selenak: (Henry Hellrung by Imaginary Alice)
[personal profile] selenak
Okay, that's it. As Civil War made me suspect, Tom Holland is my platonic ideal of Peter Parker, at least in his teenage phase. Also, while I had liked the first Raimi/Maguire movie and parts of the rest while increasingly disliking other parts of those films, and liked the first Garfield without thinking it needed to exist while extremly disliking the second one, this latest cinematic go at Spidey was a complete delight to me and I love it.

First of all, GOOD CHOICE, TEAM, at NOT making yet another origin story. We really didn't need to see Uncle Ben die for the third time in a row. Also, thank you for not letting Peter angst about his dead parents (read: father, since "parents" was treated by the Garfield movies the same way the Nolan Batman movies treated them) a la Amazing Spider-man. Oh, and even better: no love triangle in sight, anywhere.

Of course we get some of the obligatory tropes for teenage Peter Parker: pining for a girl, secret identity making a mess out of his attempts at a social life. But as opposed to more recent Peters, this one actually has a plausible excuse for not coming out to his nearest and dearest, accidental discoveries notwithstanding - he is THAT young (fifteen by on screen dialogue). Also, unlike Maguire!Peter, pining doesn't make him self absorbed or morose. This movie took the old "your friendly neigborhood spider-man" catch phrase to heart - we see Peter interacting with his community, and while some of it is played for laughs (giving a tourist directions when he wants to fight crime), it goes to the core of who he is. When Liz, the girl he pines for in this movie, is in danger along with the rest of the decathlon team, you believe that he wants to save the entire time, not just Liz. The quips and the motormouth from the comics which Maguire didn't do and Garfield sounded a tad too old for here just fit, not least because they sometimes come across as sheer panic and survival attempt.

I also think that with its villain, Homecoming did a better job at showing the (New York) underbelly of the MCU than, say, Daredevil in its first season tried to, and one that really grows out of previous movies. Keaton as the Vulture has to be the first Spider-man villain who doesn't go over the top insane at a certain point (Michael Keaton NOT going over the top, behold for those of us who recall him in certain roles), though he's certainly a ruthlessly killing sociopath when you cross him. But mostly, he's the Working Class flipside to Tony Stark, with a great talent for mechanical invention but without any of Tony's means at the start of his tale. Scavenging the various battle sites from the one in The Avengers onwards for alien (and other) tech which he then repurposes is what I mean with the "underbelly" thing, and his using it to start a secret weapons trade business begs of course for the comparison to Tony's Merchant Of Death background (and the movie lets the Vulture make this point to Peter). Another big, big departure to the pattern from Spider-man movie villains is that Peter's big victory over the villain doesn't lie so much in the fact he thwarts the evil scheme du jour and prevents more bloody fallout for civilians, though of course he does that, but that he manages to save the man's life after their big fight. In a genre where villains (who aren't Loki, at least) are dispensed with by death as the norm, this feels really refreshing, and again, goes to the heart of who this Spider-man is: a kid who even after a brutal fight in which the other party did his best to kill him spots that the other guy is about to explode and risks his life to prevent that. (He does this at a point where he's without any mechanical means or protection other than his spiderbite enhanced strength, too.) Given that Daredevil makes a big deal about its hero's supposed unwillingness to kill but otoh shows him undertake any number of brutal and in any normal world death inducing actions towards various villains, the contrast is even more glaring: this truly is a hero who walks the walk, not just talks the talk, about not wanting to kill.

This being the first Spider-man movie able to be actively set in the MCU pays off in so many ways, big and small. One hilarious running gag are the Captain America motivational videos inflicted on the students of Peter's high school. (And thus a new generation of students grows up hating Captain America, she says heartlessly.) There's a video for sports, there's a video for detention ("of course, this guy is probably a war criminal now, but I'm obliged to show this to you anyway"), and Chris Evans does the earnest pep speeches of Steve's early propaganda appearences while selling war bonds in the first Captain America movie, and I can just imagine Steve being told he has to do this to help America's young' uns. There are the news in the background (the Sokovian Accords are now ratified). And there is, of course, Tony Stark, complete with Happy Hogan (who has his biggest part in any of the movies other than Iron Man III, and at the very end of the film Pepper Potts (reconciled with Tony post Civil War, and about to be more than reconciled, since we get a proposal in said end (turns out Happy has a ring in his pocket for just such an event since 2008). Mentors in Spider-man movies exist to either die or turn into supervillains, or both; Tony does neither, though Peter's arc is to grow out of the hero worship somewhat and, in classic execution of this particular trope, choose his own path (without cutting ties; he still gets the updated suit). The movie makes no bones about this being something of an attempted father-son-relationship in terms of what they want from each other, and while Tony explicitely states he doesn't want to repeat the one he had with his own father he delivers the most Howard-Stark-esque line he's ever said during the big argument scene with Peter mid movie in reply to Peter's "I want to be like you", to wit, an appalled "I want you to be better than me". Meanwhile, Happy isn't exactly sitting in for Original Jarvis while being stuck with Peter-sitting duty; he's this movie's eye rolling "how is this my life now?" Grump, though again, there's a plot point to this comic relief; Happy's ongoing complaint turns out to be key information to Peter figuring out the villain's big plan.

Female characters: Pepper cameo and lost tourists and the like aside, there are three: Aunt May (just called May now by Peter), Liz (object of Peter's pining) and Michelle Jonas (note the initials). Liz and Michelle are both parts of the decathlon team of excelling-at-science students and the fact that Peter's high school not only this time around is ethnically diverse and thus more plausible for a current day New York high school but also one specializing in math and sciences, and that his high school nemesis Flash Thompson isn't the usual thuggish jock of 50s high school lore but part of the science squad with a grudge against Peter mainly for being continually regarded as not-as-smart, the whole decathlon team nerdy interplay makes the high school stuff feel not like a worn out tired rerun. Michelle, queen of the deadpan put down, has to be the first movie MJ for whom one element from the comics characterisation of comics!MJ is included - namely, that Peter does not fall for her on sight (or at all, in this movie), but gets to know her as a friend (of sorts) first. And Liz is neither Gwen Stacy nor Mary Jane Watson and thus free of a pre-ordained fate: her moment with Peter comes and goes in teenage fashion, aided by the twist reveal in the last fifteen minutes which if anything gives her a bit of Harry Osborn's role, yes, but she departs the movie (and presumably our hero's life) alive and with things resolved between them. As for May, there's room for improvement in the next movie as her role in this one is mainly to be the adult Peter has to hide things from, but then the movie as far as the Parkers are concerned ends in a repeat of the panel from JMS' Spider-man run where Aunt May FINALLY finds out the truth, so I fully expect the next movie to take advantage of Marisa Tomei's dramatic gifts.

Lastly: Peter's best pal Ned is the first fictional Ned I've enountered outside of a historical novel, and his and Peter's scenes together made me wish for an impossible Strange Things crossover. Long may this sidekick stay around.

In conclusion: I get everyone who wanted a Miles Morales Spider-man if there was to be a new Spider-man movie, I do, but I still enjoyed this one more than any previous Spider-man film, and I do hope Tom Holland stays around for a while, whether in his own movies or guesting in others.
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