Back when I was discussing Kevin Smith I got a little side-tracked and went on a gushing rant about why the Marvel Universe Films are so good. That was a little short-sighted of me, and for that I apologise. Of course I would soon get round to doing a whole piece on one of their films, and that would have been an ideal intro to this article. So, here is that Kevin Smith article again in its entirety…
Ok, no, that would be redundant. And with the infinite possible combination of words in the universe, I’m sure I can come up with something.
Hammock twiddle lunch peak scam horse chimney at the bank squishy isn’t…
Ok, that’s not working either. Although it did get me thinking about that philosophical/mathematical probability theory about an infinite amount of monkeys sitting in front of an infinite amount of typewriters eventually writing the entire works of Shakespeare*. If we do it now that we’ve got autocorrect, we should get done in half the time. Unless Shakespeare ever used the word “fucking”, then it would never be completed. How annoying would that be? To have the whole of his works, almost, but smack bang in the middle of, I don’t know, King Lear there’s a “ducking”.
Man, I really have trouble staying on topic.
Basically much like every hot girl on Tinder who claims to be a geek**, I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They are almost all paying homage to a different genre, instead of sticking to the same tired formula of superhero sequels we had in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
And Spider-Man: Homecoming might be my favourite so far. I’m double checking by bingeing them all including a second visit to the cinema.
To have an adequate storyline and be emotionally involved with the characters, you need to have things going on while the superhero is not being a superhero. Spider-Man delightfully uses the coming-of-age back-drop inspired by the John Hughes and other such High School movies of the 80’s. Which I think is why it does so well. Because a lot of those films didn’t have much plot (don’t get angry, just be objective next time you watch one) but they made you empathise with the characters. You want to be Ferris, but feel a bit more Cameron. And I believe we all relate to at least two of the speeches at the end of The Breakfast Club (1985). I use those two as they have the most explicit references in the film.
It’s a simple tale, one as old as time, as a Pepper Pott’s mum once sang. A nerdy kid fancies the popular girl, and struggles to get close to her because of his other perceived responsibilities. Once you’ve got that locked in, the whole films flows nicely between the two stories eventually melding them together. But that’s it. The total motivation for our main character, and that’s all it needs. Simple but effective. And I say this in complete contradiction to my second favourite, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), which has maybe the most convoluted plot.
It’s not completely without flaws. They’re forgivable ones, which mostly become rectified by the end, but I’m going to mention them anyway, without giving away any spoilers (FYI, the time window on spoiler alarms nowadays is two years. That’s official. If you haven’t seen it in two years, that’s on you).
First though I need to preface this by stating that I understand the difference between annoying character decisions and plot points. Sometimes you need the gang to split up, or someone to run upstairs in a horror movie even if it’s not what a sensible person would do, but because it moves the plot along. That said, both times I’ve seen this film I get really frustrated by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). It’s introduced early on that he’s going to be Peter Parker’s handler, which is understandable. He’s a kid who needs supervision or a go-between for Iron Man who is basically the new Nick Fury. But Happy ignores all his messages, and is dismissive of Parker’s calls even he’s sharing legitimate information. Admittedly, it pushes the story so that Peter has to deal with the situation himself, but Happy just comes across as apathetic, which feels odd because he has seen first-hand how scraps can escalate by being Iron Man’s buddy. It would have taken less than an hour to rewrite his short scenes to explain that he can’t help or is unable to get a message to Tony Stark, rather than have him say he won’t, or is too busy. And while the reconciliation scene is hilariously satisfying, we could have had the same pay off without making Happy so unlikable. It’s the only time in the entire franchise when I’m shouting in my head at one of the good guys “Just do your fucking job”.
Peter Parker: I’m sick of Mr. Stark treating me like a kid.
Ned Leeds: But you are a kid.
Peter Parker: Yeah. A kid who can stop a bus with his bare hands.
Conversely, Adrian Toombes/The Vulture (played superbly by Michael Keaton) as the villain is so likeable that I’m going to have to use that word I’m still not sure I fully understand, and call him the antagonist. One of the biggest downsides of Marvel getting so intricate and playing with norms is that the lines gets blurred between bad guy, and guy with a good point. The coach (Hannibal Burress) at the high-school even makes an excellently funny point about Captain America, because Captain America: Civil War (2016) took it to an extreme by pitching the two main Marvel heroes against each other, but that was basically the same issue as X-Men (2000). Should we start putting people on a register? No, no we shouldn’t. Because that changes your relationship with the government from citizen to subject. So fuck you Tony.
Here though it’s a much more low-key motivation. Should a working class man do what it takes to provide for his family, in defiance of the government? Yes. And not because I’m staunchly anti-government. But as he succinctly points out in his villain monologue, “they don’t care about us”.
This isn’t going to turn in to a rant on the political climate, we get enough of that in literally (true meaning) every medium nowadays. But all he’s doing is selling weapons. Are they advanced weapons? Sure, but they’re weapons in a country that has the highest private gun ownership in the world, just short of one per person.
Is Spidey devoting any of his free time to protesting the sales of legal weapons which kill 100 people a day? No. Although with the exception of one bad guy, we can’t be certain that there have been any other fatalities from using these weapons, most of which have other applications.
Once again, I’m not saying these things as an attack on the gun laws in the US. That is an extremely nuanced issue that is none of my business, and I agree with some arguments from both sides. My point is, that this bad guy isn’t such a bad guy, and not just because he is played by Keaton who has to be up there with Tom Hanks in the list of top ten most beloved actors.
Apart from those two minor gripes, I don’t have a bad word to say about the film. It’s simply lovely. It benefits from the Spider-Man origin story being done to death between Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s outings. Everyone knows how he came to be, so they can just get on with an adventure, unlike every other new superhero Marvel is introduced. They need to do it with Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016) because those Tinder geeks wouldn’t have a clue what they were watching if Bennie Cumby started twisting reality in his first movie without any context.
Adrian Toomes: The rich, the powerful, like Stark, they don’t care about us! The world’s changed boys, time we change too!
The first credits that come up for the film are the writers. There’s five of them, but the one that stands out, for me anyway, is John Francis Daley. The first time I saw his name there I was like “Oh, ok, that makes sense. Good for you” today I saw it and thought “Oh yeah, of course, that’s why it’s so funny. Sorry I keep forgetting about you man”. Some of you might know him from his early work in Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) which spawned such talent as Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Martin Starr (who plays the teacher in this film), so he’s in good comedic company there. I was a little late to the game with F&G, and knew him first in Bones (2007-2014) where he played “Sweets” who was my favourite character until he got killed off in 2014 (see, no Spoiler Alarm, get your act together and watch Bones now it’s over). Even though I was frustrated they killed off that main character, it was so he had time to go off and write and direct Vacation (2015) the extremely under-rated reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), which you should absolutely watch right now and enjoy for the hilarious nonsense that it is. My point is I love JFD, and he’s clearly aligned himself with some other brilliant and funny writers on this project.
If you’re not a huge fan of Superhero movies, like one adopted brother of mine who shall remain nameless, I genuinely think you’d still enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s got a lot of heart, and it’s just really fun. My first viewing was how I prefer to do my cinema trips, 11:30 on a Tuesday morning, third row centre, which for a new big release is usually seat C13. So I’m nearly always either on my own or there will be a small handful of other movie-goers scattered about the theatre. We’re a lonesome, nomadic sort. Mavericks, if you will. Lone renegades, some have said.
But it’s my favourite way to enjoy a film. Big and loud with no distractions, just a big box of overpriced chewy popcorn.
On my second screening today though I had failed to factor in school holidays. Goddamn kids. Or so I thought on the way in. Turns out though that hearing the mixture of kids and parents laughing at often different times was kind of heart-warming, and reminded me that not every film is made just for me. Before you start thinking I’m soft though, there was an 8-year old who kept asking questions and was frequently being hushed by his mother. So I Fight-Clubbed him, took his ID, told him I’d be checking in regularly and if he wasn’t on his way to become a veterinarian in the next six weeks I would execute him. I contemplated just ordering him to brush up on cinema etiquette, but figured while I had his attention, why not make the world a better place for animals as well as myself.
*As I was writing that I’m watching Avengers Assemble (2013-) and Iron Man mentioned Shakespeare in the park. Also, yesterday I was watching Deadpool (2016), and was checking the news, and that stunt lady had just died on the set of Deadpool 2 (2018). So I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I might be like the God of coincidences.
**It’s in the top five most profitable movie franchises ever. Liking one of the most popular things on the planet doesn’t make you a geek. But as “Hollywood Handbook” keeps saying, “Geeks is cool now”. Urgh, hot girls on Tinder are the worst. And I should know, because I’ve been rejected by all of them.