Reviews: Spider Man Homecoming

Formula Breaker

Superhero movies did not always go with origin stories by default. It wasn't until the the success of Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man that producers figured they'd found the winning formula, deciding to make nearly every Marvel character since then fit an origin story mold. If that movie financially succeeds, it was worth following the formula, even if it gets middling reviews from bored fans and critics. If that movie fails, the producers simply reboot the character with yet another origin story. So its quite a surprise that Marvel have, with Spider-Man: Homecoming, finally come around to the bold idea that it doesn't need to show Peter Parker once again getting bit by a spider, or his uncle gunned down in the street.

That's not the only departure from its precious formula. Marvel have finally listened to the criticism that its villains are lazy, forgettable and generic. Michael Keaton (here playing yet another birdman) brings the right mixture of ham and humanity to a blue collar villain who leads a small, motley gang of exotic arms dealers. The movie makes Tony Stark the real villain for much of the story, playing off of his natural arrogance and self-interest to the point that he spends most of the movie screwing over both the villain and Peter Parker.

As for Peter Parker, he's a refreshing hero. He's this wide eyed, superhero fanboy geek who wants nothing more than to hang out with his heroes - it's probably the closest I'll get to seeking Kamala Khan on the silver screen. He's also totally earnest, and exhibits none of that smart-ass smugness that has become the default superhero trait thanks to Joss Whedon. You actually want to get behind this guy, and feel bad for him when things (regularly) don't go his way.

The main issue with the film is during the action, as fight scenes get a bit too blurry and frenetic to be properly viewed. It's a shame because the villain does have a cool bird costume and they play out some interesting scenarios with it. There is also a bit of the issue with the women - Spiderman has always been rather dated in how it treats its romantic leads as either damsels in distress or ever-complaining downers. Homecoming goes out of its way to make its women look like geniuses, but they are still pretty much just an emotional and physical burden for Parker to deal with, rather than people involved in the story. At least Aunt May is more interesting this time around.

I feel like there is a general upward trend in the last few Marvel movies I've watched. They're learning to step away from a lazy formula, and this new diversity of story telling is as clear as ever in this film. It's absolutely worth a watch.

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