Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review

The MCU continues unrelenting, with it, Marvel open their arms and welcome into the fold a name that faces few equals: Spider-Man. Despite two solid showing as Andrew Garfield’s Amazing variant, Sony decided if you can’t beat them, sell back some rights and take a cut of the profits.

For Marvel’s part, they decided the best way to keep those profits high was to not deviate from what has worked before. This doesn’t mean a rehash of former Spider-Man movies. Oh no, not at all. It means shoehorning Peter Parker into the MCU by stripping away his uniqueness.

This is where two opinions on this latest film will tail off from one another.

If you love all things MCU, then you won’t mind this alternative direction for Spidey. If you hold Spider-Man dear to your heart, brace yourself for an onscreen character assassination.

This isn’t the Spider-Man many grew up with. There’s no driving motive behind his foray into fighting crime. He isn’t burdened by loss in the family. He isn’t crooning over Mary Jane (she’s here, hiding in plain sight, but for now, he half-fancies a girl called Liz). There’s no such thing as a Spidey Sense and his best mate isn’t going to become the Green Goblin.

So, what do we have instead?

A boy that was bitten by a spider (he briefly tells his buddy this, no origin drama to deal with) who can walk on walls and ceilings. That’s it. The Spider-Man suit is actually a Tony Stark design, complete with visual/audio guidance.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has turned Spider-Man into Iron Man Jr.

Such is the simplicity – and deceit of the true nature of the character – the plot and film remains decidedly average. Generic set plays on peril, and a villain – played by the excellent but left with little to explore, Michael Keaton – whose integrity and overall threat is undermined by Iron Man existing in this world.

There is hope Keaton can reprise his role as Vulture in later films, and the way he was a property salvager working on the post-Avengers New York debris, able to come across alien tech but put out of business by Stark and the authorities, is the sort of loose tie-in the film benefits from.

However, the overbearing MCU connections even kill this element.

There are good interactions between Jacob Batalon’s turn as a Ned and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. The identity of Spider-Man is accidently revealed to Parker’s geeky best pal, adding a fresh element but this should be the unseen cement in the movie, not a standout plus.

This could be the moment Marvel jumps the shark on the big screen. From the Captain America school videos during classes to the Stark created Spider-Man. It’s too cheesy, too much comic book for the screen. And not the best sort of comic book. It’s the dated, outmoded variant most haven’t lifted from a shelf in years.

Marvel are either on a collision course with creativity or cleverly tapping into a dumbed down audience. Either way, it makes for a very average Homecoming for the character that should be the jewel in Marvel’s crown.

5/10

(P.S. Don’t stay to the final end credits scene, it’s a lame joke and offers no insight or progression to future MCU stories.)

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Review

It’s time for another addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, thankfully, we get served a film that still feels fresh when the monotony of the rest of the market pounds relentlessly forward. This is highlighted from the start, with – probably – the best opening credits sequence ever seen in any film. Ever.

The Guardians are well established now, and fighting a massive pink beast fishy thing. But that’s all going on in the background while Baby Groot is dancing away to ELO. It’s immediate relief that the humour from the first film remains, it’s just the scope that is getting upscaled.

The main cast all return, even Vin Diesel to “voice” Groot. This time they actually feel like a better fit. We see them on the run after Rocket (the Racoon Bradley Cooper) steals from the Sovereign race moments after receiving applaud for completing a mission.

These folks feel at first, like a novelty cameo before the real story starts. Just a planet of gold skinned and haired, genetically engineered perfectionists. As it happens, they are involved throughout as they seek to avenge the stolen batteries and make an example of the Guardians.

As with all films of this nature, we have subplots on the go. Rocket’s is how he pushes people away when he feels them getting too close. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have the “unspoken thing” going on. Best described by Quill (Star-Lord) as Sam and Diane in Cheers. Gamora reminds Peter, she doesn’t know what Cheers is.

Gamora also has sisterly love going on with Nebula (Karen Gillan, not ginger, now shaved and blue). She was the prize from the Sovereign race and prisoner-turn-accomplice.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. See, the Guardians do the classic team-up movie trick of running separate missions. After badly crash landing on a planet, where Drax (Dave Bautista) is dragged behind the ship like a water-skier gone wrong, hitting every tree in sight at speed, resembling Wile E. Coyote (suspend that disbelief or the film ends at this point), the group are visited by Ego.

No, no, no, not Kanye West, but Kurt Russell, a god claiming to be Quill’s dad. So, leaving Rocket behind with a tied-up Nebula and Baby Groot in order to carry out repairs, Drax, Gamora and Quill head to Ego’s home planet.

As they dash off, Yondu’s Ravagers arrive to capture Rocket. They’ve been hired by the Soveriegn to find the Guardians. But that all goes bad when the Ravagers rebel and Yondu himself loses his men and his freedom. Seems some thought he always protected Peter back when he worked with them, and still gets favouritism.

On Ego’s world, his empath helper, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), shares a closeness with Drax and starts to drop the hints that Ego might not be an entirely good god.

This is where the generic, overly simplistic plot is showed up for what it is. Kurt Russell as Ego is great at playing the larger-than-life, slightly untrustworthy father figure Peter craves. His explanation of how he started as a consciousness millions of years ago and created a world before deciding to walk as a man is grand without being grotesque.

The problem is, it all starts to feel very two-dimensional. The movie only holds together at this point because of Zoe Saldana’s performance. She gives the picture its heart and direction. Without her, it would have been a bland mess. And with a film with so much neon, that would have been a neat trick.

Gamora Vol 2

The values of family, companionship, are the main drive. It should also be noted, that Marvel deserve some credit for allowing this part of the MCU to remain largely untouched by the main series. The Guardians still feel special and protected from the oversaturation of the superhero market.

Weak plot aside, by the movie’s end – and long closing credits with multiple scenes – just as you can’t deny Baby Groot is cute, you can’t help but feel a warmth inside. It’s a feel-good factor movie, that shouldn’t be able to trade with so little substance – but does. Maybe we’re all suckers for classic songs, 80s references, and cameos of digitally restored David Hasselhoffs?

7/10

Baby Groot

Captain America: Civil War – Review

If you eat too much of anything, however much you may enjoy it, you’ll eventually become bloated. 2016 could be the serving of one superhero film feast too many. To make matters worse, here is a review for another that sees good guys face good guys. Can Captain America: Civil War add energy to Marvel’s concept and make us forget the market is oversaturated?

I’ll save you reading 500 words and give you the answer now: It’s a big, fat, No!

Now I’ll humbly explain why.

It starts with so much promise. Captain America and his team (Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) are heading an espionage mission in Africa. At this point I found myself applauding the Captain’s films. I like how they blend superhero with spy movie. Had this remained the case – indeed, remained a Captain America film – we wouldn’t have had a problem.

The problem came when Scarlet Witch, by accident, threw a baddie into a building full of innocents.

Cue the morale debate about should superheroes be allowed to go around without anyone giving them orders. A little bit like the Superman subplot in Batman v Superman but without any of the meat on the tired old bones.

Rather than it be an area of worthy exploration, it becomes nothing more than a plot device. And what a dire plot. Captain’s buddy, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, appears to blow up the UN when all The Avengers minus Captain America sign a new treaty, placing them under the control of men rather than being outside of the law.

Obviously, Captain America has to defend a guy he shared double-billing with on the last solo movie poster and Iron Man has to stick to the letter of the (new) law and treat him as a criminal. Also pretty obvious, is how it’s all been a set-up to make Bucky look bad. The motivations and the main bad guy an extraneous excuse to see our heroes have a fight.

Once the action starts, you may ask, surely it masks the poor plot?

Nah, not really. Ant-Man steals the show in the main battle, which is more like handbags at ten paces. And proving that Marvel fanboys make the most noise but the least sense, I can now confirm the new Spider-Man is the worst incarnation seen on the big screen.

Andrew Garfield must be wondering how on Earth Marvel couldn’t have shoehorned his version into the movie instead of this lame replacement. The teabag I squeezed out of my cup ten minutes ago has more screen presence than Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. As Spider-Man, things do improve, but Garfield was more wisecracking and it felt more natural.

While I will never deny the beauty of Marisa Tomei, is it really progressive to have her as Aunt May? The moral compass of a young hero that still looks like the lap dancer from The Wrestler? Yeah, that’ll work, Marvel.

The flaws in the films message and the bad guy’s main intention fall apart in the final scenes because it is plain stupid. His idea could never have worked and there’d always be some version of The Avengers regardless of infighting.

Sadly, due to overeager reviewers and the fanboys, there’ll always be Marvel movies like this.

It isn’t the worst ever (it can thank Iron Man 2 for that) but it isn’t far behind. It seems unfair Marvel can be applauded for another misfire while DC struggle for any type of credit from mainstream critics.

If things don’t vastly improve in the MCU, sooner or later others will speak up, and 2018’s Infinity War may forever be in pre-production.

5/10 (It would have been 4/10, if not for the opening Captain America elements.)