Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man is back on the big screen and…well, it’s pretty much what you would expect.

Tom Holland is a fantastic Spider-Man and a different take on the character.  Eager yet untested, he is able to do amazing things yet is growing bored of his life after getting a taste of the Avengers back during Captain America: Civil War.  This serves as a good motivating factor as he tries to take down the Vulture, who may be too over his head.

The Vulture, on the other hand, starts off with a pretty good motivation that sees yet another consequence of the Avenger’s actions (in fact, I believe Phase 3 is all about consequences for the Avenger’s actions).  Though for the majority of the movie, I got the sense that he was pretty much just the same old forgettable Marvel villain.  There’s this aspect of his character that he’s doing this all for his family but at the same time lives for the thrill of the heist that might be getting the better of him, but it doesn’t really amount to anything and it’s never brought up.  There’s nothing really new about his character, which is a shame because Michael Keaton is always enjoyable and I loved the design of the Vulture.

So, everything about the movie was good and I enjoyed it immensely.  I couldn’t shake this odd feeling about it.  It was likable but it was just that.  In the end, it’s safe.  The action is just good enough.  The story is just good enough.  The music is just good enough.  The whole movie is just good enough.

Which is fine but I’m always expecting more in my movies.  Maybe this sets a high standard that no movie can reach but it’s something that I can’t really help.  Maybe if the movie instead tried to form a parallel arc between Spider-Man and the Vulture about how they both want something bigger and better with their lives but aren’t prepared for the consequences of it when it blows back into their face but there is no connection.  Spider-Man is stopping the Vulture because stealing is wrong.

The side characters are likable but all mainly serve Peter Parker’s story.  They have no stories of their own.  They’re only important when Parker has to deal with them.  Maybe if they had one of the characters say this to his face then I would have liked the movie more.

As it stands, the movie is decent.  Serviceable.  It does what it sets out to do, nothing more, nothing less.  And I enjoyed it a lot more than I probably sound.  It was refreshing to see a movie in the MCU that didn’t deal with Avengers level stuff, but more ground level things.  It was fun, lighthearted, funny and exciting at times, but it just didn’t wow me like I wish it had.  It simply met my expectations.

Doctor Strange (Review)

Doctor Strange (Review)

Doctor Strange tells the origin story of the titular Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a famous neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident.  In his desperation, he seeks the help of a group of mystics and sorcerers led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).  As he learns the mystic arts, he must battle with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a rogue sorcerer who is trying to find a way to bring eternal life to the people.

There was a lot of controversy around the film regarding the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and the stereotypical tropes that Doctor Strange relies on (the exotic East as a source of mysterious power).  People who know me know that I was pretty upset by these things but what they probably don’t know is the reason why I was upset.  It wasn’t because I thought the movie would be terrible before I’ve even seen it and that nobody should enjoy this movie because of these reasons.  Its because it’s a problem that somehow still continues to exist in the movie industry today.  Hollywood would always rather hire a white actor over an asian actor because they sell.  The common audience don’t often go to Asian countries to see what it’s actually like there, so they don’t ask questions when these stereotypes crop up again and again.  If it seems like I’m targeting this film in particular, it’s simply because it’s the most recent example of these problems.

Did any of these problems stop me from enjoying this movie?  Hell no.

The movie reminds me a lot of the original Iron Man movie with it’s smaller, simpler narrative.  Dr. Strange also reminds me a lot of Tony Stark, though, regrettably, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t quite have the same charisma that Robert Downey Jr. does.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor, though, and he does his job as Dr. Strange incredibly well.  In fact, this entire cast of characters was surprisingly well put together.  Tilda Swinton plays the part of the Ancient One with grace and poise but also with ferocity, making her one of my favorite characters in the movie.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is both charismatic and harsh as Mordo, Strange’s ally in arms.  Even Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius garners some sympathy, but only in the one scene he gets to be sympathetic, which continues the trend of Marvel villains being boring.

The only actress to really get the short end of the stick is Rachel McAdams, who is relegated to being the token girlfriend.  Even though she has her own life and is an accomplished nurse, her whole role in the movie is to be the representation of Strange’s former life.  Maybe I’m being too harsh because, to be fair, they used to be lovers but they broke up after the accident, which makes her more of the token friend.  Still, I hope that if they plan to use her again in the future, that they actually give her more to do than patch up Strange.

The main issue with the film is that it relies on so many tropes that this movie feels more like a paint by numbers Marvel movie.  The only part that was different is in how Strange deals with the issues.  He might very well be the only one in the entire MCU whose first instinct isn’t to fight or kill anyone.  As a doctor, he’s tasked with saving lives, not taking them and it was nice to see him solve problems through bargaining rather than killing.

I’ve listed numerous problems the film has but I still enjoyed the movie.  People seem to forget that you can both enjoy a movie immensely and still be aware of the problematic things that exist within it and by contrast to other movies, the problems in this movie are small in comparison.  Tilda Swinton is fantastic and ended up being my favorite character.  All in all, it’s a fun movie with some of the trippiest visuals I’ve ever seen.