(Rough Draft. This was supposed to go through revisions but I had to move on for a lack of time).
This is written with the provision that you have already seen Spider-Man: Homecoming.
I tend to refrain from posting numerical ratings on here, but I’ll preface this review with a 5/10 and the following should explain the reason behind this number.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is too damn spotty and contradictory with it’s themes and ideas that it ultimately betrays the meaning/purpose of the story. For now, I’m mainly deconstructing how the script destroys the moral lesson for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in its conclusion. So, after the tedium of the boat-glue rescue sequence (which pales in comparison to the previous elevator rescue sequence – and thus feels needlessly repetitive), the lesson is exposited pretty clearly: you need to be able to take more responsibility than simply rushing in with your sense of duty, or more truthfully, your sense of wanting to save the day like a dumb kid superhero – a la: Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.) ‘what if people died? That would be on you. Could you handle the deaths of collateral damage? Wait til you’re old enough to take the responsibility’ diatribe. Only, when it comes down the final showdown between Peter and Vulture (Michael Keaton), he does the exact same thing as before: he creates massive public collateral damage, nearly dies and almost has Vulture die in front of him too. What then? Praise from Tony, for doing the exact same thing (!?)– the difference? This time it benefited Stark, and luckily everything turned out ok. So, by now the problem is glaring: this betrays the logic that Tony attempted to teach him – he learnt nothing. There isn’t an ounce of discussion concerning anything to do with collateral damage and being responsible for the potential deaths of others. Tony’s praise to Peter, including his ignorance and approval of his collateral damage, practically defines the film’s moral stance: it doesn’t matter about accepting responsibility and consequences of one’s own actions, as long as everything works out to everyone’s convenience (or more mechanically: so long as the plot can be written to fit demands for a positive denouement). Even worse than doing this once, the film constantly ignores its own themes: the script creates an idea it wants to discuss yet never executes a discussion of any depth.
Again, take for instance the parallels drawn between Vulture and Tony Stark – ‘how do you think Stark got where he is?’: arms dealing – fair point. Given Peter’s relationship with Stark, this is a perfect parallel to draw for this Spider-Man story. Great!. Lets see how this plays out… It doesn’t. The parallel is drawn, but their relationship isn’t considered once, again nothing comes into consideration; it doesn’t have to be that Spider-Man immediately hates him for his past self’s mistakes, but while they’re on the idea of collateral damage and responsibility, surely something would’ve come into Spider-Man’s head where he felt some internal conflict towards Tony Stark being an arms dealer at one point. And, while we’re on the topic, I’d consider him still an arms dealer – now he only deals to The Avengers – and, let’s face it, he has made a weapon out of a 15 year old boy by giving him that suit – yet, nothing is developed of any of these ideas (despite it being the whole fucking argument in Civil War). Simply, the parallel between Vulture and Stark is used no more than a justification of Vulture’s archetypal plot to rob and deal arms. Even Aaron Davis’ (Donald Glover) concerns doesn’t come into more meaningful play. Approaching the situation from a point of concern, Davis’ tells Spidey that he doesn’t like that these types of arms are being dealt in his cousin’s neighbourhood – the same neighbourhood as Vulture’s daughter. That’s a very interesting problem, and the plot twist, Vulture being Liz’s father, certainly does validate the connection between arms dealer, neighbourhood and daughter’s safety. But, alas, the twist goes nowhere, other than to create shock value (and some awesome 5 minutes afterwards in the house, the car and talk in the car – these moments were butt clenchingly fantastic). Nothing is said by or to Vulture about the conflict between making the sacrifices for his daughter and putting her life in danger. I’m not asking for a scene where they dump philosophies on us, but you can understand the frustration one might feel when a consideration is made within the film and is then entirely forgotten at the expense of either laziness, a lack of care or forceful studio control on the plot.
So, lets link Davis’ concerns to the parallel between Stark and Vulture. Tony’s origin story comes to the realisation of the personal implications and destructiveness of his own arsenal lifestock (as does Iron Man 2), but Vulture’s story never once raises any questions about him being in the position where he’s putting his daughter at risk by bringing these weapons into her environment. Iron Man earns a second chance because once he realises the damage of his weapons he changes his ways – he is punished for what he has brought into his own environment. I wouldn’t expect the same narrative to happen again with Vulture, but a little thought about the true repercussion of his actions would’ve been nice (since the whole fucking movie is about action and consequences (literally!)).
I think my major gripe with the movie is that it’s so underdeveloped that it becomes nonsensical in conclusion. It’s as though the film has a restriction on itself; it can’t progress certain aspects – everything but the plot is supposed to remain unchanged. Tony and Peter’s relationship must go forward, but only in the direction where Spider-man must become an Avenger, meaning that nothing else can affect this dynamic. Peter might have rejected Stark’s inauguration to The Avengers, but come the movie’s end, the Spidey suit is back in Peter’s possession because at any and all costs to the meaning of the story, Marvel’s franchise must continue.
This isn’t to shit on the film entirely. Everything with Spider-Man being a teenager and coming to grips with his limitations is great stuff; it’s nothing compared to the tapestry of ideas that is Spider-Man 2, and for as cute and fun as Homecoming can be at times, there just simply wasn’t enough present that gave me food for thought – but it had fun paying homage to the John Hughes classics. Riffing off Hughes’ filmography is as fun as the film gets because it was the only thing that helped to distract from repetitive, stagnating action scenes that, beyond having Spidey smash into things and things and things and more things, went absolutely nowhere, moreso whenever he was chasing the main generic villain plot. Anything to do with the subplots between the teenager unknowingly carrying a bomb in his backpack, I loved – though not enough time is spent on Peter coming to terms with the how he just put his friend and his crush in an almost fatal amount of danger. Never mind how the film just hops over regarding terrorism entirely. For my liking, it’s far too convenient that he almost shrugs it off as though it never happened – he’s almost sociopathic when he returns to crime fighting. We’re expected to move on from the fact he just had to save his friend from a bomb that almost exploded in an American landmark – the film clearly has more important things to do, like sexualising Aunt May or letting Tony cash in his allotted bi-annual quip pension.
Again though, there are more moments that I liked (I’ll try to not shit on the movie too much from here on). I enjoyed the overwhelming sense of danger in superheroism. It’s an often undiscussed element of a superhero’s reality – and sure, Batman Begins kinda already covered it, as did the original Spider-Man, but still… in a franchise full of uber-macho-supermen and their abundance of over-enduring punch outs, it’s a great reprieve to see something tackle the more cautious side of the action. Spidey’s fear of that which he strives for in hope of excitement gives a fascinating 3-dimentionality to his character psychology (though a little ridiculously far stretched come the end). It’s great to see such a conflict between risk and desire; where is the trade off? What will it get you? etc. It’s all pretty great stuff. That action is his reward and also his downfall. I was interested in this, although a further exploration into this topic would’ve been a little more wonderful.
In quick form comments: I would say that Tom Holland was a great Spider-Man, and I loved his charisma – he’s wonderfully charming and endearing to no end – his wide eyed, headfirst charge into superheroism is easily his most admirable quality. MJ, this time not ‘Mary Jane’, unexpectedly burrowed herself effortlessly into the core of my laughter. And Michael Keaton as Vulture was brilliantly intimidating. In regard to narrative and tension, Keaton takes the fatherly talk intimidation scene and brings it to a new peak. It’s there, under the growl in his voice, a deeper growl, a more determined beast – you feel the Birdman is within him, in partition with the caring father. And the film does have more than it’s fair share of humour, it’s just a shame that the film’s core is so underdeveloped and stifled that it can never really seem to say anything that it wants to, or give the jokes the weight they deserve. There’s plenty of fun to be had here, but at a certain point it isn’t enough, and starts to wear a little thin after the first few action sequences. Beyond the stereotypical villain plot, there’s nothing much here that’s narratively original, at least not significantly so.
Side point: the first 5 minutes were awkward as hell – clunky exposition: everywhere. Then, for the first twenty minutes, the editing was a stitch job shitshow. It kept ending scenes by cutting back to the first shot of what is probably now the deleted/extended scenes. It was super uncomfortable whenever it did this and irked me endlessly. And I’m 90% sure that the only reason the boat scene exists is because they wanted an excuse to have some Jesus symbolism – I could never prove it, but I know.
There is more to the movie that I liked, and there’s more to the movie that I disliked. I’m not going to write it all – that would be insane – but this should give you fair reasoning/indication as to why I thought it deserved a 5/10. For something that has more to say about being a human, a superhero, and someone with a great sense of duty that stretches beyond their physical capabilities, while being funny, creative, exciting and entertaining, I’d more than recommend Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 – because, sadly, Spider-Man: Homecoming just didn’t do enough.