owlmoose: (avengers - assemble)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2017-07-13 12:15 pm
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Doing the things a spider can

I had been up in the air regarding whether I would see Spider-Man: Homecoming on opening weekend. Like many MCU fans, I've been resentful of Marvel's willingness to shoehorn the character into the franchise the second they got the rights back, especially in comparison to their mealy-mouthed excuses for not making a Black Widow film at the height of her popularity. Add in the annoyance at yet another white-dude-centric film and yet another Spider-Man reboot, and I was ready to put this film deep on the back burner. Maybe I'd see it later, like Ant-Man and Guardians; maybe I'd wait for video, like Doctor Strange.

But then. Despite his last-minute inclusion, Spidey was one of the best parts of Civil War. And then advance word came out that they weren't doing an origin story, and that they would follow up on Civil War's promise of Peter Parker as a legitimate awkward teenager. And then the early trailers were super-promising. Finally, the reviews started to come out so positively that T wanted to see it on opening weekend. So in the end I decided I couldn't say no. And you know what? I am really happy I did.

[twitter.com profile] kaytaylorrea put it perfectly in her early reactions: although the world doesn't need more white teenage boy coming of age stories, if we must have another Spider-man reboot, this was the best way to do it. Tom Holland may have just turned 21, but I 100% bought him as a geeky sophomore, torn between wanting to do normal teenager things and his desire to become a full-fledged Avenger, surrounded by other high schoolers trying to figure things out -- especially his best friend, Ned, who is a pure delight, and Zendaya, whose snarky, no-bullshit performance as Michelle made her a favorite character. Tony Stark's extended cameo adds just the right level of connection to the rest of the series without overwhelming the show. Adrian Toombs/Vulture as played by Michael Keaton is easily a top-5 MCU villain: complex, sometimes sympathetic, with realistic motivations, and genuinely threatening without feeling unbeatable. The third act fell apart somewhat, as third acts of superhero films often do, but the beginning grabbed me so, so hard that I can forgive its later flaws.

To talk about why requires some spoilers.

The start of the movie takes us back to a place I never thought I'd see again: the remains of Penn Station right after the battle with the Chitauri. Adrian Toombs is leader of a salvage crew that was given a contract by the city to clear out the wreckage, which includes a whole bunch of alien tech. Just as they're about to get started, Tyne Daly (Tyne Daly!) of a new task force known as Damage Control (Damage Control!) steps in to tell Toombs that his services are no longer needed. Even though he was counting on the money from the contract, even though he's already incurred expenses in the form of renting equipment and hiring people, he is sent on his way with nothing more than a truckload of wreckage that his crew had already loaded up.

I loved a number of things about this set-up. First, that it zoomed in on some of the real-world consequences of superheroes battling aliens in populated areas, packing in more and better commentary about the problematic nature of superheroics in the first five minutes than they managed in all of Civil War. (And makes me sadder than ever that we never got our Damage Control tv series, especially if Tyne Daly was going to be in it.) Second, that it went back to consequences of the events in this particular universe. As the MCU grows ever more complex, sprawling into new characters and storylines, I appreciate every opportunity it takes to draw stronger connections between the different media properties. The moment I realized that the Vulture get-up was repurposed Chitauri tech, I got really, really excited, and I also loved the nods to other sites that Toombs and his crew must have looted, like Sokovia and the Triskelion. Any time I get the sense that there was stuff happening in the background of the story that we never knew about, it's going to make me happy. (I felt the same way about Peter filming his trip to Berlin.)

Lastly, the confrontation with Damage Control set up Toombs's motivations so perfectly. It makes total sense that an ambitious working class man with a family to support would, after losing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, create his own opportunity and go into business making and selling devices made from advanced tech. Are his actions excused? No, of course not. But you understand why, and can even sympathize a little. My favorite villains are the human villains, and in a series that has had trouble in this area, I was glad to see it done well for a change.

I also appreciated watching a genuinely funny superhero movie that did not punch me in the face with gratuitous sexism and abusive relationships (I'm looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man), the comparatively diverse cast, and the hints of what might come in future installments. (Zendaya and Jacob Batalan (Ned) and Donald Glover had better be back, or I'll sit on Marvel's doorstep until they are.) And possibly the best post-credits scene in the history of post-credits scenes.

So: fun time, happy to have seen it. Happy that Marvel made it? I'm not sure I would go that far. But within the universe of choices that Marvel actually made (instead of the big picture choices I wish they'd made instead, I'm glad they went this particular direction.
pete_thomas: (Default)

[personal profile] pete_thomas 2017-07-14 03:37 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't gone to see it myself, but I definitely sympathize with the fact that this is the third Spider Man reboot. I thought we did okay with Andrew Garfield, but I guess the world disagreed. Still, anything, in my opinion, is better than ever remembering the abominations that were Toby and Kirsten, so I'll count my blessings where I can get them.

I do agree that it feels like we're recycling history though. Comics were primarily dominated by straight white males and so our heroes came out that way. The comics world has shifted quite a bit, but the movies have to "catch up" in some ways, and thus we are left with the beginning of what comics used to be.

This is, of course, coming from someone who knows very little about comics.