There’s so much to discuss. Like how much we love Tom Holland. Like how Zendaya was all over the marketing for a meh role in the actual movie. Like Donald Glover. Like how it’s so refreshing to have movie teenagers actually look & act like real teenagers. Like how Spiderman compares to Wonder Woman. And other stuff too, but you have to watch.
Tagged: Tom Holland
There needs to be a clear change in thesis statement when you reboot a film franchise. Something like “We need Batman to be more serious and less goofy” being the reason to bring Christopher Nolan in to restart the Caped Crusader, or “Star Trek doesn’t feel relatable to young people because we’ve been serving TNG fans and older exclusively for 20 years” for the Abrams Trek reboot. I think that’s why the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man series never caught on because there wasn’t a change in thesis, it was the same attempt at superhero melodrama with big CGI villains. The only thing that changed was people didn’t seem to like Tobey Maguire anymore and Sam Raimi wanted desperately to do anything else with his time.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clear change in tone. Sony/Marvel (I don’t know who gets credit here) have decided that they want Spider-Man to be upbeat and not dragged down by being an overwrought angst-fest. This is a movie about the wonder of being a superhero and the problems are kid problems. The problems that don’t involve a man with giant wings at least.
It’s so refreshing to see a reboot without an origin story. There’s a throwaway reference to being bitten by a spider and that’s it. There’s no working as a wrestler, there’s no Uncle Ben, and the movie doesn’t suffer one iota for the absence. We’ve been told this origin story so many times including twice in the last 15 years on the big screen. It’s nice to be given credit for cultural literacy for once. I do wish someone had said “With great power comes great responsibility” just one time because that’s an important thematic shorthand that just gets run over here, but if I have to trade that for 40 minutes of not killing Uncle Ben I’ll take it. Hopefully whoever at Warner Brothers responsible for planning the next on-screen version of killing the Waynes saw Homecoming this weekend and is thinking twice.
There’s a prominent subplot about Peter’s suit. It’s a suit Tony Stark gave him and it has a very Iron-Man-y HUD. Midway through the film the “training wheels” get taken off and we get an awful lot of material on the crazy new features and Peter’s inability to manage them. It’s funny enough but I profoundly do not care about watching Spider-Man fiddle with technology. History probably proves I’m in the minority here, as both the Ben Reilly costume change and the Iron Spider era both saw bumps in sales, but it’s not the relatable content to me. I think it’s fun when Peter engages in relatable drama; not does a scene out of Despicable Me with a plethora of gadgets. This should be a small thing, but it’s so much of the second act it gets exhausting.
It feels like every few months we get another thing from Marvel that is supposed to finally show us the MCU from a human perspective and none of them ever succeed. Daredevil was supposed to be this, as were Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and seemingly everything else. None of those particularly worked for me on that level because while they would mention the bigger things happening in the movie they either felt too far removed (like they were only coincidentally in the same world) or too close (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is massive in scope). Spider-Man: Homecoming is, finally, a success at feeling small. The stakes feel important, but at no point is someone threatening me with the end of the world or the destruction of New York. This is a movie about personal triumph and the effect, and lack of effect, that has on the later world. Spider-Man fails if the Vulture succeeds, but the worst outcome of the events in this movie wouldn’t even be worth an aside in the next Avengers film. There’s growth here and as the rest of the MCU spins in to grander, more cosmic, conflict it’s nice to have a little story that feels big instead of a giant story that rings hollow.
This past weekend I saw Spider-Man Homecoming with my friend Chap. We went to the theater right by us early in the afternoon on Saturday. It was the best experience I’ve had seeing a Spider-Man movie in theaters since I saw Spider-Man 2 with fellow ComicMix writer Arthur Tebbel back in 2004. That was thirteen years ago.
So much of what makes this movie work is Spider-Man himself. Tom Holland (no relation to Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing) manages to nail playing both a boy with a superhero physique with enough awkward mannerisms to make it totally believable that he would be perceived as big nerd even by nerd science school standards. He handles the social anxiety and doubt of a teenage Peter Parker better than just about anyone else I’d seen play it or write it. Tom Holland approaches the character with a neediness, desperation, love, and affection that really elevates Spider-Man into being a character that’s unique in this overcrowded superhero landscape which should help make this franchise stand out in future movies. I imagine Tom Holland will also be getting a lot of offers to play roles that Michael Cera would have been offered ten years ago.
Michael Keaton is a stellar villain here, and after Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 shows a course correction on Marvel’s part in terms of making better villains. This has been one of the shared universe’s weakest points. Keaton elevates a silly, gimmicky comic book villain into a character with nuance and strong motivation. The downside here is that if you want to go read a comic with a good Vulture story, good luck finding one as good as this.
Many of the background characters were people of color, which was very refreshing. Peter’s best friend, his love interest, Flash Thompson, the high school gym teacher, the principal, Shocker and many others were non-white. These movies need to do this more often in order to keep them fresh and timely. Yes, not all of these characters were nonwhite, but many of them were created fifty to nearly eighty years ago and the times they are a changin’. They also gavespecial thanks to Dwayne McDuffie in the credits, as he created Damage Control. I made it a point to look for his name.
Needing more of a Spider-Man fix this weekend I took my copy of Kraven’s Last Hunt off the shelf and read that as well. It’s a very different kind of Spider-Man story; the exact opposite of what was offered in Spider-Man Homecoming. The optimism was replaced with cynicism, the love and affection coming from Kraven in his own sick way as Spider-Man, through the fate of circumstance, is reduced to a damaged shell of his former self; at least for a time. The stakes are higher and the villains more lethal.
Kraven’s Last Hunt is a thoughtful work exploring life, depression, and how we move past trauma. It’s one of my favorite Spider-Man stories, but in part because of how untypical it is for a Spider-Man story. If the character went down that direction more often, it would lose its impact. While it’s a darker place, it’s the kind of story I do think this new Spider-Man movie franchise could tackle towards the very end.
I know that I was saying earlier how this movie makes Vulture a more interesting villain than he typically is, but in all honesty, the most depressing thing that comes from watching Spider-Man Homecoming is that no Spider-Man story is like it. If you weren’t reading the comics and now you wanted to, I cannot recommend a single Spider-Man comic that feels the same way. The closet might be Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man which will always have a special place in my heart for bringing me back to Marvel Comics, but even then it’s much different.
You like Ned? Too bad! You like Liz? Oh well! Do you like this Flash Thompson? Go somewhere else! Does this Spider-Man speak to you more than any others you’ve seen in the movies or on TV? Sorry, but you’ll have to wait until the next movie because he’s not like this in any of the comics.
I grew up loving Spider-Man. Yes, I know I wrote that whole long column about how much I love X-Men, but Spider-Man was up there for me too. I loved watching Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the 90s animated series, collecting the action figures from it, playing video games like The Amazing Spider-Man vs The Kingpin, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage which was just a Streets of Rage clone but I still enjoyed it, and a whole lot more.
I really love the character. I want to love the comics so badly. I haven’t liked the comics in years. In many years. It saddens me that a character I grew up loving so thoroughly and was excited to talk about and get immersed in through comics and games as a kid has so thoroughly alienated me. The character has been diminished through clones, copycat characters, alternate universes, gimmicks, clumsy resets, body swapping, and moves to go backward instead of forwards.
I know some people are enjoying the current Spider-Verse and I’m glad they are. Not every comic should be written for me. However, after seeing Spider-Man Homecoming I have some hope that maybe, just maybe, the comics will restore some of that magic that’s been lost over time in the same way that Tom Holland showed me that Spider-Man is still spectacular.
This week’s Entertainment Weekly (a “double issue” dated April 29/May 5, 2017) is its big “Summer Movie Preview” release, one that I usually really look forward to reading over my breakfast tea. But after doing that this very morning – which was yesterday by now – I realized that, in all honesty, there’s very little coming out on the big screen that warrants my plunking down my hard-earned dollars.
There’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, in theaters in just 12 days from now as I write this. (Btw, isn’t May 5th a little early to be calling it a “summer movie?”) Maybe I’m not taking much of a leap here when I say it will be the big blockbuster hit of the season. It’s classic “superhero space fantasy” and, of course, there’s Rocky. Not to mention Baby Groot. Then again, im-not-so-ho, there’s not much competition.
Though there is Wonder Woman, premiering June 2. This is the one I’m really rooting for, which should be understandable to anyone who knows my history with the character. Though… I’m baffled as to why the film is set during World War I; a strange choice. I’m a history buff, and I understand the significance of that war and how it birthed the geopolitical landscape in which we live today, but as a backdrop to the Amazonian’s first cinematic venture? I dunno. I just don’t know if it will sell. Though – and I admit this is incredibly sexist of me – Gal Gadot in an armored swimsuit will undoubtedly bring in lots of those coveted male teenage and young adult dollars. But, although Ms. Gadot has legs that don’t stop, will Wonder Woman have legs past the opening weekend? We’ll see.
Let’s see, what else? Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales? It’s been 14 years since last we saw Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, so the hunger just might be there. It could give Guardians a run for its money. It could also tank, big time. Either way, I’ll pass. If I feel like a pirate movie, it’s Errol Flynn in Captain Blood.
Aliens: Covenant? Ridley Scott’s follow-up to Prometheus (which I never saw), takes place a decade after the later, and 20 years before Alien. To be fair, I will have to stream Prometheus before I decide on whether or not I want to go to the movie theater. But I have a feeling – unless word of mouth and critics lure me in – that this one is going to be either a cable watch or a streamer, too.
Baywatch? Never saw the television show, ain’t gonna watch this one. Not even on cable or streaming.
Then there’s Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7). I really, really, really liked Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spidey in Captain America: Civil War – he almost makes me forget Tobey Maguire –and the trailer for Homecoming is incredibly fun and enticing. Plus, my not-so-secret crush, Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. But I still like Singer’s take on the webslinger’s ability to, uh, sling that web. Sure, it’s not canon, but it always made more sense to me that it was part and parcel of that radioactive spider’s bite’s effect on Peter.
And since I’m a sucker for World War II movies – which may be part of the antipathy I feel towards a Wonder Woman movie set in 1918 – I am looking forward to Dunkirk, out on July 21. The evacuation of the Allied forces – more than 300,000 soldiers – over eight days (May 26 to June 4) in 1940 from the beaches at Dunkirk, France is an event that could have had a very, very different outcome.
All in all, EW covers 110 movies that will premiere over the summer. Quite possibly at least one of them could turn out to be a sleeper hit. But right now the summer entertainment I’m most looking forward to is the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, starting April 26 on Hulu – okay, it’s not technically a movie – and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – okay it’s not technically a movie, either – on Starz as of April 30.
In other news, daughter Alixandra has started watching Doctor Who, beginning with Christopher Eccleston.
This week, the gods of the interwebs granted us a look at two dichotomous trailers for a pair of blockbuster comic book films soon to be hitting the mega-multi-plexes. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Justice League gave us somewhere around four-minutes total of titillating three-dimensional text, brief respites of prose, and the best action snippets CG could render. But beyond those stark generalities comes two massive worlds apart.
This should come as no surprise to any of us. Spider-Man is packed with wit, charm, and street-level action amidst the hints at bigger set pieces. Justice League is a dark and sordid affair – not without its own charm and wit, but punctuated with the Synder-trademarked sepia-hued gravitas and angst. At this point, would it be enough to say I was ear-to-ear smiles at one trailer… and terribly nervous about the other?
Two guesses which is which. Then again, if I give you two guesses you’d guess right no matter what.
Spider-Man presents a balanced picture that has me in giddy anticipation. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is presented as we saw him in Civil War. He is as close to the original source as we may ever get in an adapted character from comic to screen. He’s young, funny, nerdy, and oozes those immortal words of his late Uncle Ben between his not-quite-adult pores.
The story we’re presented seems rote. Following Civil War, Peter returns home to Queens to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man as per the direction of his would-be father-figure, Tony Stark. But, in the 616 Cinematic Universe, we already know what evil lurks in the shadows. Enter Birdman. Err, Batman. Err, Michael Keaton. Before the trailer ends we’re given what appears to be the entire plot of the movie. Destruction, loss, redemption, snark. It’s almost too easy; I anticipate several key turns before we resolve to whatever happily-ever-sequel there is to come.
Meanwhile in the DCU, Justice League leaves us with a much murkier picture – not counting the actual cinematography. From what we’ve been given, we can safely assert that Batman is assembling a team (let’s go ahead and call them a league) of super-powered individuals to fight some unseen threat. Diana of Themyscira, Barry Allen, Vic Stone, and Arthur Curry appear to be on board to fight said threat. That aside, we really get nothing else specific. Of the snippets we are given though, a few streams of light pierce the typically dark DCU movieverse. From the sneer-grin of Aquaman as he rides on the exterior of the Batmobile, to Bruce Wayne revealing his super power (“I’m rich”), Justice League seems to at least made some minor commitment to be a slightly more mirthful affair than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Sadness.
Unlike Spider-Man, Justice League’s trailer leaves me more guarded than enthusiastic. League’s teaser is simply too short to get a feeling if we’re taking a step forward or laterally. While BvS was quite profitable, the fan consensus was one of great disdain. What should have been billed as an Avengers level tour-de-force was more or less a maudlin, middling meh-fest. And far be it from me to throw a stone here, but Suicide Squad was a solid popcorn flick – but not one that moved the needle of fan-appreciation that DC desperately needs. Wonder Woman … you are our only hope.
So here we are. Four minutes of film, and we’re right back to where we started. While Marvel revels in whatever phase they’re in at present, DC seems to still be stuck at the starting block trying to impress everyone with how badass they are. And therein lies the truest sentiment of all.
While Marvel leaned into their inner nerd and gave us straight-faced superb tertiary titles like Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy, DC can’t get out of its own shadow. Spider-Man already feels like a homerun two minutes and several posters in. Justice League is somewhere between an intentional walk… and a beaned batter.
Good morning, ComicMixers. I believe we’re a good week and a day past the debut of Captain America: Civil War. I saw it with my wife on a much deserved date-night/Mother’s Day celebration. Suffice to say I loved the flick. And given that more than a handful of people at Free Comic Book Day were compelled to tell me they laughed at my anger over BvS: Dawn of Go Eff Yourself, it’s really nice to declare I loved this movie. I honestly have very little – if any – nits to pick. And rather than pick a single element and wax poetic on it for ya’ll, this week all my rattled brain will allow is a random smattering of thoughts revolving around the Russo’s amazing piece of six-one-six-cinema.
Oh, and clearly… SPOILERS ABOUND. You’ve been warned!
Earned Angst – Look, I hate to start my random thoughts with another cheap shot at SupEMOman, but I sort of need to. You see, the fulcrum of Civil War doesn’t rest on the now half-dozen or so world-ruining disasters from the MCU since Iron Man… no. It rests on the lost (and highly plausible) history between the Winter Soldier, Captain America, and Iron Man. The final fight sequence had the first bit of angst I’d seen that I honestly felt. Tony Stark – PTSD-riddled and alone again – finally needed to hit something. And what better target then the perfectly teethed super soldier who was just trying to protect his friend? Gravitas, thy name is Rogers.
A Continued Sense of Humor and Humanity – “Can you please move your seat back?” “No.”
“I’m shaking your hand too much, aren’t I?” “If anyone else has some amazing ability they’ve been keeping secret, now might be the time to show it!” Throughout the entirety of the two-and-a-half-plus hours of Civil War we were never far from a smirk or light chuckle. And always in service to the characters themselves. When we as an audience believe the performances as we do here, it’s OK to realize that even amidst a massive super-powered scuffle, these are still human beings (and, yeah, Vision). Even mumbled under their breath, they were allowed to crack wise now and again. And it never once felt dishonest.
Vision In Today’s Menswear™ – I don’t have much else to comment on other than I think it’s hilarious that Vision dresses marvelously when he’s not in combat.
Spider-Man Finally Done Right – Look, Tobey Maguire had the awkward look thing down (and he looked as believable as a high schooler as I do right now). Andrew Garfield had the quips mastered. But Tom Holland? Well, he has the youth, the nerdiness, and the quips. It was a perfect presentation, perfectly integrated into the MCU. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise; this Peter Parker stole the show.
Black Panther Finally Done – Simply put: could T’Challa be handled any better than that? Hell if I know, cause I thought he was top-to-bottom perfect. Regal, yet passionate. Reclusive, but fiercely loyal to an external cause. The outfit looked great. His confidence looked even better. Blade is now long in the tooth. Luke Cage is still only Netflix fodder (for the time being). If I’m a young black kid looking for a hero I can cheer on, one who could go toe-to-toe with any Avenger… Well, I need not look any longer.
No Need For Dessert – Civil War may have nearly burst trying to fit in so many characters, minor plots, and major moves… But ultimately everything presented felt part of a larger whole. I left the theater feeling like “the end” of the Captain America franchise allowed us to see Steve Roger’s true journey: From a scrawny kid to psuedo hero. From pseudo hero to real hero. From real hero to a lost hero. From a fish out of water to a leader in the modern world. And, lastly, we leave with Captain America up-to-speed, fully formed, and working towards his own ends. While Cap may not have felt entirely like the star of his own film here, the Russo bros prove it’s because he’s finally reserved to lead when he needs to. America in 2016 is no longer in need of a Nationalist Super Hero. Someone please let Donald Doom know that. But I digress.
GiAnt-Man – Seriously fun. Game changing. Funny, but perfectly placed in the scene. And it sets us up for some more hijinks in the pending sequel(s). More than all of that though, the debut of Scott Lang’s big trick reminded that this was still a comic book movie. Toss in Peter’s quip about the old movie being inspiration for taking Lang down and you have a capsule of everything right about Marvel’s movies.
A Realistic Approach to the Fantastic – Beyond every other point made here… what strikes me the most about Civil War was how very plausible the Sokovia Accords would be. Whereas the other movie just sorta chunked the whole “world is weary of what’s happening” into a little session of congress, here we have a truly global retort to all the catastrophe. Tony Stark’s resolve in the face of tragedy (not unlike Dr. Greg House reacted when being put in his place by a civilian) makes complete sense. The need for supervision, or at very least sanction to operate makes plenty of sense to me (#TeamIronMan). And Captain America’s rigid response, in light of all that fell during Winter Soldier with Nick Fury and the whole “pro-active vs. reactive super heroics” makes even more sense.
All that and they eventually solved the whole thing without killing each other.