Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Fifteen years ago, we were introduced to Spider-Man on the big screens with the Sam Raimi iteration. Three movies in that franchise was followed up with a reboot in 2012 with the Marc Webb iteration. After a somewhat failed sequel, Sony Pictures did the unthinkable and teamed with Marvel Studios to integrate Spider-Man with the ongoing and vastly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we are getting the third Spider-Man franchise and one intertwined with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. What are the results when Spider-Man has finally come back home?

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Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is feeling himself a little too much. Tony Stark/Iron Man dragged him into this big mission but effectively kicks him to the curb when he no longer has a use for him. So being restless and aching for some action, Peter is also trying to juggle being Spider-Man with his personal life. The life of a teenager is not easy so add being a superhero onto that is another stress factor. Then there is Adrian Toomes whose life was ruined by inadvertently ruined by Tony Stark. A blue collar worker who has a grudge against the rich and powerful and thus turning to crime and becoming The Vulture to just put food onto the table. Spider-Man is the friendly neighborhood hero with aspirations to be bigger while the Vulture is someone who is comfortable with his slice of the pie and doesn’t want to really rock the boat.

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Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. You really understand his teenage angst as wanting to be treated like an adult but not fully grasping the gravity of the situation. Trying to juggle his teenage life with his superhero life is clearly affecting him as sacrifices need to be made. Since he is fifteen, Peter Parker brings a youthful energy to the MCU that is a nice change of pace from what has come before. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is not in the movie all that much. He does have a presence and serve a purpose but despite what advertisements made it seem, he does not overshadow the movie. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture is great in the role. The biggest downside is that he is not in the movie as you might want him. There are a couple of scenes later on between he and Holland that are great. Marisa Tomei as May Parker is definitely a different kind of Aunt May. In fact, Peter rarely refers to her as his Aunt but simply “May”. She is good but I would have liked to see one or two scenes more with her in it. Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan returns and has more screen time than his boss. I always enjoyed Favreau as an actor so it was nice to see. The rest of the supporting cast is filled with Peter’s classmates. Zendaya is that presence that’s always in scenes but a lot of the time not doing much. It will be interesting to see where they take the character in the future. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend, is great and they even get to poke fun at the whole superhero has a sidekick who just sits at a computer.

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This film does not rock the Spider-Man boat. Playing it pretty straight in an effect to align this Spider-Man with the rest of the MCU. So while the film takes no real risks, it does a good job of setting up the character and his corner of the universe. There were a lot of screenwriters for this movie including the director, Jon Watts. For someone who has only directed low budget movies beforehand, he did a good job with this major franchise movie. Of course most Marvel movies are effectively cranked out on a machine but still, the movie could have floundered but it doesn’t. At about two hours and fourteen minutes, the movie moves at a good pace. I was never bored or wanted to look at my watch. The only major knock is that while the film was relatively grounded, the ending set piece had to be something in the air and a big explosion. They did reign it in but seemed a little extraneous but that may have been the point. One good job they did was establish The Vulture as a threat. I never really liked The Vulture in the comics but this movie does make him a genuine great villain who could probably make Iron Man struggle if they went toe to toe.

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There are easter eggs galore in this film. Much of The Vulture’s tech is derived from previous battles caused by previous MCU films. In fact the film opens in the immediate aftermath of The Avengers (2012). Not only does it help the film feel natural within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as why wouldn’t criminals start using tech from the super villains? Now that super heroes and villains are the norm, a lot of people aren’t even rattled by the appearance of Spider-Man in their neighborhood. It also helps set up future Spider-Man films as there are tons of Spider-Man villains in this film but it never feels forced. I think almost every character with a speaking line is a character from Spider-Man comics, whether big or small.

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Out of all the six Spider-Man movies, this is probably my favorite. It finds the right balance between the Peter Parker and Spider-Man of it all. It doesn’t go the route of the Sam Raimi movies where the bad guys all had to have some sort of accident or something to be a bad guys. The Vulture is a bad guy. He may be wanting to do right by his family but he is a bad guy. Definitely one of the more memorable bad guys in the MCU lately. Spider-Man: Homecoming achieves what it needed to do. Establish this Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also serving as a good first film in the individual franchise. The future for the web slinger is bright and can’t wait to see where they take the character in his new surroundings.

SCORE: 9/10

 

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Captain America: Civil War Review

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Captain America: Civil War is both a sequel to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Solider as well as 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film picks up about a year after the end of the latter movie. The film picks up with the current Avengers and a disastrous mission that puts the team under the microscope. Tony Stark is faced with his conscious after his actions in Age of Ultron are called into question. This eventually leads to the Sokovia Accords which requires all heroes to sign under a UN legislation and if not, be considered criminals. Captain America is against it while Iron Man is for it and a schism is formed. Things are further complicated by the return of Captain America’s old friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and an enigmatic figure, Zemo.

First things first, this is a Captain America movie. It is his actions that drive the plot of the movie. Chris Evans shines once again in his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America. It is easy to see where his characters stands as his previous interactions with government have been less than desirable. He is a character who stands firm in his beliefs and when those beliefs conflict with others, he is still willing to listen and give the benefit of a doubt. This drives his effort in helping Bucky who is a wanted man. There are different sides to Cap shown here as though he is usually shown as the altruistic member of the Avengers, he is no saint. There were times where it was easy to see where people’s frustrations with him came from.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man takes his iconic role in a different path. As someone who has never been a fan of the quippy Stark that has become so prevalent, it was interesting to see a Stark who was much more morose. He still had his one liners and quips but there was a pain to the character that was there from his first scene. Guilt is what’s driving Stark now but he is still a Stark who acts first without really thinking about the consequences for later. There were times where I surprised myself by agreeing with Stark. The film provides a good balance between the two points as neither is in the right or the wrong.

Many of the other Avengers and other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have parts to play, some smaller than others. Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch probably gets the most. It is her actions which kick off the events in the movie. It is a definite improvement over her role in Age of Ultron as we learn what makes Wanda tick and where her future will take her. Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow takes a somewhat backseat in this movie compared to her roles previously. Widow is conflicted as she sides with Stark, who she is not a fan of, on the state of registration while opposing Cap, who she has come to respect and care for. Anthony Mackie returns as Sam Wilson/The Falcon who and shows why he is an Avenger. His loyalty to Cap is steadfast and it extends to his fellow Avengers. His subtle competition with Bucky as who is Cap’s best friend brings a levity to the movie.

The other Avengers and MCU heroes play less of a role. Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and probably gets the short end of the stick. He is not in that many scenes but does make the most of them. He shows why he is the most personable and his everyman qualities play an important part later between a conversation between he and Stark. Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine fares a bit better. He gets a few more scenes but the scenes he does have do shine. There is an especially poignant moment between him and Stark that really conveys a friendship and love that never came across in the Iron Man movies. Ant-Man and Spider-Man are the two who gets the least scenes and could be considered glorified cameos at best. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man returns from his solo movie and is a welcome addition. His character is just happy to be along for the ride while still hinting at his anti-establishment characteristics. He brings about one of the more standout moments in the movie. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is in the same boat as Ant-Man. He is a teenage superhero who is happy to be along (and brought along under suspicious circumstances). He brings out the youth in Spider-Man such as his nonstop talking during battle but also showing just how dangerous Spider-Man can be. His character was a delight and it is only a bright future for this iteration of the character.

The two wild cards in the movie are The Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and is now something of a combination of the friendly Bucky from the first Captain America movie and the cold blooded killer from The Winter Soldier. Stan conveys a man who is at best a man wanting to figure out his past but also a man who is at his worst a dangerous killer. His scenes with Evans shine as you are reminded of the friendship between the two and can understand why Cap is going the distance for him. Chadwick Boseman debuts as T’Challa/Black Panther. He is a new character whose origin is touched upon but you know what this man is all about. He is royalty and carries it through his actions. He is nobility and is serious when he needs to be but there is an affability to him when he needs to be. This is someone who is on par with Captain America when it comes to physicality and it shows every time he is on screen. The future is bright for his character.

When it comes to conflict, it stems from two sources. One of them being Thaddeus Ross aka General “Thunderbolt” Ross who was last seen eight years ago in “The Incredible Hulk”. He is now Secretary of State and is the main person pushing for the registration. Though he claims to be on the side of the Avengers, anyone familiar with the character and his last appearance knows that all may not be so simple with him. There is also Daniel Bruhl who plays Helmut Zemo. Zemo is a mysterious character and the less said about him the better. Zemo is not a showy type of role especially for a villain. At first I thought Zemo wasn’t that effective of a villain but on more thought, Zemo was actually a good villain and one with sympathetic reasons for doing what he does. Bruhl was a perfect actor to cast in this type of role.

The movie finds a great balance between plot, character development and action. The film never gets too bogged down in plot and exposition. It also never suffers from too much action either. There were only a few issues that I found with the plot where I found myself losing track of the characters’ motivations. Zemo’s plot is especially shaky when thinking about it too hard. The action scenes are phenomenal especially the confrontation between the two teams at the airport. This comes in the second act and the final action scene wisely takes a step back and makes it more intimate. This intimate final action scene is a good mix of plot and action and really highlights why this movie shines. The movie never loses track of why these characters are doing what they are doing.

Overall, Captain America: Civil War is a triumph. A movie that on paper with its many characters and heady themes could be easily pegged as destined to fail. Though there are a few bumps on the road, the ride was great and one that I will gladly take again. This movie not only a must see for comic book movie fans or superhero movie fans. This movie is a must see for movie fans.

Score: 10/10

 

How Captain America Became My Favorite Avenger

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Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) Ph: Zade Rosenthal © 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

If you had told me in 2008 when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was first starting that Captain America would become my favorite character within the franchise, I would have said that you were crazy. As a kid, I thought the character was corny. My only experience with him was from the Marvel vs. Capcom where he had the cheesiest lines and also from his guest appearances on Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Plus I never really could get over his costume, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. This is all started to change around 2004.

Ed Brubaker took over the Captain America book. This was the relaunch after the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline. In it, Cap’s life is thrown for a loop when The Red Skull is assassinated and the culprit is his long thought to be dead partner, Bucky Barnes who now goes by the name of The Winter Soldier. This storyline changed my perspective on the Star Spangled Avenger. That being said, comics is where the character is from. This did help me warm up to the character but when it comes to the big screen, that was another story.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2008 with the release of “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk”. Iron Man was the critical and fan darling that year as it took an unknown character and made him a worldwide name. The Hulk is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. So later that year when Marvel Studios announced their future films and Captain America was on the lineup, I couldn’t help but be skeptical. I could only think of the criticism that faces Superman as the two character shares similar ideologies and many people are turned off by the whole “boy scout” thing.

In 2010, actor Chris Evans was announced as playing Steve Rogers/Captain America and you couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. Evans had previously played Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in the Fox/Marvel Fantastic Four movies. He certainly developed the physique for the post super soldier serum Cap and his supporting cast was top notch, so it started to ease doubts as to how the movie would turn out.

Finally in 2011, “Captain America: The First Avenger” was released and though at first I didn’t know how I thought about it, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was one of my favorite superhero films and the main reason was how much I enjoyed Steve Rogers/Captain America. There was something refreshing about the literal and figurative little guy  who just wanted to do the right thing but could not and would risk his own life just for the chance to help out.

The character next appeared in “The Avengers” the following year. This time he was not alone as he was joined by the other heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since in-story, Captain America had only been in modern times for about a few weeks, he was still stuck in the 1940’s way of thinking. For some, like Bruce Banner/Hulk, it was refreshing. For others, Tony Stark/Iron Man, he couldn’t stand it. He was very much a take orders kind of person as it was all he knew but we start to see the cracks in that as ultimately he is someone who does what he believes is right. The movie also shows that even someone who does not particularly like him, Iron Man and a x-factor such as the Hulk, will follow his orders in battle.

The steadfast belief to do what is right, no matter what is carried over into his next film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Struggling but seemingly accepting of modern society, Captain America is S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top field agent (enforcer) as his top physical and mental prowess combined with the modern day combat has made him a force to be reckoned with. Now he is faced with ghosts from his past which threaten to destroy everything he believes in. Once again his earnest nature proves to be an asset as it helps people join his cause and also helps convince others to do the right thing even in life or death situations.

Finally his latest appearance was in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” which picks up from the events of “The Winter Soldier”. The Avengers have become a unit again and Captain America is undoubtedly the leader of the team. However, a rogue experiment by Stark and Banner, Ultron threatens Earth’s existence, the team needs their steadfast leader. This is poignant in one particular scene where most of the team is affected by their deepest fears and we see what exactly is Cap’s biggest fear: without conflict, where does he go in the world? This was touched upon in The Winter Soldier but made more explicit. It is hinted on earlier when Sam Wilson/The Falcon visits Steve and asks about his living arrangements and it’s clear that he is avoiding the subject and using The Avengers as an excuse.

Ultron seems to be aware of this and even calls out Cap’s fears in front of him. When all of the Avengers are hit with their nightmares, they are all pretty shaken up except for Cap. Stark even wonders why that is. They soon begin an argument about the cost of battle as Stark does not want to keep fighting as that was his reason for creating Ultron while Cap believes that stopping a war before there even is a war will ultimately lead to what they were trying to stop in the first place. So while Cap does seem to struggle with the reality that he can’t fight, he is someone who does not want conflict but will be the first in line to fight if need be. By the end of the movie, he fully cements his self as the leader of The Avengers as most of the old team has left and he is now in charge of a new team. This is especially poignant as he is on a raised platform and all the new members are looking up to him.

A slow burn but that was simmering. Ever since “Captain America: The First Avenger” I’ve enjoyed the character of Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the end of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, he has become my favorite character within the franchise. There is something refreshing in a character who does not believe in cynicism but also a “good is not nice” when need be. He is somewhat that will hold steady no matter what sort of adversity he is facing. I cannot wait to see the continued adventures of my favorite character.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

First and foremost, I loved this movie. Thought it was absolutely incredible. I definitely feel that it was the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only was it a faithful if somewhat loose adaptation of my favorite Captain America storyline but it was just a great movie in general.

 

The story was super tight. It never really dragged. It definitely captured the nuance of Steve Rogers and the world that he lives in. While I’m still not a fan of hers, Scarlet Johanson as Black Widow, she does definitely step it up and make me like her much more. Still think she’s pointless but whatever. I was absolutely in love with The Falcon in this movie. Every time that guy was on screen, I had a big smile on my face. You finally get to see Nick Fury kick ass on screen and be an actual character.

One thing that has bugged me of the Marvel movies lately is all the unnecessary humor. Thor: The Dark World suffered majorly because of this. This movie was definitely a course correction. It does have it humor but usually just to add levity. These characters were in serious situations and treated it as such and that was definitely appreciated.
One of the only knocks I have against it, is that the CGI is a bit wonky especially towards the end. But it never really took me out of it but it did make me notice. Also even though he is in the title, The Winter Soldier is not really in the movie all the much but he is enough of a presence. But you can tell there is much more to come.

Score: 5/5