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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (spoiler-free)


There are many things about Spider-Man: Homecoming that are right. The cast is right. The director did fine. The idea of keeping the film grounded in working-class, culturally mixed Queens is smart.

But the movie quickly informs us that this is not a Spider-Man movie… it’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in which Spider-Man is going to be a loser, however charming he is. He will do heroic things… but from beginning to pretty much the end, the joke is on Peter Parker.

I have already encountered the “it’s appropriate to the MCU” and the “well, Tony Stark is the adult and Peter Parker is a kid” arguments. So… okay. Yeah. I hear you.

But what keeps me from signing on is… every other MCU side character movie. Marvel hasn’t done this to any other character in their introduction. And anyone who understands the long history, including but beyond Marvel, of hero movies, must intuitively understand that the journey of the young hero is filled with pratfalls and missteps, but a successful hero must being imbued with some real dignity.

Peter Parker is on such a short leash in this film… and the leash is held mostly by Jon Favreau, not Robert Downey, Jr, whose priorities are – again, intuitively – shown by the three days he worked on this movie.

Starting again… Peter Parker is on such a short leash that he is never really given agency. How many times can you do the “waiting for him to return my text” gag before it stops being a clever side gag and starts to define Peter Parker?

There is a potentially great twist at one point in the film – not going to spoil it – and I was actually excited by the possibilities… really a set up for a great William Goldman-esque turn in the film. And sure enough… all roads lead to the same place in this movie. It’s not about Spider-Man. He is just a spin-off character in the MCU here.

Don’t get me wrong. I still really like Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man. I love the idea of him really being a teen. But there just isn’t any difference between Peter Parker’s impulsive behavior in the first act and the third act… except for more serious music.

I should have know trouble was afoot when my favorite piece of new movie music recently – Mike Giacchino’s symphonic version of the old Spider-Man theme – is played over an expanded Marvel stamp at the front of the film, not in the movie.

And my issues are not just with Peter Parker.

This is the most racially mixed major movie you might ever see. But by the end credits, the three-POC-in-top-10-cast-list standard set by CAA this week is not met… even though there are a lot of well-known actors of color. They are, mostly, wasted. Laura Harrier is good and beautiful and should be considered one of the film’s five leads. Jacob Batalon is Filipino-American and also Top 5. After that… not so much.

Anyone who watched FX should be horrified to see Bokeem Woodbine playing Vulture’s #3 stooge and Donald Glover playing a laconic drug dealer (I think that was the illegal activity he was participating in…. not 100% clear). Complete waste of two great actors playing two-bit criminals.

Tony Revolori plays the high school asshole, Flash. Okay. Choosing to be color-blind or color-ful. Hannibal Buress as the basketball coach? Oy. Wasted… regardless of gender. Martin Starr gets more to do… but not a lot.

I like the idea of an urban color spread that matches the reality of the city. But since race doesn’t really exist in this film (except as a distraction), it feels calculated when it should not.

Zendaya gets some good laughs. But she is definitively a secondary character. And how many times can you make the joke that every man in the neighborhood wants to pull off Aunt May’s granny glasses and get into her high-waisted pants before it becomes gross?

But it’s often entertaining. Tom Holland is very likeable. His sidekick, Batalon, is extremely likable. But Spider-Man’s great power changes in practically every scene. He is a lightweight at the start. He is a lightweight at the end. He is not protecting anyone he loves… except in one section, where he is the one who puts people he cares about in direct danger, not any bad guy.

Spider-Man is not a teen taking great responsibility in the face of great power in this film. He is – and this really is ironic – a super-contractor. He saves, to various degrees, a boat, an elevator and an airplane.

This movie does what you never, ever do with a hero… it makes mock of him, his skills, and (mostly) his intentions. Not once or twice to soften him up and to get him pointed in the right direction… constantly. If you find yourself wondering why there is a car chase with Spider-Man driving, in the middle of a Spider-Man movie… it was so they could get off a good joke about Spider-Man in suburbia a few minutes earlier. That is what this movie is. An overly broad comedy that is not as smart or insightful about being young/growing up as a Lord/Miller or an Apatow film… with a cool suit and a bunch of actors we really, really like.

All the way back in 2002, Spider-Man changed the face of comic book movies forever. First $100m opening. Highest domestic grosser of all-time at the time. And most importantly, the first true CG-driven comic book movie that made the unbelievable feel believable.

Sony, who had something to gain from allowing Spider-Man to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just allowed Marvel to make their superstar into a supporting player.

Even the bit at the end of the credits… no Spider-Man. And it’s a meta-joke, not an advancement of either Spidey’s story or the MCU.

Joking about your franchise usually the first sign of a dying franchise. But more importantly, they gave more agency to the Guardians… to Ant-Man… to Dr. Strange… all of whom got knocked down before they came to their 3rd act heroics.

I don’t know whether this movie will do more business than the $707 million worldwide that Amazing Spider-Man 2 did. It could. Lots of Iron Man and Captain America being sold by Sony right now. And maybe the character will go somewhere interesting in his next movies, Avengers 3 and 4. And then Sony will get to make another Spider-Man movie… and they will hope to do as well as Thor: Ragnarok.

A piece of business.


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34 Responses to “Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (spoiler-free)”

  1. Js partisan says:

    Man, not a fan of MSCU movies… Doesn’t like an MSCU movie. So not shocking. Also, you love Ant-man, but ignore how Scott Lang is treated like a loser, by pretty much every main character not in his gang… Until the end of the movie, and he saves daughter. I mean… Come on.

    And another fucking thing, your myopic thinking, is what’s really annoying about this review. Peter, is a loser. That’s who he is, but over the next six movies, over the next how many years, they are going to build the character into the fucking focal point, of the MSCU. Seriously, you seem to love Spider-Man comics, where he’s the man. Guess what? There are many more, where he’s a messed up kid, trying for to sort shit out, and that’s the Spider-Man the world needs… A kid we watch grow up to lead phase four or phase five.

  2. MarkVH says:

    Sounds like par-for-the-course MCU stuff. Some fun elements, pretty good, kind of enjoyable, but missing greatness because it never really aims for it. Guess that’s about all we should expect from the franchise at this point – until Black Panther, that is (maybe).

  3. Js partisan says:

    Never aims for greatness? Where’s my HULK throwing a bear gif, when I need it.

  4. hcat says:

    “That’s who he is, but over the next six movies, over the next how many years, they are going to build the character”

    Just as you have to review the movie that they made and not the one you wish they did, you can’t review the movie in the context of the imaginary sequels you hope they create. Films are meals not appetizers, if you are not satisfied when the lights come up then it didn’t deliver. You don’t rationalize it with hoping the next seating with be more substantial.

  5. Shawn says:

    What you fail to notice or simply didn’t bother to do the barest amount of research, is that Iron Man being part of this movie was insisted upon by Sony. They already rebooted this character once in the last 15 years to lackluster results. Sony wanted to insure the success of Homecoming and thought that there is no better way to do so than to use the MCU’s cash cow.

  6. EtGuild2 says:

    Interesting review, though not sure what you mean by ” Highest domestic grosser of all-time at the time.” James Cameron held that title between 1998-2016.

  7. jspartisan says:

    Hcat, that’s absolute fucking bullshit, when it comes to a CINEMATIC UNIVERSE! Every film, is just a part, of a greater whole, and it’s obvious Tom Holland is important to the future of the MSCU. If you watch a Marvel Studios movie, and only take what that movie is, and not what it means to the whole. You’re doing a shit job of reviewing, because these movies do not exist in a vacuum. If you only watched the film on one level, when the lights came up. You probably need to watch it again, to see how it fits in the tapestry, that is the MSCU.

    Dave is reviewing part of something, and reviewing it as if these things aren’t happening, for specific reasons. If it’s wrong to point this out, then it’s a whole AtD situation.

  8. Stella's Boy says:

    This review is in line with others I’ve read. Doesn’t seem like an outlier. Maybe it’s just not that great. I don’t understand why that’s so hard to believe. Not every single one is going to be great.

  9. GdB says:

    Funny, every review I’ve read for the film has been enthusiastically ecstatic for the movie.

    I’ll be the first to admit, Spiderman reboots has been my go to example of what’s wrong with the industry even when making big tentpole comic book properties, but these guys seem to have got it right the third time. And tying Spidey into the MCU as Sony wanted/insisted was the right move. I want this film to succeed just so that it encourages other studios to collaborate on individually owned IP’s that are part of a shared universe in another medium. Especially within the MCU and see someone like Fox let Feige and company reboot the Fantastic Four or have an Avengers film with Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy guest starring as Prof. X. If greed can fuel those kinds of collaborations between competing studios and it becomes more of a practice, who knows what kind of potential may be had in the MCU or any other genre.

  10. palmtree says:

    For the record, DP did mention Spidey’s role in the context of a cinematic universe.

    He wrote, “And maybe the character will go somewhere interesting in his next movies, Avengers 3 and 4.”

    But even if he hadn’t written that, so what? You can still review the movie without reviewing the franchise. Otherwise, are we supposed to like bad movies just as long as they belong to some good franchise? BvS isn’t better just because Wonder Woman was good.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    Why is this the right approach to rebooting Spiderman? Because they went young and made it partially an Iron Man movie? Do people want every single superhero movie to be group efforts now? It’s better to have lots of Iron Man in a Spiderman reboot? One of the things I liked about Logan was the absence of other major superheroes. It was refreshing.

  12. EtGuild2 says:

    Agreed Stella. I worry that everything has to be tied in, and that LOGAN was only made because Jackman (and Mangold) had the cachet to do what they wanted for his last outing.

  13. jspartisan says:

    Palm, I’ve read multiple people, who have stated, that Wonder Woman made them think better of BvS. It is a thought, that is out there. Also, Wonder Woman, seems to have done it’s job, and people are probably more excited for the Justice League, than they were before Wonder Woman came out.

    Sure. Dave references it, then totally fucking ignores it for his review. This could just be me, but it’s weird to treat any of these parts of something, on their own merits, when they are parts of this ginormous puzzle.

    Which means, Ethan and Stella, both of you are missing, that Logan on works, if you have some sort of connection to Logan, from the last 17 years of Hugh doing movies. If you don’t, then it’s just a really well made movie, that lacks 17 years worth of gravitas. So yeah… everything needs to be connected on some level.

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    That just isn’t true JS. I haven’t seen the last two X-Men movies or The Wolverine. I still loved Logan, way more than I expected to. It’s not a great comic book movie. It’s a great movie period. I found it very moving. You don’t need to see every single movie Wolverine is in to feel that way because it’s so good.

  15. jspartisan says:

    SB, you have still seen an X-men movie, in the last 17 years. The last two X-men movies and The Wolverine, aren’t necessary for Logan. Having known the character since the year 2000, sort of is. The only thing from the Wolverine in the movie, is the prophecy. Besides that, Logan is a movie that works on it’s own, but really works when you have given a shit about the X-Men films at some point, in the last 17 years.

    We are only 17 years into this shit. That’s nuts.

  16. EtGuild2 says:

    BIG HERO 6 works incredibly well as its own thing. The “everything has implications for 54 other movies…how does this connect to Blue Ivy’s SHE-HULK in 2035?!” makes stuff more boring and limiting for me. Maybe someone will remember there was a little trilogy made by Chris Nolan that was kinda decent and didn’t play by those rules at some point.

    I actually enjoyed LOGAN BECAUSE it discarded the timeline crap and was basically No Country for Old Mutants” as much as anything. The very idea of X-Men movies makes me groan and get a headache at this point.

    DAVID, where is your BABY DRIVER review?!?!?!?

  17. palmtree says:

    Yeah, BvS is better regarded now. But what you’re saying is that the original reviewers of BvS when it first came out should have given the movie some credit for the great WW that was potentially going to come out the next year.

    Wow, man…this is like PRE-retconning. Fascinating.

  18. Bulldog68 says:

    It’s the new new trend in movie criticism, the P-Review. Review the movie, not based on what you saw, but what is to come.

    I disagree. Which is why certain movies are failing, case in o point, the last Spiderman movie. So much shit was flung at you that they forgot to make a good movie in the process. Not to the criticism for The Mummy. And I have a problem with them announcing what was it, five other Fantastic Beasts movies before the first one was even out the gate. Crazy.

  19. Dr Wally Rises says:

    The debate on Logan is interesting. It’s noteworthy that if you look at the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray there are mentions of Jean Grey and Sabretooth on there. I’m sure that Mangold cut them so that the movie wouldn’t feel so tethered to a larger universe but work on its own terms.

  20. Sideshow Bill says:

    Logan is the best movie I’ve seen this year so far. Granted, I haven’t seen a lot this year, but I think it’ll be top 10 no matter what. I’m seeing Baby Driver next week (I have to work all weekend, ugh) and expect great things.

    I kinda see what JS is getting at even if I don’t totally agree with him. Each film should be judged on it’s own merits first and foremost, but with the MCU and DCEU and all this other stuff it’s fair to keep in mind they’re telling a larger story. I hope I like Spider Man and I hope he emerges as the anchor of Phase 4. I hope it all works out. I’ve read a ton of great reviews, and even Dave’s isn’t all bad.

    But having to place each film into a larger puzzle is fun for some of us. For others, not so much as this thread reveals. I get both sides of it. I think I can do both fairly well.

    EDIT: as for more X-men movies I know I want them. I may regret it but I’m an X-Men junkie. I’ve enjoyed all of the movies to some extent (Last Stand and Apocalypse being low on the list). I don’t get the timeline at all. I don’t get why they’ve short-changed characters like Colossus and Jubilee. I don’t get how they fucked up Sabretooth and the Phoenix story. I can do without another Mystique focused movie, too. But I take the films as an alternate universe. Lord knows the comic books are as sprawling as anything, with all the timelines, reboots, etc etc. I may be a fool but I’m looking forward to Dark Phoenix and New Mutants. I HOPE they don’t screw it up. I’m an optimist. That’ll probably be the death of me but I am. I’m a sucker.

  21. hcat says:

    Regarding Fantastic Beasts, I never felt that any of the Potter movies (with the exception of the split one) ever felt incomplete, yet Fantastic Beasts didn’t feel like a whole complete film. Sorcerers Stone was the first in the series but even with the villain living on and obviously sequels to come the film felt like it had come to a conclusion. Even the Lord of the Rings films had what felt like a satisfying endpoint even though they part of a larger story (as opposed the Hobbit whose idea of a cliffhanger is to just inelegantly pause the film for a year).

    You can have these films be part of a larger story without derailing the narrative of the current films (Thor’s vision in Avengers, Lex’s ranting and whatever the hell that flash warning was in BVS). But I guess the hunger for Easter Eggs trumps narrative flow.

  22. Pete B says:

    Gee whiz, so folks are realizing BvS wasn’t such a clusterf*ck after all? Maybe if Warners had released the extended version to start with the word of mouth would have been much better.

  23. EtGuild2 says:

    I preferred BvS to MoS and certainly SS, but that was due in part to Eisenberg’s comedically bad performance and the general weirdness…it wasn’t good but you sure as hell didn’t know what was going to happen next.

    I love X-MEN, grew up on the series and comics, but the name “Simon Kinberg” makes me involuntarily twitch. So I pretty much have no hope. Did you know they announced another SIX Fox Marvel dates for movies today? Insane.

    Of course you can successfully be part of a larger story for sure. I love Guardians, THOR 3 looks like a blast, thought WW was fine…but there doesn’t need to be an ironclad rule. A movie that’s purposely disconnected from anything larger can be great (remember, TDK would have existed alongside George Miller’s Justice League had it not been for the writer’s strike). And if we’re going to have six superhero movies a year (which I’m actually less terrified of given the good quality this year), it’s better to have a couple not be a “very special episode” IMO.

  24. Movieman says:

    What about “The House”?
    After seeing it last night it’s pretty clear why WB didn’t have advance screenings.
    What is up with poor Amy Poehler?
    She headlined the best network sitcom of the new millennium, but her theatrical films have gone from “meh” (“Baby Mama”) to execrable (“Sisters” and the even worse “House”).
    So very sad.
    And this may be the worst film of Will Ferrell’s career. Which, having seen “Kicking and Screaming,” is saying a lot.
    (“Bewitched” and “Land of the Lost” seem like “Elf” or “Talladega Nights” by comparison.)

  25. Sideshow Bill says:

    I’m not a box office numbers whiz but I like the Wed-Thurs numbers for Baby Driver. At the very least Wright could be looking at his best opening ever, which wouldn’t be tough to do mind you. But I was so afraid it was just going to die. Looks like it might do ok, depending on how much Despicable 3 and The House detract from it. Is it bad to want them both to bomb? Rooting for failure isn’t a nice thing to do but, fuck, I’m doing it.

    Of course I’m prejudging because I haven’t seen it yet but I love the guy and his films and am really looking forward to the July 4th matinee my daughter and I have planned.

  26. Geoff says:

    I think at the end of the day whether a film is part of a larger universe or not, you STILL have to judge it on its own as a separate entity – yes with sequels, you’re ALWAYS going to judge them compared to their predecessor but that’s pretty much unavoidable because you likely would NOT be seeing them if you hadn’t gotten some interest from their predecessor.

    I loved Wonder Woman and I think that and Logan represent the best of what you can do within this genre – having seen every X-Men movie except X-Men Origins: Wolverine (just saw snippets), Logan as a film is enhanced by having seen a lot of those previous films but it cuts both ways. I happen to love X-Men: Days of Future Past and that movie ended on such a hopeful, positive note that Logan (even though I thought it was fantastic) kind of puts a sour note on.

    And this is part of what pissed me off about The Force Awakens and why just seeing how die-hard Star Wars fans (of which I used to be) falling all over themselves to declare how amazing a character Rey was….sorry but no, Daisey Ridley did a fine job but Rey was an incomplete character without enough context given to why or how she does the things she does bottom line. And yes, I have heard form a lot of Star Wars fans explain it away by saying, “Well they’re going to explain her roots and why she has the Force in Episodes VIII and IV…” – that just does not cut it sorry and it not only illustrates the limitations of focusing too much on universe-building but also the “mystery box” approach which REALLY manifested itself in that trailer for The Last Jedi.

    John McClain, Ellen Ripley, Luke Skywalker, Bruce Wayne, Chief Brody, Clarice Starling….we love these characters and we enjoy their journeys not ONLY based on their most heroic moments in the third act of the story but the journey to get there – their mistakes, their lessons, their surprises, etc….I think it’s called a “hero’s journey” right? 😉

    And yeah JS, Wonder Woman KIND of makes ONE aspect of Batman V Superman more interesting…it add some interesting context to those Diana Prince scenes but that’s just one small part of the movie.

  27. Sideshow Bill says:

    EtGuild2, the name “Simon Kinberg” doesn’t thrill me either. But again I may be a sucker but I’m hopeful he’ll pull a rabbit from a hat and make a good film. At the very least it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Dazzler. If it’s true that Lawrence and Fassbender are returning that’s worrisome. They have no place in the Dark Phoenix story. It’s Jean’s story, and Cyclops will be very important. Shoehorning Magneto and Mystique in sounds like a huge mistake already, admittedly.

    Yea, I’ll just admit I’m an easy mark and I’m looking forward to it. As for the 6 more Fox Marvel films scheduled I’m stumped, too. Maybe they’re already counting Deadpool 3. Or dare I say yet another Fantastic 4 reboot. Or a new Wolverine??? I don’t know what other Marvel properties Fox owns outside of X-men, Deadpool and F4.

  28. Chris says:

    I’m curious who you’re saying the top ten characters are. I’d certainly argue that Zendaya’s Michelle is one of them (and that CAA’s standard is, thus, met), for what it’s worth.

  29. jspartisan says:

    Geoff, I totally disagree with you about Rey, and about what you said about the Mystery Box. Sure. It’s there in TFA, but once you pick up on how their beats work. Shit becomes real fucking obvious.

    There’s really no Mystery Box in the Last Jedi, because Snoke explains the whole game in TFA. Luke, cannot create new Jedi. If he does, then Snoke is fucked. I’d put money down, that these new Jedis are going to be called BENDU, because that’s all set up in Rebels. Again, they explain all of this shit. If you pay attention to all of it. It’s like Laura Dern’s character, probably being the character, that gave shit to Leia for being Vader’s daughter.

    Now, if you want more from Rey, then you know… she’s awesome. She’s either the fucking force Avatar, or she’s Luke’s kid. Either way, she is strong with the force, so what more do you want? It’s the FORCE! It helps you grab a saber, and take down a Wompa. It helps you fly through Droid ship, and blow it up. I could go on, but it’s not word building. It’s just… the FORCE!

    If you want more explanation… well. virgin birth, Darth Plageuis, and so on.

  30. jspartisan says:

    All of that aside… look at that fucking box office. Pixar struggling, because they don’t want to sell to girls. Transformers, finally being wiped off the face of the earth. WONDER WOMAN IS FUCKING THIRD, AND IS PROBABLY GOING TO MAKE ANOTHER 20M PLUS THIS WEEKEND! OH THE HUMANITY!

  31. Geoff says:

    JS as Han so PLAINLY states in literally the same movie, “That’s NOT how the Force works!” (Come on man, you didn’t see that coming? ;))

    But seriously with regards to Rey, she starts out the movie apparently having been marooned on this planet alone her whole life….and SUDDENLY, she can fly the Millenium Falcon, use the Jedi mind trick, AND take on a Sith lord with a lightsaber?? You don’t see one second of screen-time devoted to her even LEARNING something or being trained or anything….and even with the two most obvious comparisons – Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter – you had a lot of build-up for both of them to get to that point. Either it’s just an incomplete character or yes….JJ’s fucking Mystery Box bullshit which he honed during years of Lost, a show that I loved by the way. Does it REALLY make her more compelling to see in future stories to NOT know her roots? I don’t get that shit at all….and I would think and hope that Rian Johnson would deliver a much more straight-forward narrative than JJ but that Last Jedi teaser trailer….

    WOW, even the trailers for the Prequels at the very least made them look entertaining and exciting and FUN because we were allowed to see characters….I don’t know…..interact and talk to each other and regular person shit like that! 🙂 Or does going even THAT far apparently “spoil” a Star Wars movie at this point??
    This trailer felt more like a homework assignment – it just seems like a middle finger to the audience that they STILL feel the need to even tease Luke’s character at this point.

  32. jspartisan says:

    Geoff, if you go back and watch the TFA trailers, then watch the TLJ trailer. You’ll get the beats they are selling. That trailer, is roughly the beginning of the movie, and it doesn’t even come close to showing how Luke and Rey figure out the BENDU. Again, if you pay attention to the stories, that they are putting out there. It’s easy to see where things are going. No matter how much mystery box they try to use it obfuscate it.

    Now, never ever try to mansplain the force to me. There’s a line, GEOFF! A FUCKING LINE :P! Seriously though, everyone of your complaints, are answered by the FORCE! It does work this way. It worked that way with Anakin, and it worked that way with Luke. Who both blew apart things in ships, that they had never used before.

    Seriously… it works that way, and the entire first part of TLJ… IS REY TRAINING! You are still ignoring, that some people are inherently skilled in things… especially when they are strong in the FORCE! Droid Control ship, Death Star, and I am one with the force, and the force is with me.

  33. David Poland says:

    Chris… basing the 10 on the closing credits for the film, which are a bit different than the opening credits, but also clearly in some contractual order.

    They may make the 3 in 10… but there is a lot of color in this film… most of it in tiny roles.

  34. chris says:

    Solid point. Thanks for clarifying. (Weirdly, on the same issue: I have been watching a lot of “Columbo”s lately, which was probably ahead of its time in using quite a few actors of color, but always as unnamed cops or door-openers, and I’ve been thinking about how far Hollywood has come. And hasn’t come.)

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So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

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