one flinches about them being built by slaves. You know why? Because no slave exists today to build something like that anymore and its also a historic monument that signifies something about a countries history for better or for worse. We don't go to these monuments to always celebrate them, but to inform ourselves of our culture, history and past practices. Amazing how Marvel let that little piece of writing creep into the film.
And if you thought I was done nitpicking the film you were wrong! The film as mentioned is good, but they are certain things that don't raise it to a higher level and also things that you just notice and can't let slide. For one with the villain the Vulture and how his path to becoming a villain makes sense to a point in the beginning, but then later on just falls apart. His motives are initially about fighting against a rigged game to support his family, but then misses the mark by having a diatribe about the rich having everything and the poor having to fight for the scraps. Which doesn't make sense, as the reason he became the Vulture was because of big government squashing the little guy and not honoring his contract and also not reimbursing him for some of his losses. Maybe a little too analytical on my part, but it had to be said. Also, having Michael Keaton be the villain lends another level of seriousness to what is a B-movie type villain so can't complain too much and the role in any other actor's hands could have made this film into a different kind of experience.
Last thing that believe was worth mentioning is that the musical score was somewhat of a letdown. Nothing about it was characteristic and it made you question where the Danny Elfman's or even John Ottoman's are when you need them. As it's ending up that every subsequent Marvel film's musical score is as bland as the last and also eerily similar to the Avengers style generic music. Which was also a complaint of mine with the Guardians score music. I truly cant understand why they are not looking to give their heroes more characteristic, bombastic and individualistic musical themes. Personally, I know for a fact that it isn't the people they choose. What I am afraid of is that they are telling their composers what exactly to write, cutting much of the creativity out of the process and not giving also much time to them to compose better works of art. Which is a shame as music was what made other Marvel films exceptional and is a game changer when done right.
Having Spidey be a teenager in high school was a long time coming. His story of coming to grips with the responsibility of being Spider-Man and growing up was adequately intermixed with enough humor and action for audiences to enjoy and leave the theater with a positive attitude. Its overall progression was slick and with nothing major to be sour about. It still isn't Marvel's best film nor is it the best Spidey film that could have been made. Something that will not happen anytime soon until they actually deal with his most important Spidey characters and events. As Spidey has lot of great stories from the comics and this wasn't even close to one of them.