Hey Amy – just a couple of rando thoughts from 35,000 LAX-JFK:
– A rising trend we see with Millennials are the really extreme forms of experiential exercise like Tough Mudder (a sort of filthy triathalon), the Color Run and even things like Hot Power Yoga, veganism etc. Millennials will often post “N.B.D.” on their social media after doing it , as in No Big Deal, also known as the “humble brag”…..wondering if Spidey could get into that in some way….he’s super athletic, bendy, strong, intense….and it’s all NBD to him, of course.
– EDM (electronic dance music) is the defining music for Millennials. Wondering if there’s an EDM angle somewhere with Spidey? His movements are beautiful, would be awesome with a killer DJ behind it
– Snapchat just launched a “story” functionality, which is sort of “day in the life of me” told in a series of snapchats that expire after 24 hours. It has a very VIP quality about it, since invitation only. Getting invited into Spidey’s Snapchat circle would be huge, and very buzzworthy and cool.
Take a look at that quote. Really take a minute to absorb it. Drink it in. Read it aloud, in a serious, serious voice.
Then consider that these are not the insane gibberings of a vagrant possessed by unclean spirits, but an industry professional, emailing the former co-head of Sony with actual ideas for a new Spider-Man movie. Ideas that she, presumably, asked him for. Like, she took a look at this walking buzzword puker and said “Him. He’s the guy we need to give a fresh new take on one of the greatest superheroes of all time.”
This is why Spider-Man needed to come home.
I say “one of the greatest” but you will find plenty of people who know their comic book shit inside out who will tell you that Spider-Man is actually, without qualification, the greatest superhero. Better than Batman, better than Superman and yes, better even than the Original Human Torch.
And no question, Spider-Man is awesome. The design, the simplicity of his powers and concept, a brilliant rogue’s gallery and one of the best supporting casts in comics. Spider-Man is a masterpiece. So why is he so difficult to do right? And I don’t just mean in other media. On any list of the worst or most detested comic book stories, you’ll see Spidey’s name popping up with alarming regularity: One More Day, Sins Past, Reign, Maximum Carnage and of course The Clone Saga, the latter trainwreck made all the worse by the fact that it lasted two monkey juggling years. I don’t mean to imply that there are no good Spider-Man stories. Because friend, there are some absolutely FANTASTIC Spider-Man stories, pretty much everything from 1963 to 1975 are some of the best superhero yarns from that era you could hope to read.
The problems started after, and I think it was a case of Spider-Man being a victim of his own success. Because Spider-Man has always been a huge seller and the face of Marvel comics, he’s historically been subjected to much heavier editorial control than a more obscure character might be. That, for example, is the reason why the Clone Saga dragged on until everyone involved had given up hoping for any resolution other than the sweet release of death. It also led to superstar writers and artists being put on the book because they were the new hotness rather than because they were suited to the character or had an interesting slant.
There have been plenty of good Spider-Man runs even after the characters Silver Age heyday (Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man is an all-time classic) but the fact remains: the win/loss ratio for stories featuring this character is far heavier on the right side than it should be for such a perfectly conceived concept. And that extends to the movies.
There are good Spider-Man movies, but there really should be more.
The first two Sam Raimi films are wonderfully faithful to the tone of the comics but they’re also kinda corny and are hamstrung by the fact that Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are just terrible.
Spider-Man 3 I absolutely despise but then Ms Mouse and I had just broken up when it came out so that probably coloured my perceptions of it. It’s probably just me who feels that the movie is like a gaping chest wound that bleeds sadness.
All I’ll say about that one is…so you have to come up with a way for Spider-Man to come into contact with the alien Venom symbiote. Below are two options. One of these was used in a $250 million Hollywood movie, the other from a cheap Saturday morning cartoon. Try and guess which is which.
- The symbiote is recovered from an asteroid during a NASA mission. On re-entry, the symbiote gets loose and forces the astronauts to attempt an emergency crashlanding in New York. Spider-Man swings into action and, in a thrilling rescue, saves the astronauts from the wreckage and is exposed to the symbiote, which kicks of the Venom Saga.
- The symbiote just drops out of the sky and lands in the park where Spider-Man happens to be chilling with his girlfriend.
2 is lame. 2 is stupid. 2 is stunningly lazy writing. They went with 2.
Then we got the two Andrew Garfield movies which I watched just for this review. I did that for you.
The first one is the most bleakly mercenary superhero film since Roger Corman threw together Fantastic Four to hold onto the rights because, oh hey, Sony needed to hold onto the rights. And the second is just…baffling. Like, let’s take the dour naturalism of the first one and marry it with a remake of Batman Forever. That’ll work.
Having driven not one, but two iterations of Spider-Man into the ground, Sony finally caved and agreed to a joint custody deal with Marvel whereby Marvel would bring Spidey into the MCU but Sony could still see him on weekends as long as there was a social worker present. Tom Holland was introduced as the new Web Head in Civil War to rapturous applause and production began on this new Spider-Man’s first solo movie. How did it turn out? Let’s take a look.
Actually, while the Marvel Studios intro is languidly unspooling like a neon coloured python on a cold morning, let’s talk about superheroes and music. There are some pieces of music that are just inextricably linked to certain superheroes. There will never be anything to top John Williams’ Superman theme. Batman, for me at least, will forever brood behind gargoyles to the strains of Danny Elfman (that said, I frickin’ love the Han Zimmer stuff too). So isn’t it odd that Spider-Man, the biggest Marvel hero of all time, has never really had an epic, iconic score of his own? Elfman’s score for the Raimi movies was far too “Batmanny”, the score for the Marc Webb movies was…I have no idea, I literally cannot recall a single note. So this is where we are. Half a century of Spider-Man and the closest thing he has to iconic theme music is still…
Which is probably why Michael Giacchino just threw his hands up and gave us a big orchestral version of that which I gotta say, I absolutely adore.
So the movie begins in the aftermath of the Battle of New York where Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is leading a clean up crew to clear New York’s streets of all the crashed alien spaceships, dead Chitauri and Hulk poop.
Toomes is showing one of his crew, Mason, a picture that his daughter drew of the Avengers saving New York and muses that in his day, kids drew pictures of cowboys and Indians and Mason quietly corrects him that it’s now “Native Americans”. Now, I love Keaton in this and I love this version of the Vulture because it’s an example of updating a character in a way that makes him more relevant to modern audiences while still keeping true to the spirit of the original. So, the original Vulture’s deal is that he’s old. Really, really old. Like, Mr Burns with superpowers. He was a very early attempt at giving Spider-Man an arch nemesis before Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin took that position and you can see the reasoning. Spider-Man is the first teenage superhero who’s not part of a team or playing second fiddle to an older hero, he represents youth and vitality and acme and sticky bed-sheets. So you put him against someone who represents age, decay, decrepitude and also sticky-but-for-a-different-reason bedsheets. Toomes in the movie is also “old”, but in a different way. He’s still in good shape, and is not nearly as frail as his comic book counterpart. But he’s old in the sense of being out of his time. He’s a blue-collar white dude with little formal education and the world is changing faster than he can adapt to it. He’s a perfect contrast to the young, nerdy, tech-savvy Peter Parker. But I also like that, while there is maybe a touch of #MAGA resentment about Toomes, there’s a lot more to the character than that. He’s a layered, and often surprisingly sympathetic dude.
Anyway, the clean up is interrupted by Anne-Marie Hoag, a minor Marvel character who I can best describe as “White Amanda Waller” who tells them to pack up and go home because the US government is taking possession of all the alien wreckage in partnership with the Stark foundation. Toomes is furious because he signed a contract with the city of New York and spent a load of money on new trucks and crew but Hoag is all “Tough shit, good sirrah”.
Fuming back at his warehouse, Toomes learns that he still has a truck full of alien materials stashed in the corner and decides that the logical thing to do would be to create a flying bird costume and steal stuff from Tony Stark (hey, it’s what I’d do.).
What the fickety fruck?!
Oh I get it. This is punishment for all my pissing and moaning about the Doctor Strange continuity error, isn’t it Marvel? So you just decided to completely blow up your own continuity out of spite. Real mature.
Rassin frassin’ smart-mouthed media conglomerates. Yeah, so this is just bizarre. This is not a logical inconsistency in the dialogue, this is just basic…math. If Avengers took place in 2012 then that means Civil War and Homecoming take place in 2020, after Infinity War when Thanos has finally gotten off his chair. And if Civil War and Homecoming take place in 2017 then that means Avengers takes place in 2009 which would be before Iron Man 2 which has been canonically stated to have taken place in 2010 and oh bugger here come the seizures…
Look, I’m not going to get into this any deeper. There are rationalisations and explanations and rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. All I’ll say is that Marvel had a really nice timeline once.
Okay, so now we see the events of the battle in Civil War from Peter’s perspective as he vlogs his journey to Germany, his battle with Captain America and getting his new fancy Spider-Man suit. After the fight he’s dropped off in Queens and Tony tells him he’ll be in touch. The months go by with Peter taking care of small potatoes crime in Queens using the spiffy new spider-suit that Tony created for him and leaving text messages which Tony ignores like a literary agent. Ehhh…okay, so here’s the thing.
As a way of bringing Spider-Man into the MCU this makes perfect sense. It works, its logical, its fine. But I can’t help feeling that this kinda undercuts the whole point of Spider-Man. Consider his origin story. Peter Parker is a sheltered, bullied kid who’s suddenly gifted with incredible power. At first, he uses his power for his own enrichment and selfish desires. Then the man who is technically his uncle but really his father is killed due to Peter’s selfishness, and Peter realises that with great power comes great yadda yadda you know the drill. My point is, Spider-Man is the story of a boy who has to become a man. Stan Lee conceived him as the antithesis of characters like Robin or Bucky. He has to build his own gadgets, buy his own costume, raise his own funds. If he gets in trouble, there is no Batman or Captain America who’s going to rescue him. He’s no one’s sidekick. He’s on his own. With great power comes great yadda yadda the drill is known to you. Whereas here…he’s kinda Tony Stark’s sidekick.
One update that really does work, however, is Peter’s school. One of the things I didn’t like about the Andrew Garfield movies (#6,249 if memory serves) was how ridiculously dated its portrayal of American high school life was with its skateboarding slackers and musclebound jocks walking around yelling “who wants some” like Conan the Frickin’ Barbarian. Homecoming understands that jocks aren’t at the top of the food chain any more, and the kind of physical bullying Peter experienced in the comics just wouldn’t fly so here Flash Thompson is reimagined as a nerd, but just a really obnoxious nerd who lords his intelligence over everyone else and especially Peter.
Harry Osborn is nowhere to be seen in this version, instead Peter’s best friend is a kid called Ned who’s just gotten a Star Wars Lego set and wants Peter to come over so they can engage in some cross-marketing promotional synergy (it’s what all the kids are into these days). But Peter tells him he can’t because he’s got Stark Internship Business and has to be available at all times just in case Tony needs him to get some coffee or put his fingerprints on the steering wheel of a totalled Ferrari. In fact, Peter’s extra curricular vigilantism is putting a real damper on his school activities. To wit; he’s dropped out of marching band and robotics club and is considering dropping out of Academic Decathalon…
Yeah, yeah. I know all those things are really cool now. I grew up in the eighties, I’m too old to change. Anyway, yeah, he’s dropping out of decathlon despite the fact that they’re going to Washington for regionals and he has a huge crush on Liz the captain, played by Sally Livingstone. Another team member is Michelle (Zendaya), who has a kind of “I’m totally going to snap and shoot this place up some day” vibe going and also seems to be hovering just in the periphery whenever Peter’s around.
Anyway, Peter finishes school and goes on patrol as Spider-man. This is an awesome scene and I’ll tell you why. It’s just Spidey helping out ordinary New Yorkers, goofing around, standing in front of the American flag…
It’s a great way of establishing who this Spider-man is and, more importantly, who he isn’t. Remember that in the Andrew Garfield movie, the first reveal of Peter’s powers is on a subway, beating up ordinary New Yorkers. I mean yeah, it was in self defense but jeez, that’s right up there with giving Batman a gun or having Captain Planet join the board of Exxon Mobil in terms of getting the character wrong.
Anyway Spidey comes across some crims wearing Avengers masks and wielding seriously high tech gadgets.
He stops the robbers but they accidentally destroy a sandwich hut across the road with their lazer doohickey, almost killing the owner. Spidey calls Happy Hogan to fill him in but Happy refuses to listen because a) he’s busy moving the last of the Avengers stuff to their new facility upstate 2) he is still a massive, massive tool.
Despondent, Peter returns home and changes out of his Spider-man costume while being watched by Ned, who was waiting for him in his room to build the Lego Death Star. Peter admits to Ned that he’s actually Spider-Man and Ned’s overjoyed. Then, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) walks in and sees Ned in Peter’s bedroom with a half-naked Peter and she doesn’t even mention it (good on you, May).
The next day, the class are in gym watching a motivational video recorded by Captain America. Once they finish, the coach (Hannibal Buress) notes that “I think this dude’s a war criminal now, but whatever”. Then again, he’s played by Hannibal Buress and telling the uncomfortable truth about beloved American icons is kinda his bag.
When they overhear Liz talking about her crush on Spider-Man, Ned blurts out that Peter knows him. This gets Peter an invite to Liz’s party when he promises that he can get Spider-Man to swing past for selfies.
Of course, what with Spidey being the whipping boy of the fates, he sees an explosion in the distance and goes to check it out. He finds two of Toomes men, Jackson and Herman, showing off some hardware to a low-level hood named Aaron Davis played by Donald Glover. I’ve…never actually seen Community so if you were hoping for a joke here, sorry, I got nothin’. But! I have trivia!
So a few years ago Donald Glover had a half-serious campaign to get an audition as the next Spider-Man which kicked off the usual furore of “Spider-Man can’t be black who says argle fargle bargle boo” and can we just agree that this whole internet thing was a bad idea? Anyway, this indirectly led to the creation of Miles Morales in the comics, a young African-American/Hispanic boy who becomes the new Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe after Peter Parker dies. What makes this really cool is that in the comics, Aaron Davis is Miles’ uncle, who is here being played by Donald Glover, who is kind of Miles Morales’ uncle in real life. Anyway, Ned calls Peter which alerts Jackson and Herman, and they tear off through the neighbourhood with Spidey in hot pursuit. Realising that they can’t lose him on their own, the hoods call in the big guns, and Toomes swoops in in his vulture suit and drops Spidey in the lake where he almost drowns but is rescued in the nick of time by Tony…’s autonomously controlled suit because Tony is at a party in India. Tony tells Peter that he’s in over his head and to back off the weapons dealers. But Spidey is just about through taking Tony’s orders and besides, he managed to plant a tracking device on Herman which means he knows that the crew’s base is in Maryland. He also recovers a power unit from one of the weapons and gives it to Ned for safe keeping.
Since the Decathalon is just down the road in DC, Peter re-joins the Decathalon team and takes the bus to Washington along with Ned who is…apparently also on the team now. ‘Kay.
In their hotel room, Ned and Peter discover that there is a whole slew of extra features built into the Spidey suit and he hacks into the OS to disable them. This activates “Karen”, one of those sentient female AIs with a sexy voice that Tony Stark loves so much and no, no, no. Sorry. No. This is wrong. This is not Spider-Man. Spider-Man does not get cool high-tech toys and his own virtual girlfriend who laughs at his jokes. Spider-Man isn’t about wish fulfilment. Spider-Man is about MISERY. This also leads to my least favourite part of the movie where Spider-Man tracks down the Vulture’s gang to their base and Karen asks him if he wants to engage “lethal combat” mode.
So…Tony’s Stark’s evil. Guys, it’s time to just say it. Not, “evil-tinged” or “evilly-charged”. Actually evil. He is an evil man. He designed a suit for a fifteen year old kid designed to turn him into a killing machine. There’s no sugar coating this. Dude’s a bad’un.
Spidey tries to stop Toomes from jacking a truck full of Chitauri crap and ends up getting trapped in the truck and stored away in a secret government facility like a common ark.
Karen analyses one of the Chitauri power capsules and tells Peter that they go BOOM like wow and he realises that Ned is carrying an explosive around with him which is the kind of thing that gets you barred from future school trips so he busts out of the Damage Control base and heads towards Washington as fast as he can.
In Washington, the decathlon Team have won without Peter and are celebrating by taking a tour of the Washington monument (all except Michelle who doesn’t want to celebrate something that
sorta probably definitely was built by slaves). As the kids go up the monument the Chitauri core explodes which does huge damage to the stone and metal monument but absolutely no damage to the kids standing right beside it.
Anyway, Peter is able to climb up the Washington monument with the help of Karen and a cute little flying robot spider that was installed in his suit the whole time NO.
NO NO NO.
THAT IS CONTRARY TO THE ESSENCE OF SPIDER-MAN. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING MARVEL? NO MENTORS. NO COMPUTER GIRLFRIENDS AND DEFINITELY NO CUTE LITTLE ROBOT SIDEKICKS.
Anyway, Peter succeeds in saving everybody from a disaster that was largely of his own making (and they think this kid isn’t ready for the Avengers).
Back in New York, Peter is feeling pretty good about himself for saving everybody from that dastardly Spider-Man. He gets detention for blowing off the Decathalon and then blows off detention and is clearly on the start of a long downward spiral of blowing stuff off. But first, he gets Karen to track down Aaron Davis which she can do because Tony made sure the suit records literally everything Peter sees and does and he never told him about this and guys, no, for real, we need to have a serious talk about Tony.
Spidey confronts Davis and tries to do a Christian Bale Batman routine which just doesn’t work because he’s frickin’ Spider-Man and Davis just feels sorry for him and tells him what he wants to know. It turns out that Toomes is doing a deal with a crazy gangster called Gargan (Michael Mando) on the Staten Island ferry. Peter goes to the ferry and tries to disrupt the deal but ends up wrecking a sting operation that the FBI had set up for Gargan and Toomes. Things go south and one of Toomes’ weapons goes off, slicing the ferry in half but not killing anyone because the Chitauri, apparently, were really big on conquering other planets but didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
Spider-Man tries spider-manfully to stop the ferry from coming apart but he’s only saved in the nick of time by Iron Man. Tony is furious at Spidey for going after the weapons dealers, telling him that he did listen to him and that’s why the FBI were there in the first place. Peter says “I just wanted to be like you.” and Tony replies “And I wanted you to be better.”
Tony takes back his lethally armed Spider-Suit to give to a more responsible minor and drops off Peter at his home crying and half-dressed (MAY GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS YOU REALLY SHOULD BE NOTICING THIS SHIT). Peter gives up being Spider-Man (oh sure, that’ll take) and instead starts living like a normal teenager. He even asks Liz out to Homecoming and is amazed when she says “yes” (and these two are frickin’ adorbs).
So everything’s coming up Milhouse for ol’ Peter until he shows up at Liz’s house the night of the dance and finally meets her father.
Great twist. There’s clues up until now, but nothing too blatant and, like I said, because you’re kind of expecting Toomes to be this bitter #MAGA-head it’s a surprise to see he’s actually the devoted Dad of a multi-racial family. Toomes actually seems to like Peter too, which I always think is a fascinating dynamic in any hero/villain relationship. It’s actually one of the reasons I’d rank Norman Osborn as one of the all time great supervillains, because while the Green Goblin persona hates Spider-Man’s guts, the Norman Osborn persona respects and admires Peter, almost to the point of loving him as a son. Sorry, getting off track.
Toomes drives Peter and Liz to the dance and, within around five minutes of listening to Liz talk about the trip to Washington and Peter being a Stark intern, Toomes has figured out that Peter’s Spider-Man. They arrive at the school and Toomes tells Liz to go in while he has a little chat with Peter.
This right here is my favourite scene in the whole movie, and not just because “The Dad Speech as Supervillain Monologue” is just such a killer idea. Keaton is crushing it in this scene. He’s so damn scary. The tension in this scene is razor sharp. But again, it’s clear that while he’s a villain, he’s not only a villain. He has a genuine code of honour. Toomes tells Peter that he can never repay him for saving the life of his daughter, so they’re square. For now. But if Peter ever messes with his business again, he’s a dead bug. He then tells Peter to go and show his daughter a good time “but not too good”, and Peter, shaken, mumbles “thank you” and stumbles out of the car.
He wanders into the school and is greeted by his friends, including Michelle.
Peter and Liz start dancing and he tells her that he can’t be with her and runs out of the school. Outside, he’s ambushed by Herman whose wielding a special shock glove and is now going by “Shocker”. And was just hanging around a highschool. At night. For no reason.
Ned arrives with Peter’s old mask and webshooters and they take out the Shocker together. Then, Ned helps Peter track his phone which he cunningly left in Toomes’ car. Spidey confronts Toomes who gives him the ol’ “We’re not so different” spiel, pointing out that Tony Stark is a far bigger arms dealer than Toomes ever was and is an awful human being, and, and yeah that’s all totally true. But before Peter can come to terms with the fact that he is the boy-child plaything of history’s greatest monster, Toomes reveals he was just stalling and collapses the whole building down on Peter. Of course, if there’s one thing everyone associates with Spider-Man its constant misery, impractical masks, selling his marriage to the Devil, radioactive jizz lifting big piles of rubble while realising the strength was in himself the whole time.
He chases after Gargan who’s about to pull off the biggest heist of his career, robbing the Stark plane that’s transporting all the Avengers collectible merch to the facility in upstate New York. In mid-air.
Their battle causes the plane to crash in Coney Island and Peter drags Toomes’ bloodied carcass out of the wreckage, saving his life.
The next day Tony invites Peter up to the Avengers facility to thank him in person and offer him a place on the Avengers and to offer him a new, better suit that is just hideous.
But Peter turns down the offer, no doubt finally realising that Tony Stark will be the death of him if he lets him. Tony’s impressed, but this leaves him with the problem of what to do about the massive press conference he just called to announce the Avengers newest member. Pepper comes out and asks what’s going on and it turns out that she and Tony are back together (oh girl, no, no) and Tony suggests that they announce their engagement and Happy takes out the engagement ring he’s been carrying around for eight years and oh God, the movie’s trying to humanise Happy Hogan. Gross
So that’s our movie. Peter gets his original high-tech Spidey suit back as a gift and he rejoins the Decathalon team which is now captained by Michelle since Liz’s family are moving to Oregon in light of the revelation that her father is an avian themed supervillain (oh, the neighbours will talk so). And Michelle tells them that her friends call her “MJ”.
It’s an airy little bit of fluff, this. It’s a fun and pleasant superhero yarn that’s not going to change anyone’s life. But as a way of bringing Spidey into the MCU, it does the job. N.B.D.
Okay, the good parts first. It’s not another goddamned origin story, Holland is the best movie Spidey to date, and the movie does a great job of updating Spider-Man for a high-school setting in the 21st century. That said, I can’t help feeling that tying Peter so closely to Tony Stark kind of violates a big part of what makes Spider-Man special.
Our Heroic Hero: 21/25
Andrew Garfield’s Peter was a douche and Maguire’s was just…special, but Holland’s a really endearing Parker, believably dorky and good-hearted. His dancing background also makes a huge difference, as his Spidey moves with real grace.
Our Nefarious Villain: 23/25
Keaton takes one of the less interesting mooks in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery and gives us the best Non-Loki/Kingpin villain in the whole MCU. Toomes is a surprisingly layered character, brutal and genuinely scary but with an honorable side that’s fascinating to watch.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 19/25
Virtually all of Spider-Man’s supporting cast make an appearance but re-imagined in new and interesting ways. That said, just get JK Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson already Marvel, and stop wasting our time.
In prison, Toomes is approached by Gargan who says he’s heard that Toomes knows who Spider-Man is and wants to know if he’d share that information? Toomes just says “If I knew who he was, he’d already be dead” and walks off.
And the audience went:
I’m a sucker for villains with an honorable side, so I love this scene.
Captain America appears and basically mocks us to our face for waiting through all those credits.
And the audience went:
You crazy movie, I don’t know whether to kiss you or kill you.
Infinity Gem Count: 5
Zip. Or should that be “Thwip”?
Wait a minute, was that Stan Lee?!
That was Stan Lee, yelling at Spider-Man when he tries to stop a carjacker who it turns out owned the car he was jacking.
Hey, what’s Thanos doing?
FINAL SCORE: 81%
NEXT UPDATE: 01 February 2018
NEXT TIME: This is why I shouldn’t take requests from my brothers.
*I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the techno intro for the 1994 animated series because that track was the shit, yo.