Tag Archives: The Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

After years of begging for Sony to let go of their biggest franchise, we finally have a Marvel produced Spider-Man. This film stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker and picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Peter spends his afternoons as Spider-Man doing small deeds around Queens instead of the high-stakes battles we are used to. He wants to have more responsibility and gets his wish with The Vulture (Michael Keaton; Birdman). The Vulture uses alien technology to create and sell deadly weapons of immense power that rival, and perhaps eclipse, Spider-Man’s own abilities.

The writers (there were six in total) make the smart decision to skip over Spider-Man’s origin. The Amazing Spider-Man movies suffered from their familiarity and Homecoming avoids that pitfall by (correctly) assuming the audience already knows his backstory. The script instead treats being a superhero like an extracurricular activity. It focuses on Peter attempting to balance his schoolwork, friendships, and trying to impress Tony Stark enough to become a full Avenger. This turns the film into equal parts superhero and coming-of-age story, one with an incredibly likeable supporting cast. As he deals with his best friend, his bully, and his potential love interest, Peter becomes the relatable character we know and love. At his heart, Peter Parker is a good, smart kid. He’s a nerd and isn’t the cocky, often creepy version played by Andrew Garfield. The writing and choice to cast actors actually passable as teenagers allows the characters to becoming endearing and believable.

The charming students make the high school scenes some of the best parts of the film.

The film does still suffer from some rapid editing and cliché plot points. The origin of the Vulture is cut together at blistering speed with a hastily added title card used to leap forward in time. This was clearly done to limit the potentially long runtime, but starts the movie on rocky footing. Then the movie resorts to an overused epiphany during the mandatory action set piece where Spidey hears a guiding voice during his moment of crisis that gives him the strength needed to overcome his current obstacle. These are both unfortunate realities created by the requirements of the genre, but don’t detract from the overall enjoyment.

This may be the first superhero film in years to produce any amount of sustained tension. Typically, fight scenes are major in scale but minor in impact. How can we worry about whether a character lives or dies when we know they are already slated for a sequel and know that they make their studio too much money to kill off? Spider-Man breaks this trend with one particular revelation that will come out of nowhere, but makes perfect sense in the context of the story. It plays on an already tense situation for teenagers but adds a physical threat. This is helped by Michael Keaton as one of Marvel’s only interesting villains. Note that he is an ordinary villain and intentionally not the super kind. He doesn’t desire global domination, but rather has the modest goal to take care of his family and his employees. The reason for his villainous turn is also convincing. His small salvage team loses their contract with the City of New York to Tony Stark’s company after the destruction from Age of Ultron. Essentially meaning that the man responsible for the damage is also profiting from it. One of the film’s most refreshing aspects is how it casts Tony Stark in an unflattering light. It points out that he is a member of the wealthy elite that seems exempt from responsibility which makes The Vulture’s blue-collar frustration more sympathetic. The strength of its villain and the genuine surprises make Homecoming one of the best superhero movies in recent memory.

4/5 stars.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Given the controversial remarks made ten years ago, it’s easy to forget who Mel Gibson really is. He is a talented actor (Mad Mqx) and has proven himself as a director as well (Braveheart). After being blacklisted for almost a decade, Gibson makes his return behind the camera with Hacksaw Ridge. The film covers the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield; The Amazing Spider-Man), the first conscientious objector to win a medal of honor. Desmond is a deeply religious young man who grew up in Virginia with an abusive, alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving struggling to maintain a southern accent while displaying the slurred speech of a drunk; The Matrix). After WWII begins, Desmond joins the army with the goal of working as a medic. He refuses to touch a firearm, due to his religious beliefs, but is convinced he can still serve his country.

Gibson’s favorite themes of religion and duty provide the backbone to the film. Doss is almost a messiah-like figure. He encounters strong opposition during his difficult but surprisingly funny basic training. He is the model of morality and Gibson lays on the religious imagery thick. The camera circles around Doss as water cleans off the blood and dirt of battle in a blatantly Christ-like fashion.  For some, the often hamfisted allegory will be upsetting.

Doss risks his life to save his brothers in battle.
Doss risks his life to save his brothers in battle.

Despite his saintly behavior, Doss never becomes preachy. Instead, he is portrayed as a lovable simpleton. He is the regular boy whose dumb grin and boundless faith and optimism will allow him to accomplish things any normal person would be too cynical to attempt. It only takes one interaction with a woman for him to go home and tell his mom that he has met his future wife. Garfield may sometimes push too far into Forrest Gump territory, but it’s hard to care when his attitude provides such a welcome contrast to the pessimism prevalent in his peers and most modern day characters. In a world where brooding has become the norm, Doss provides the counterargument that unwavering conviction can be just as involving.

The majority of the film takes place on the battlefield. Hacksaw Ridge itself is littered with dead bodies, dugouts, and fortified caves, the Japanese use for cover. Gibson manages to balance the scale and chaos of the larger battle with the intensity of a single soldier’s fight.  As guns are fired and bombs explode, the camera never turns away from the damage. Blood splatters and limbs fly leaving behind bloody stumps. Even as the film rapidly cuts between action, the fighting is never disorienting. The danger is intense and every moment holds potential disaster.

Gibson has never been a cerebral filmmaker; his intentions are always emotional. During Doss’s objection, Gibson never explores the morality of violence during war. There are brief mentions of extenuating circumstances, but he is more interested in the impact that one’s beliefs can have on themselves and others. The strength of Doss’s faith gives his fellow soldiers something to latch onto. As their world literally explodes around them, his belief in God is the one constant they can depend upon. It allows them to overcome the illogical act of returning to a battlefield. Gibson uses Doss’s story to show how spiritual conviction can conquer even extreme situations.

4/5 stars.