I was finally able to see the latest Spider-Man flick, the lateness a combined result of living in Japan and working in the mountains during the summer. I’ve done my best to avoid reactions to this movie, but since I exist, a few things crept through the ether. Still, I managed to avoid most spoilers. And now, let’s get into the meat.
writer: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
director: Jon Watt
I wish I could give this movie more than a “Yeah, it was all right,” but there you go. What the movie did really well was establishing Peter Parker and his role as Spider-Man while really setting the movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, Michael Keaton makes a fantastic villain, arguably one of the more memorable villains Marvel has given us. That said, while the movie made it’s home in the MCU, I never felt that Peter Parker made his home in the movie. Most of the support characters were flat as was the final action scene. Maybe my hopes were too high since this is Marvel regaining control of one of its flagship characters, or maybe this is why a movie shouldn’t be seen before noon, but where I wanted to be knocked back, I just merely appreciated the attempt.
Spoilers Lurk Below
The hardest part about reviewing this movie is trying to see it in a vacuum. This is the sixth Spider-Man movie (I’ve seen a total of five). Even though this is the first of this franchise, it is hard to view it as something separate from the others, or at least to keep from viewing it in the shadow of its predecessors.
I could go on all day about how Tom Holland did a great job of being the blend of admirable, charming, and nebbish that Peter Parker needs. I can also praise his way of presenting the flow of words as Spider-Man that is both bravado and nerves. Really, for just total package Holland might be the best to date.
And Keaton was great as well. First off, I’m guilty of almost universally loving Keaton no matter what he was in. Especially when it is something that he can chew on, and he does a great job here. And he might be one of the better Marvel villains but, unfortunately, I’m not sure if there is enough for him to really do when compared to the better Spider-Man villains. He isn’t allowed to get as haunting as Dafoe’s Green Goblin or as Molina’s Doc Ock. Again, I liked Keaton’s Toomes, and really dug the reveal of his connections to Peter, but what else did we know of him?
He was a criminal, and on some level it seemed to stem from a need to protect those around him. Maybe? His roots are kind of hinted at but never really explored. He seems to have a great love of his family, but because the private side of his life isn’t explored we are left with a simple desire for money. I’d love to say that loyalty to his men is part of the equation, but then again he vaporizes a man without any real regret. Maybe he was a hired gun? I guess for my tastes there was so much subtext and possibility with very little of it actually managing its way on the screen.
Which kind of also goes for the smaller roles in the film. For such a large cast of characters, most of them are forgettable. Most of them barely get names, let alone anything more than base tropes. I mean, all we really know about Flash is that he doesn’t like Peter, oh, and that he didn’t answer any questions during the contest.
This goes for the three main support characters as well. MJ was interesting, but an intentional cipher. Ned, sure. He was Peter’s friend, but when the rest of the world is so flimsy, it is hard to really relate to the character whose narrative job is to anchor Peter to that world.
As for Liz, this is probably the most disappointing. What do we know about her? Why does Peter like her? Why does she like Peter? Sad to say, she just seems to be the tall, pretty, trophy character. The good news is that the movie establishes she is smart, but it does so more be telling us she is smart rather than showing her being smart.
And none of this is to take away from the cast themselves. They all did fine jobs. But the material just feels basically empty. In a movie about Spider-Man, I feel the movie put more effort into explaining Tony Stark’s supporting characters than Peter Parker’s.
And for what it’s worth, the final fight being decided by the wings exploding felt like a great big deus ex machina. I guess, you could say it was foreshadowed by the exploding crystal, but since Peter never used that info to try and make the wings explode, I’m going with God From the Machine.
Sure, there was some great performances in here, and I’m really glad that Peter Parker was handled well. And if this were the only Spider-Man movie, I might have been thrilled. But, that isn’t the case, and it is hard to get overly excited about a movie that, even if it had a better grasp of the character, ultimately failed to deliver as many memorable scenes as the first two Raimi Spider-Man films. I want to see where this movie goes, but I also hope the next offering will be stronger.