Director: Jon Watts
Produced by: Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal (*ominous music plays*)
Story by: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Screenplay by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers
Release: July 7, 2017
Starring: Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Zendaya as Michelle Jones/The Unlikeable MJ, Marisa Tomei as May Parker, and Donald Glover as Aaron Davis
Obligatory Spoiler Alert
Months after the events of his Captain America: Civil War debut, we find MCU Spider-Man gallivanting about his neighborhood attempting to play the role of superhero and nursing a slobbering man-crush on Tony Stark. We’re introduced to the MCU version of the Vulture, a man driven to villainy when his salvage company is essentially forced out of business by the newly created U.S. Department of Damage Control, a parasitic collaboration between the U.S. Government and Stark Industries. The basic plot of the film revolves around Spider-Man attempting to bust up Vulture’s high tech arms trafficking operation, whilst simultaneously trying to score a homecoming date with the character who is ostensibly Liz Allan.
To put it bluntly, Homecoming is a bad movie. It’s so bad that I’m actually having trouble deciding where to begin my review. Let’s start with the writing. Where previous entries in the now overlong MCU franchise have stuck to trying to capture the tone and panache that defined Marvel’s books from the golden age through the early part of the modern age of comics, this is something different. This is current Marvel’s first depiction on the screen. This is not the Marvel of Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Jim Shooter, or even Joe Quesada. This is Axel Alonso’s Marvel, the “all new, all different,” uniformly terrible Marvel. The film is awash in modern Marvel Comics tropes: groan inducing pandering to millennial vacuity (that awful vlog scene, anyone?), dated cultural references (the recreation of the climactic scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for one), painfully unfunny “jokes,” and an obnoxious main character who never shuts up long enough for himself to take a breath or anyone around him to get a word in edgewise. In short, it’s the kind of interminable dross that Mark Waid routinely spews onto the page when he can pry himself away from his full time gig of threatening people on Twitter. I think some of this can be attributed to the fact that there are six people listed as writers for a script covering an incredibly simple story. You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen, after all. However, I am not holding out any hope for a future sequel being any better if this entry is any indication of the tone of the series. I can say that I liked that they avoided doing the origin story again. I think we’re all sick of that. However, this particular Spider-Man seems like he has no motivation to vigilantism (let’s not forget, Spider-Man is mostly a vigilante with powers, not really a Superhero). He’s basically a starstruck nitwit putting himself in harm’s way for the purpose of impressing a narcissistic billionaire sociopath. At one point, what feels like a lifetime ago now, I was actually a regular reader of the various Spider-Man series and I don’t remember him acting like that. On that note, let’s talk characters.
This is a film awash in poorly fleshed out, generally bad, and just all around unlikeable characters. Let’s start with Flash Thompson. I like Tony Revolori. I enjoyed him in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope, but his Flash Thompson is terrible. Again, this is mostly down to the writing. This Flash doesn’t seem like much of the campus hot shot bully type, rather just a petty and annoying loser. Physically, Revolori was too short and too pudgy to be in any way imposing. Then there is Peter himself. He never shuts up. It’s less like Spider-Man and more like the godawful Gerry Duggan/Brian Posehn version of Deadpool. If I can say anything positive about the film though, it’s that they finally cast someone young enough to play Spider-Man. Sonly always insists upon using the teenage version of Peter in the films, but for some reason always cast guys that are too old. Tobey Maguire was 27 at the time of the first film’s release and playing a 17 year old. Andrew Garfield was 29 at the time of The Amazing Spiderman‘s release and also playing 17 year old Peter. The worst character, of course, is Michelle Jones a.k.a. “MJ,” but totally not a stand-in for that “MJ.” She has practically zero dialogue that doesn’t involve being snarky. It grows tedious, and by the time of the infamous slavery quip, she has already worn out her welcome. Much was also made about the Vulture in this flick, but frankly I didn’t find him all that compelling, more garden variety. This brings us to some design choices.
The Vulture looks terrible. Somewhere between a G.I. Joe villain and that dreadfully stupid depiction of Rhino from 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Wings more reminiscent of Falcon’s would have, I feel, been more appropriate. Then there is, yet again, Spider-Man himself. Jon, Kevin, Amy, or whoever is in charge of the creative decisions on these pictures, Spider-Man is not, I repeat not Iron Man. While I am one of those dreaded online trolls that thinks that designing characters to pander to cosplayers is one of the big problems with comic books at the moment, Spider-Man is something of an exception. His costume is fairly basic, and is something that is easily replicable by a teenager in their bedroom, because it was made by a teenager in his bedroom. It is not a piece of high technology designed by a billionaire sociopath with a god complex. With three Iron Man movies, Iron Man as a character in The Avengers franchise, a character in the Captain America franchise, and a character in this flick as well, I think we could have stood to not have Spider-Man turned into socially awkward Iron Man. That’s just my opinion though.
I’ll close this already overlong review/rant out by talking about the acting and direction. In short, what acting and what direction? The acting was almost uniformly terrible. To state it pretentiously, I was painfully aware that I was watching a movie. It’s a cheesy, big budget popcorn flick. I know that. I’m not expecting Citizen Kane here, but at times this veered into high school drama club territory. The best performance was the always underrated Bokeem Woodbine and one of two version of the Shocker that were shoehorned into this bloated bore for some reason. Tyne Daly was also quite good for all three seconds of screen time she had as the character who was introduced like she was going to be an important part of the action, but who was then quickly forgotten (this is getting to be something of a problem in both comics and the films based on them these days). Jon Favreau remained consistent as Happy Hogan. As the direction goes, it seems that Jon Watts couldn’t decide what kind of film he wanted to make. There is absolutely no consistent tone to be seen here. The film makes hard turns, from scene to scene between being a superhero action adventure thing, some sort of dark, brooding melodrama, and whatever genre Pretty in Pink is. The CGI also had a tendency to look very lazy and cartoony.
To wrap it up, I was not impressed by anything at all in this flick. It felt like a low budget Kickstarter or Indiegogo project that somehow got a 175 million dollar budget. This is the beginning of All New, All Different Marvel on the silver screen, and so this is my jumping off of the MCU bandwagon. Also, just a pet peeve here, why was Donald Glover given such high billing? The guy was in something like one and a half scenes as a disposable lackey.