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

Wonder Woman Review: A Ray of Hope for the DCEU

Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe have had three chances to establish their footing in the cinematic realm opposite of Marvel: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Now, if we were playing baseball, Warner Bros. would’ve struck out after those three. Luckily, we’re not, and director Patty Jenkins has essentially saved the studio and hit it out of the park with Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot reprises her role as Diana Prince in the first live action theatrical film of the comic book character. Set during World War I, the film chronicles how Diana left her home of Themyscira to help mankind in the war to end all wars. Guided by Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, Diana must decide whether mankind, corrupted by the real world, are worth saving or if they are doomed.

Going into this film with both an open mind and no real knowledge of the DC character, and knowing full well what transpired in the previous DCEU films, it’s safe to say that Wonder Woman was amazing. Gadot’s performance as the Amazon princess solidifies herself among the top echelon of superhero actors, such as Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans and Margot Robbie. While Gadot had brief moments in the spotlight in her previous appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, she takes full advantage of starring in her own feature film and nails it. Wonder Woman’s burning desire to help everyone around her in the film is contagious and never feels overplayed or forced. From the moment she leaves Themyscira, you witness Diana’s innocence slowly deteriorate as she makes her way through the real world. On one hand, it’s depressing to see Diana’s hope in man repeatedly questioned, but the end payoff makes it even more satisfying.

Gadot’s supporting cast did not disappoint either. While Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor was a major catalyst in steering Diana down the path of righteous, the amount of screen time Pine received sometimes made it difficult for me to fully appreciate a superhero movie headlined by a female. However, his inclusion in the film and relationship he developed with Diana was essential due to her having never been in the real world.

Up until this point, the DCEU has had a difficult time trying to nail down the tone of their movies. Marvel established the notion that their movies will be somewhat whimsical and sprinkled with some witty banter, but still deliver a serious enough plot. Warner Bros. has been ridiculed by critics and fans alike that the first two films were too dark, and then Suicide Squad just didn’t know what it wanted to be, either humorous or dark or a general riot. Wonder Woman avoids this problem and successfully finds the perfect middle ground that Marvel has built its empire upon. It was the right mix of comic relief by the supporting cast and Diana’s overall ignorance of the real world plus the seriousness of World War I and mankind’s pending destruction. Jenkins and the writing team did a tremendous job of conjuring up the right moments for an entirely silly moment, like Diana trying out outfits, to moments of sheer dread and despair. The transitions between these moments were flawless and never felt like they were put in the film just for the sake of having them; each scene was needed to tell a complete, comprehensive story. Wonder Woman is the gold standard for what all future DCEU films should try to emulate, and could be the much-needed jump start that Warner Bros. and DC fans were wanting for.

Wonder Woman crushed it at the box office, earning $103.1 million in its opening weekend, which was the fifth-highest opening weekend among superhero movies. The DC film beat the likes of Iron Man ($98.6 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3 million) in their respective opening weekends. In addition, Wonder Woman became the biggest opening ever for a female director, surpassing Fifty Shades of Grey ($85.2 million).

Final Score: 9/10