As I’ve made it abundantly clear before, I’m a big fan of -and have even worked in- comic books. I love many, many characters and can point out many stories, writers, and artists who have to this day inspired me with their works.
Among my favorite runs of comic books is the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko take on Spider-Man, which started in the famous Amazing Fantasy #15…
Steve Ditko would go on to co-plot and do the art for 38 issues of Spider-Man plus two Annuals, a very long run on the character, before parting ways with Marvel. Sadly, from all accounts his departure was acrimonious, not unlike the departure a little later of Jack Kirby. Spider-Man, the comic book, would do quite well after Mr. Ditko left. John Romita would take over the art on the book and many people consider his run even better than the one Ditko produced. I don’t share that opinion though I would quickly add that John Romita did some excellent work, though I still like the Ditko stuff better.
Spider-Man is easily Marvel’s biggest, best known character, on the par with legends such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (all DC characters who have existed for many years before the web-head’s first appearance) and thus it makes sense he’d show up -multiple times!- on the big screen.
Like many others, when comic book movies first began appearing with greater frequency, I was curious to see a live action Spider-Man film. In 2002 audiences finally got a taste of a big-budgeted (as opposed to the cheesy -sorry, they were!- TV version) Spider-Man, via director Sam (Evil Dead) Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. They would go on to make three Spider-Man films, the second of which many consider one of the best super-hero films ever created before flaming out with Spider-Man 3, which many (including me) consider a misfire.
Only five years after the release of Spider-Man 3 and in 2012 a new, rebooted version of Spider-Man, named The Amazing Spider-Man and featuring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, was released to much acclaim.
And I really, really didn’t care.
As I said above, I’m a fan of comic books and I’m always on the lookout for a new (hopefully good) superhero film, but for whatever reason, after three Spider-Man films by Raimi, I felt I’d seen enough of the good ol’ web head on the big screen.
As the saying goes: “I’m good.”
I have yet to see The Amazing Spider-Man or its 2014 sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which featured the same leads. That later film didn’t connect well with audiences and Sony Pictures, the producers of the films, decided that run was done.
After negotiations with Marvel/Disney, a deal was reached where the Spider-Man movie property, which Sony had the rights to, would be allowed to appear in the very popular Marvel films. Thus the “new” (now third) iteration of Spider-Man, this time played by actor Tom Holland and with Marisa Tomei playing the role of Aunt May, showed up briefly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and, last year, Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first feature film with Mr. Holland in the lead, appeared to much acclaim.
And I still didn’t really care.
Understand, I’m not trying to sound like some kind of grouch here. As I said, I really like the Spider-Man character. But unlike many other superheroes out there, for whatever reason seeing him on the big-screen no longer appeals to me.
Yesterday, however, the movie premiered on the Starz channel. It was the purest of luck that I happened to be watching TV a few minutes before it came on (Starz was showing the Michael Mann directed movie version of Miami Vice, a movie I really didn’t like when I originally saw it in theaters but, now catching it again, I’m finding more fascinating… though still flawed).
Anyway, so I see that Spider-Man: Homecoming is coming on next and I say: “Why not?”
The movie starts and we get an intro to Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, damn good in the role) who I knew would be the movie’s villain The Vulture. Here’s how the character looked in his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #2, with art by the amazing Steve Ditko:
It’s sorta/kinda interesting but I’m not totally there. Then the movie shifts to a few years later and we get a brief rundown, from Peter Parker’s point of view, of what happened in Captain America: Civil War.
Ok stuff, but I’m still not feeling it.
We then move to post Civil War and awkward high school Peter Parker and… I dunno. I’m still not feeling it.
After some twenty/thirty minutes of watching, I’m seriously thinking of turning the whole thing off and giving up.
And then, the movie finally starts to click. The story of Parker/Spider-Man and the Vulture slowly begins to come together and all the elements begin to work and I’m having myself a pretty good time.
It’s not the best superhero stuff I’ve ever seen and though the opening act nearly ruined it for me, I’ll be damned if I didn’t find the second and final act of the film worth checking out.
Thus, I recommend the film.
However, and this is one really, really BIG “but”… do yourself a favor and don’t think too hard about what you’ve seen because the story flaws are plenty and can be very bothersome.
For example: What’s with Tony Stark? Not to put too fine a point on it, but how is what Spider-Man did which got Stark mad at him halfway through the film different from the destruction and near death he caused at the movie’s end, which earned him kudos? Granted in one case Tony had to clean up a mess that Spidey made but it would seem the person in the wrong in both cases IS Tony for ignoring Spidey and/or not communicating well with him as to what he was doing and what was going on.
In other words: Tony Stark sure was written as a big jerk here.
Further, the surprise reveal of who Toomes was, while suspenseful in the movie proper, seems awfully –too– convenient story-wise, as does the way he discovers -too conveniently, again- who Parker is.
Also, how exactly did Toomes’ henchman arrive so quickly at the Homecoming party? Is he always hanging out with Toomes?
Also, what happened to Peter Parker’s “Spider-sense”? In the books it allows him to sense danger around him yet is completely absent in this movie (it is presented in the trailer to the new Avengers film, by the way), which allows not one but two people to surprise him while he’s in costume.
At this rate, he won’t have to do a news conference like Tony Stark to announce who he is… everyone will know.
Finally: I liked most of the “blue” jokes, but there’s this one bit where a group of high school girls are engaged in the game of “fuck, marry, or kill” with the various Avengers aaaaaaannnnnddd…
I know, I know, girls that age no doubt say and do far worse but we’re talking about a movie where Peter Parker (and thus, I imagine the girls in this film which are going to school with him) are like 14-15 years or so old and maybe that joke should have been left out.
Yeah yeah, get off my fucking lawn already.
Anyway, I don’t think these story problems are as big as, say, those present in Star Trek: Into Darkness, a film I also enjoyed when I watched it but almost immediately afterwards realized the story quite literally fell apart and have since grown to dislike the damn film.
Again, I don’t think I’ll grow to “hate” Spider-Man: Homecoming like I did that film yet I’d be lying if I said it is anything more than a cute, fun time-killer. At the very least, it is far better than the other Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creation made for the big screen, Doctor Strange.
As for it making me want to see more of this version of Spider-Man on the big screen? Well, maybe it has made me a little curious, and that’s saying a lot.