Ready Player One review: Spielberg’s film hits home behind enjoyment and nostalgia

Imagine a kid in the middle of their room playing with a wide variety of action figures. They’re bashing them together, doesn’t matter what world, universe, or dimension they’re from, it’s an all-out war. Now, imagine Steven Spielberg being that kid and the action figures represent every possible pop culture property ever created. You’re ready to jump into Ready Player One.

Based on the novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, an avid gamer in the virtual space known as the OASIS. The OASIS contains virtually every possible game, world, and quite literally *anything* you’re imagination could think of. Set in the year 2045, the majority of humanity spends their time in this virtual paradise. The real world is a bleak, desolate shell of what planet Earth used to be, but no solid explanation is given as to how that happened. It’s a bit unfortunate that the film did not go into more background depth about how the Earth became borderline uninhabitable, and why people spend so much of their time in a virtual space.

After the famous creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, passed away, it’s revealed that he hid the ultimate Easter egg in the virtual world. The player must obtain three keys, all hidden behind complicated puzzles that can only be unlocked as you receive each key, in order to retrieve the egg. The first person to complete each puzzle and possess all the keys will receive Halliday’s majority share of OASIS, and thus, be king of the virtual dimension.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Solve a few puzzles, then make more money than you could possibly imagine? Not so fast. The puzzles that Halliday created are very in-depth and revolve around his own personal life. Not only must you be a skilled gamer, but you must also know your knowledge about Halliday and the creation of OASIS. Ready Player One does a tremendous job of presenting these challenges in ways that make the audience question themselves until they’re actually solved. I found myself thinking that I’d figured out the puzzle, but discovered that I would never have won any of the keys.

Ready Player One has a wonderful cast that work quite well together. I felt true chemistry between Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts) and Olivia Cooke (Samantha Cook) when they were working together in the OASIS to solve the challenges, as well as when the film switches back to reality. Ben Mendelsohn played an interesting villain in Nolan Sorrento; in a movie like this, it can be very easy to have a lackluster antagonist, but Mendelsohn’s Sorrento proves to be every bit of a bad guy in his attempt to obtain all three keys. Lena Waithe (Helen), Phillip Zhao (Sho), and Win Morisaki (Daito) gave quality performances that helped round out the supporting cast and made me truly care for all of the characters.

Since this film was released, it has been showered with praise by some and shrouded in disappointment by others. It seems that the people who had more issues with the film also read the novel, and it didn’t quite meet that bar of expectation. However, if you’re like me who didn’t read the novel, or someone who just enjoys an action-packed science-fiction film with more recognizable characters on screen than you can count, Ready Player One is excellent. The plot was sound, the cast all performed brilliantly, the CGI was well-done and the puzzles weren’t a waste of time. I wish the film did a better job with the overall narrative on the dreary state of the real world, and at times the film moved a bit too fast on screen to genuinely enjoy and appreciate all the amazing cameos. Regardless, Spielberg’s film is a wonderful ride and is a must-watch for fans of virtually anything.

Final Score: 8.5/10


A Quiet Place review: John Krasinski’s directorial debut is a silent killer

Throughout the hour and a half long movie, I couldn’t help but wait for that precious moment when John Krasinski’s character would turn his gaze to the camera and give the audience a classic Jim Halpert smirk n’ shrug. Alas, it didn’t happen…

Now that we’ve gotten the obvious “The Office” joke out of the way (pretty poor one at that), let’s dive into Krasinski’s directorial debut A Quiet Place. The film takes place in a rural, farmland area that looks to have been abandoned by all civilization. Just as the movie title would entail, being silent is imperative for survival. There were moments in the theater that I seriously wondered whether or not the sound had cut out, that’s how quiet they had to be.

Floating between the two genres of thriller and horror, A Quiet Place is a sort of hybrid film that accomplishes quite a few things. For starters, the 90-minute run-time was the perfect length that ensured my full attention and kept me entertained throughout the movie. Krasinski and Emily Blunt were sensational on the big screen as the two leading big names, while the two children, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, provided extraordinary performances for this type of movie.

The narrative of the film was simple, yet effective: keep quiet or risk getting torn apart by monsters. While Krasinski’s film did an excellent job of providing suspenseful moments that at times reminded me of Jurassic Park, A Quiet Place isn’t without its flaws. The method of how the film distributed background information was a bit unorthodox. The origins of the monsters or why this is happening was never touched on, so I spent some time during and after the movie developing my own theories. Not to say that that is a bad thing, but it might’ve added more to the overall plot if we knew that the monsters were aliens or man-made. Krasinski might’ve gone against that idea, because then it could’ve altered the genre to more of a science-fiction film so I can understand that hole, but it would’ve been nice to have. Although we didn’t get a good sense of what these monsters were, the concept behind them was very original and creative.

Krasinski’s debut as a director was an interesting one. His film wasn’t perfect, but it did enough creatively and in a precise manner that he seems to have a bright future behind the camera as much as in front of it. Blunt does an amazing job as the second lead in A Quiet Place, and the overall pace was very good. While I wished that more background information behind the monsters and the seemingly world-wide crisis would’ve been given, it does leave a bit of intrigue and allows one to fill in the blanks with their own creative theories.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Black Panther review: Wakanda forever

The final film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the mad titan Thanos descends on Earth might be one of the best we’ve seen. Throughout the entire development process, the hype surrounding Black Panther grew to astronomical heights. Not only was this movie going to sport a predominately African cast, but also shine light on certain political issues.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, also known for his award-winning film Fruitvale Station, Black Panther’s list of cast members is one to behold. Chadwick Boseman delivered another amazing performance in his second appearance as T’Challa, Lupita Nyong’o was brilliant as Nakia, and Danai Gurira (known more commonly for her role as Michonne in The Walking Dead) played the fierce role of Wakanda’s top general Okoye. But the two shining stars in Black Panther were Michael B. Jordan as the villainous Erik Killmonger and Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s little sister Shuri.

While the Marvel films have become the staple for the superhero genre, they’ve had a recurring problem regarding their villains. Other than Loki, many of the Marvel villains are easily forgotten and lacked any true depth or scope. That’s not the case with Jordan’s Killmonger. Some might’ve been skeptical about Jordan being in another superhero movie given his inclusion in the Fantastic Four reboot, but just as Chris Evans resurrected his Marvel standing with Captain America so does Jordan with Killmonger. Coogler developed an intriguing backstory to the Wakandan villain that will make you think twice about whether Killmonger’s motives are actually evil or if he’s slightly misunderstood. His reasons for what he does in the film are somewhat sound, given how he was brought up in Oakland and what’s happening around the world. The concept of how there are impoverished people around the world and how countries don’t use resources to help them when it’s clearly possible is a main theme throughout Black Panther. Coogler does an excellent job of highlighting these complex issues without forcing the audience toward a conclusion.

Wright’s Shuri steals the spotlight in nearly every scene she’s in. The younger sister of T’Challa, Shuri is the head of the Wakanda science and technology division, and is arguably the smartest character in the MCU (sorry, Tony Stark). She’s responsible for developing the invaluable Vibranium into various weapons and defense systems, while also providing new enhancements for T’Challa’s Black Panther suit. It was also revealed in the Avengers Infinity War Prelude comic #1 that Shuri is the one who cures Bucky Barnes of his brainwash problems that have plagued him since Captain America: Winter Soldier. Given her technological intellect, it would be fascinating to see her and Stark together onscreen.

Black Panther is a tremendous film for Marvel, and has the potential to have an affect on real-world issues. Even if Black Panther and its characters are fictitious, seeing young black people, such as Shuri, have an impact on the world can be inspiring. Many films depict black people as hoodlums, gangsters, drug dealers, slaves or simply uneducated. These depictions tend to generalize how black people are viewed in society by other people, but also how black people generalize themselves. Coogler’s film provides empowerment and a sense of pride for black people. His vision characterizes black people as a demographic that has the ability to blaze their own path and create their own narrative. Black Panther displays an image of self-confidence that not many films have conveyed in the past, and not only do I hope more films follow share Coogler’s vision in the future, but that black people around the world truly embrace his ideals moving forward.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi review: The Force is mostly strong in this one


Coming out of The Force Awakens in 2015, many fans voiced their concerns that Episode VII was merely a carbon copy of Episode IV: A New Hope. Director J.J. Abrams was described as being “too safe” and didn’t take many chances in further expanding upon this incredible universe. While The Force Awakens was still received in a fairly positive light, new director Rian Johnson had a difficult task before him: continue down that safe path that Abrams paved or ruffle up the feathers, so to speak.

And boy, did he do some ruffling.

There were quite a few questionable decisions that Johnson made in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi that we won’t know how big of an impact they’ll be until this current trilogy concludes with Episode IX. One of the biggest mysteries heading into The Last Jedi was Rey’s parentage. Many fan theories linked her with the Skywalkers or even Obi-Won Kenobi, due to her raw power of the Force. She had to be some long-lost relative of either of those Jedi names, there was no other way to explain it.

Well, Johnson took those theories and threw them out the window. In the aftermath of Supreme Leader Snoke’s surprising demise (more on that later), Kylo Ren tells Rey that “she came from nothing” and that “her parents sold her for drinking money”. That’s a bit of a disappointment, considering most Star Wars fans had been trying to piece together Rey’s origins for the past two years. Johnson’s message behind this revelation is that heroes can come from anywhere, which includes nothing. You don’t need to be born into power to amount to greatness. While I admire this concept, I’m still holding out hope that this was one big fake out for the ultimate reveal in Episode IX. Fans have already begun creating new theories, the most interesting one being that Rey might be a clone from Luke Skywalker’s severed hand.

Now, let’s circle back to Snoke. Abrams built this polarizing villain in The Force Awakens who was shrouded in a cloud of mystery. This “being” was the one responsible for turning young Ben Solo to the Dark Side, the leader of the tyrannical First Order, and determined to destroy Luke. It was never explained where or how Snoke became to be in Episode VII, and now, it looks like we may never know those answers. While it’s unknown what sort of plan Abrams had in store for Snoke, Johnson decided the Supreme Leader had overstayed his welcome. Kylo Ren dispatched his former master and ascended to the top of the First Order hierarchy. Snoke’s early demise was a shocker to say the least and makes the upcoming Episode IX that much more intriguing, but still leaves me wanting more. I understand we aren’t owed anything from Johnson, or Abrams to that extent, but it’s strange that Johnson included moments in the movie where Snoke proved to be a pretty important character, like when Luke explained to Rey that Snoke had already turned Ben to the Dark Side in his flashback while at his Jedi temple. Johnson’s explanation behind Ben succumbing to the Dark Side feels incomplete. Again, we can hope at the very least that Snoke and Kylo’s early relationship gets flushed out in the next movie.

If there’s one thing that this new trilogy has not had a lot of, it’s lightsaber battles. This notion doesn’t change with The Last Jedi, but it does feature the best lightsaber fight scene of the new films. After Snoke’s shocking demise, Kylo Ren and Rey team-up to take down the former Supreme Leader’s Elite Praetorian Guards. Seeing Kylo and Rey work together, even if it was for different reasons, was pretty cool to see. The continued character development for Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver throughout The Last Jedi was very interesting to watch, as they both struggled with the ideals of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. Kylo seems overwhelmed by the idea that he is destined to be the new Vader and wants to pave his own path in the galaxy (possibly explaining why he ended up killing Snoke). He also believes it’s too late for him to return to the Light. Rey, on the other hand, appeared to have been inching closer to the Dark Side. On Ahch-To, she descended into the mysterious dark hole that Luke told her was the Dark Side to search for answers about her parents. And following her team-up battle, she gave the brief impression that she was at least thinking about joining Kylo and the First Order. Although Rey ultimately escaped Kylo’s grasp and seemed to be fully committed to the Light, I can’t help but think there’s more behind her lack of resistant toward the Dark Side. Maybe the idea of “balance in the Force” is effectively using both the Light and the Dark Sides?

Even though Rey and Kylo’s character developments continued in a proper way, others did not yield the same progression. John Boyega’s Ex-Stormtrooper Finn is an intriguing character. Since The Force Awakens, we’ve seen him defect from the First Order, join the Resistance by accident, try to flee the Resistance to find Rey, lead a virtual suicide mission with newcomer and fan-favorite Rose, attempt an actual suicide mission but fail due to Rose, and then seemingly engage in a confusing and quite rushed romantic relationship with Rose. To put it simply: Finn’s development has been all over the place. Is he a coward? A hero? Somewhere in between? Johnson didn’t do Finn any favors with how his story played out in The Last Jedi. Instead of feeling like Finn is a definitive member of this new trinity with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and Rey that mirrors the original big three of Luke, Han Solo, and Leia, Finn comes across more as a complicated third wheel. Sure he’s proven his ability to rise up to the occasion in fighting the First Order, but something just feels “off” with his overall character. And the romance with Rose, if it’ll blossom into that in the final installment, doesn’t seem right (and that’s not because I personally endorse the idea of Poe and Finn getting together). There never seemed to be any chemistry between the two, other than Rose gawking over Finn when they first met because she thought he was some famous hero. The two spent less than 24 hours with each other during the failed mission in disabling the First Order’s tracking device and that somehow correlates to romantic feelings? I’m not buying it. I’m going to keep my dream of Poe and Finn finding happiness together alive.

The use of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi was a little puzzling as well. Mark Hamill was a treasure once again as the former Jedi Master, but with what was viewed as one of the biggest moments of cinema in 2017, the return of Luke Skywalker, I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. Essentially a hermit now following the horrific events at his Jedi temple, Luke seems to be a fraction of the hero we last saw in Return of the Jedi. While he eventually decides to teach Rey some Jedi lessons (which were a bit on the lame side), Luke never really displayed his tremendous Jedi power. Having him speak with Force ghost Yoda and seeing R2-D2 try to convince him to help the Resistance by playing the old Leia “You’re My Only Hope” recording was a nice shout-out to nostalgia, but other than that, what really was Luke’s purpose? He filled in the plot hole of what happened to him following Episode VI and how he’s mostly responsible for Ben taking that final step toward the Dark Side. So why was Luke so sheepish to help the Resistance? Wouldn’t he have been eager to right his wrong and try and bring Ben back to the Light, just like he brought Anakin back? Even though it was a clever plan of Luke’s to use the Force to project an image of himself to confuse Kylo Ren, did he really have to die? I’m assuming Luke will be back in Episode IX as a Force ghost to give Rey additional guidance, just for the simple fact that I’m not sure his ending in The Last Jedi truly honors him.

Johnson and his team had big shoes to fill, as anyone would when it comes to properly making a Star Wars film. Coming off of what was basically A New Hope 2.0, it was up to Johnson to deviate from that path and not re-create The Empire Strikes Back. He might’ve not hit the right cords for some fans, he did accomplish what he set out to do and that was to create an overall compelling, fun, and intense Star Wars adventure. The subtle inclusion of witty humor throughout the movie made it feel fresh, and the character developments of Rey and Kylo were done perfectly. Finn and Snoke felt underutilized, and the overall reveal of Rey’s origins were a huge disappointment. Luke’s overall arc felt slightly confusing and out of place for the former Rebel hero. However, with so much stacked against Johnson, he was still able to deliver a quality middle entry in this trilogy.

Final Score: 8.75/10


*Special Carrie Fisher note*

Johnson’s portrayal of Leia could not have been executed any better. Actress Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016 was devastating, but Johnson effectively showcased why everyone grew up loving her. The hope, wisdom, and courage she’s presented over her illustrious career has impacted so many people. The Last Jedi properly displayed how strong and important Leia is to the Resistance, and in extension, Fisher in real life. The end credits put every fan’s emotions toward Fisher very nicely:

In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher.

Thor Ragnarok Review: God of Thunder’s third adventure hammers home

Chris Helmsworth’s portrayal of Marvel’s God of Thunder has changed dramatically since his debut in 2011. Thor Odinson was slightly self-absorbed, not really caring about the problems of the other realms. Following his feud with his brother Loki and his subsequent romance with Jane Foster, Thor began his transformation from being an all-powerful god into an intelligent individual who sought to protect those that needed protection. Yes, his godlike powers and Mjolnir made him an ideal Avenger, but Thor’s development into being much more than that was interesting to witness.

When we last saw Thor, he told Tony Stark that he was going to seek answers regarding the Infinity Stones after seeing various visions in his sleep. While he doesn’t necessarily uncover information regarding their importance in what’s to come, the first end credit scene does a good job setting up the next Avengers movie.

Marvel’s cinematic universe has been the pinnacle of superhero movies for the past decade, but the films have always had a recurring problem: its villains. Luckily, Ragnarok does not fall into that category, as Hela the Goddess of Death is more than a worthy adversary for the Asgardian. Her wraith and deadly personality were enough to make even my skin crawl, while she wrecked havoc upon the realm. Her inclusion in the film also presented eye-opening backstory regarding Odin and the kingdom of Asgard. In the comics, Thanos’ true love was Hela so it remains to be seen whether her demise will pose any future consequences for Thor.

As we move toward the ultimate superhero mashup of Infinity War, more and more Marvel movies are presenting smaller superhero collaborations. We saw Spider-Man swinging through New York with Iron Man and the Falcon testing the limits of Ant-Man. In Ragnarok, we finally get what everyone was wishing for: a Thor and Hulk team-up. Last we saw of Bruce Banner, he was flying away in a Quinjet amid the destruction of Sokovia in Age of Ultron. Many have pegged Ragnarok as a pseudo-Planet Hulk film, because we learn that the green giant has found refuge on the war-torn world of Sakaar. The evolution, and subsequent de-evolution, of the Hulk remains one of my favorite ongoing Marvel story lines. Watching Thor try to find the man beneath the monster is a bit poetic, as Thor had to find himself beneath the god.

Aside from the brilliance of Mark Ruffalo, the rest of the supporting cast was phenomenal. Marvel should make the executive decision of somehow including Loki in every movie, because Tom Hiddleston continues to be one of my all-time favorite actors in the MCU. Cate Blanchett turns in a devastatingly perfect performance of the Goddess of Death, Tessa Thompson played a hard, slightly drunken, warrior in Valkyrie, and Jeff Goldblum is always an absolute treasure to see onscreen. But the person (or alien?) that absolutely stole the show whenever he (it?) was onscreen was none other than the director himself Taika Waititi as Korg. This sentient rock being was somehow the best comic relief in an already hilarious film. Every word spoken broke a smile and laugh from me. I was hoping the end of the film would say “Korg will return in Avengers Infinity War”, but alas only Thor. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for more of the Kronan warrior.

Thor Ragnarok sits as one of the best Marvel movies to date. The humor of it never overtook the severity of the situation, on the contrary, it was the perfect balance. Helmsworth had arguably his best performance as the God of Thunder, and continues to show that he can be as beloved as Stark or Steve Rogers. And while we may never see a solo Hulk film, finally taking the time to dive into Banner’s internal struggles with the monster was sorely needed. As we inch closer to the reckoning of Infinity War and possibly the demise of some of these characters, Ragnarok at least gave us one (last?) adventure that any Thor fan will be proud of.

Final Score: 8.75/10

IT Review: Stephen King’s Pennywise floats to success

The list of classic horror movies that I’ve seen in my life thus far is embarrassingly short. I’ve only recently watched Child’s Play, The Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, and most importantly, IT. In a world full of reboots, it was only a matter of time before Stephen King’s frightening dancing clown was redone with modern technology. Luckily, the new adaptation separates itself enough from the original to be viewed as a terrifying standalone thriller, but at the same time still gives homage to the 1990 miniseries.

One of the main differences, for good or for bad, is the appearance of Pennywise. Tim Curry’s iteration of the clown in the 1990 miniseries was more friendly-looking, using his charm to entice the children of Derry. Bill Skarsgård’s approach to the character was a bit darker than his early 90s counterpart. While Curry went with the seemingly “catch more children with honey” strategy, Skarsgård was just plain creepy throughout the entire movie. The 2017 version of IT was not meant to be a direct reboot of the miniseries, but it is understandable to mentally compare the two, especially during the infamous Georgie scene.

In both adaptations, young Georgie is as happy as a clam when his brother, Billy, helps build him a paper boat to sail in the rainstorm. The boat sails for quite some time until a sewer grate swallows it up. And that’s when the young boy encounters Pennywise. Being a six-year-old boy, Georgie may not fully realize how absolutely disturbing it is to find a clown hanging out in the sewers during a storm (if not in general). The scene continues with Pennywise tricking Georgie into reaching for the boat, the clown biting the boy’s arm clean off, and then pulling him down into the sewer. Here, it’s easy to compare the two scenes and come away wishing Skarsgård’s form as the clown appeared a tad bit more welcoming like Curry’s, but the tone of the 2017 movie is more suited for Skarsgård’s Pennywise.

Other than the appearance and personality of Pennywise, the biggest change between adaptations is the flow. The 1990 miniseries was centered on the kids already grown up in 1985, with flashbacks to their first battle with the clown in the late 1950s. The new IT, also known as Chapter One going forward, revolves around the kids entirely, but in this one, they were kids in 1989. We see from start to finish how each child comes into contact with Pennywise, how the children band together to form the Loser’s Club, and how they overcome their fears to defeat the clown. After the kids have seemingly vanquished the clown, they make a blood pact to return to Derry if Pennywise ever returns. Chapter Two will assumingly pick up 27 years following the kids’ first battle with Pennywise. Director Andy Muschetti has also confirmed that the sequel will return to the 1980s (presumably through the use of flashbacks), and may also touch on the clown’s origin. I hope Muschetti does go into a little more detail on the background of Pennywise and the lore behind the clown’s existence.

Skarsgård’s portrayal of the dancing clown was not the only bright acting spot of the movie. The child actors were all phenomenal in their own unique way. Finn Wolfhard, best known for his role in Netflix’s Stranger Things, was amazing as the smartass, joke-cracking Richie Tozier. At times, Tozier’s comic relief may have felt a bit excessive at times, but overall, having him there to deflect the dread of Pennywise was a nice touch to the film. The other standout performance to me was Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. Lillis depicted a slightly different Bev compared to the miniseries, with her counterpart having a bit of cool, badass vibe to her. The 2017 film stressed that her father sexually harassed the young girl. It’s amazing to see a young actress have the ability to perform under those types of circumstances.

Stephen King’s work has terrorized, frightened, and drawn immense success over the years; nothing’s changed with IT. The 2017 adaptation racked in an estimated $123 million, breaking numerous records along the way: biggest opening weekend in September, biggest opening weekend for a horror movie, and biggest opening weekend for a Stephen King adaptation. I fully expect the dollars to continue pouring in for the film, because IT was a horrifying experience. Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise is a chilling performance; seeing him terrorize the kids by exposing them to their greatest fears is masterful and chilling. Also, seeing the clown’s disembodied victims literally floating in his sewer liar is enough to induce night terrors. With an overall great cast performance by the Loser’s Club and impressive CGI work, IT is poised to be one of the best movies this year.

Final Score: 9/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review: Swinging into the MCU

Marvel’s prodigal son has officially returned. Yes, Spider-Man did make his first “debut” in Captain America: Civil War (and also was recently revealed that he previously appeared in Iron Man 2), but this is the first solo Spider-Man movie since the Andrew Garfield project. However, we’re going to use the word “solo” very loosely here, as Spider-Man: Homecoming was as much an Iron Man movie as a Spider-Man movie.

The events of Spider-Man: Homecoming take place directly after Peter Parker’s involvement in Civil War. We are not told the origin story of the teenager getting bitten by the radioactive spider or see him cry for the umpteenth time over the death of Uncle Ben. The movie assumes that we know the basics of Spider-Man, and to a point, it does the movie both a disservice, but is also necessary for the narrative. The deal between Marvel and Sony to finally include the web-slinger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this far into the game makes things a bit awkward. When you think of Marvel heroes, Spider-Man tends to be near the top of that list. So having to implement him while we are nearing the end of Phase 3, especially given that we are only three years removed from Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, there never really seemed like a good time or way to execute this. While no one is truly at fault for this, it’s just unfortunate to see arguably the most recognizable superhero get awkwardly squeezed into this larger universe.

One way that Marvel thought would help introduce Spider-Man into the MCU was to have a prominent Avenger guide him along the way: insert Tony Stark. While Parker and Stark share a very special connection in the comics, Homecoming is a pseudo-Iron Man film. From the beginning to the end, Stark’s presence weighed heavily on the film. While it’s understandable to have him in the film in order to help out Parker, it just seemed that we were being force fed some more Iron Man. This is a direct cause of introducing Spider-Man in Phase 3, and so this is just something that we have to deal with.

Regardless of Stark’s major inclusion in the film, Tom Holland did not disappoint in his first full rodeo as Spidey. Toby McGuire will forever have a special place in my heart, but Holland absolutely nails the high school teenager turned crime-fighter. The entire cast did a phenomenal job, especially Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Many critics have noted that most Marvel movies have weak villains, but Vulture is not one of them. Keaton was the best Marvel villain since Loki in the first Avengers movie, and it’s not close. Vulture’s ascension toward becoming a villain and his imminent downfall might be the first time a villain’s story was as important and interesting as the superhero. It’s also an interesting move that Sony and Marvel decided to have Vulture discover the identity of Spider-Man. It’s to be determined what he does with this information, though seeing how he reacted to Scorpion confronting him about it in the end scene, it seems that Vulture will keep it to himself.

One of the biggest reveals toward the end of the movie is finally telling us that Zendaya is indeed M.J. Many people guessed that the actress would be playing Parker’s love interest in Homecoming, but that role was taken by the senior Liz and daughter of Vulture. Following her father’s arrest and her subsequent move out of Queens, it seems that it’s time for M.J. (Michelle, still no-known last name) to take center stage. Zendaya’s M.J. is so far considerably different than the past love interests of Spider-Man with Kirsten Durst’s Mary Jane and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. While Durst and Stone were more of the typical damsels in distress, Zendaya showed extreme independence and a general sense of not caring about anything. It’s a refreshing take on the character and will be intriguing once she receives more screen time in the sequel.

Minus the large amount of Robert Downey, Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming was the best Spidey movie since McGuire’s Spider-Man 2. Given the obstacles needed to hurdle in order to even get the web-slinger in the MCU and the awkwardness of inserting him this late in the game, Homecoming did what it needed to do. It presented a new, fresh take on the hero and his friends, and introduced new enemies that we haven’t seen before. Hopefully Sony and Marvel come to terms on a new deal that will extend Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU, but in the meantime, let’s all just enjoy the ride.

Final Score: 8.75/10