Thursday, July 27, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes was written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves, and directed by Matt Reeves.

Bomback is a VERY mediocre screenwriter who can occasionally pump out a decent script when he has to. Sadly, this is not one of those times. He previously wrote The Night Caller, Godsend, Live Free Or Die Hard, Deception, Race To Witch Mountain, Unstoppable, Total Recall (2012), The Wolverine, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and The Divergent Series: Insurgent.

Matt Reeves worked mostly in TV until his cinematic directorial break, Cloverfield. He also directed Let Me In (the American remake of Let The Right One In) and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Take Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, throw out everything that made it good and cross it with a Cliff Notes version of Apocalypse Now and you'll have a pretty good idea what this movie's like.

I thought Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (the first film in the trilogy) was just OK at best. I loved Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes though, as it was a quantum leap forward in terms of writing, characterization and quality (I even gave it a A grade!). It was almost like a Shakespearian tragedy— I found myself hoping the fragile ape/human alliance would work out, even though I knew it was doomed from the start. The movie asked hard questions about race, prejudice and trust, and didn't flinch at answering them. 
I eagerly looked forward to the third chapter.

Unfortunately War For The Planet Of The Apes is a huge step backwards. Somehow War took everything that made Dawn a smartly written film and completely dumbed it down. Gone are the deep, thoughtful questions on the nature of humanity, replaced with a cliched revenge plot pulled straight out of a comic book adaptation of Moby Dick

Characterization suffers here too. In Dawn, Caesar was a flawed, complex character who felt real, despite the fact that he was a talking ape. Here he's been reduced to a cartoon character who's as shallow as the pixels used to render his form. He's gone from a thoughtful leader who desperately tried to find a way for apes and humans to coexist, to a reckless vigilante whose obsession with vengeance outweighs the good of his people.

Worst of all is the ridiculous ending. Apparently the writers were unable to come up with a satisfactory way to wrap up the war between the species, so they literally wipe the humans off the screen with a comically contrived deus ex machina.

So what went wrong here? Why is War such a step downwards in quality? If I had to guess, I'd say the fault lies with the writing team— or rather the lack of it. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver wrote Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and co-wrote Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes along with Mark Bomback. For some reason they didn't return for this third installment. Apparently they were the real talents of the franchise, as their absence is keenly felt here.

So far the film's grossed $100 million domestically, and $77 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $177 million against its $150 million budget. That ain't good. Rise grossed $481 million (worldwide), while Dawn raked in an impressive $710 million (also worldwide). I don't know if it's just bad timing or people are tired of CGI apes, but War definitely has its work cut out for it if it wants to surpass (or even equal!) its predecessors.


The Plot:
To recap: It's been fifteen years since the Simian Flu swept the world, killing billions of humans and smartening up the great apes (which we saw happen in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes). Caesar the chimp (played by Andy Serkis), the leader of a large group of apes, struggled to live in peace with the remaining humans. Unfortunately a rogue bonobo named Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) betrayed Caesar, causing a war between the apes and humanity. Caesar broke the apes' cardinal rule and killed Koba, ending the conflict (as seen in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes). He and his tribe now live deep in the Muir Woods, inside an abandoned human command base behind a waterfall. OK, we're all caught up!

As the apes mind their own business, a team of soldiers quietly sneak through the woods and surround them. The humans are helped by a couple of turncoat apes (including a gorilla named Red) who were loyal to Koba. The soldiers attack the ape base, but Caesar's tribe savagely strikes back with spears and guns.

Caesar's forces several humans, including one named Preacher, who'll become important later on. They capture Red as well. Caesar sends the humans back to their camp unharmed, to show their commander the apes are peaceful. He holds onto the traitorous Red though, ordering an albino gorilla named Winter to lock him up. Unfortunately Red escapes from Winter and heads back to the human camp.

Just then Caesar's son Blue Eyes returns from a scouting mission, reuniting with his mate Lake. Blue Eyes tells him of a Hidden Valley he discovered, where the apes would be safe from humanity forever (?). It seems unlikely there'd be anyplace on Earth that humans wouldn't eventually find, but let's just go with it or we'll be here all day. Many of the apes are all for moving, but Caesar's reluctant to go. Instead he huddles with his wife Cornelia and youngest son Cornelius.

That night the ape camp is raided by another squad of human soldiers, led by Colonel McCullough (played by Woody Harrelson). Because that's what army Colonels do, right? They lead dangerous missions instead of controlling troop movements from a command bunker. The Colonel kills Blue Eyes and Cornelia, thinking he's slaying Caesar and his wife. Caesar wakes and finds his wife and son dead. He spots the The Colonel as he climbs up a rope beyond the waterfall. Enraged, Caesar leaps after him and follows up the rope. The Colonel cuts the rope, and Caesar falls into a pool far below.

Caesar returns to the cave and discovers his youngest son Cornelius is still alive. He asks Lake to watch over Cornelius, and then orders his people to head for the Hidden Valley immediately, while he goes off to seek revenge on The Colonel. Maurice the orangutan is shocked that Caesar isn't personally leading his people to their promised land.

Caesar rides off to the soldier's camp, which he somehow knows how to find, and is soon followed by Maurice, Rocket the chimp and Luca the gorilla. Caesar orders them away, saying this is something he has to do himself. They refuse to leave, insisting on protecting him. The apes soon come to a small human outpost. They're surprised to see Winter there, and discover he's defected after Red talked him into letting him go. Caesar interrogates Winter, who tells him The Colonel and his men are heading toward their larger border camp. Caesar knocks out Winter and leaves him unconscious.

The next day the apes find a cabin, where they surprise a human gathering wood. He tries to shoot them, but Caesar kills the man first. Inside the cabin they find a young human girl. She struggles to speak, but can't for some reason. Maurice gives her a doll to calm her down, and takes her with him. Caesar objects, but Maurice says he's not leaving her to die alone.

The apes enter a snowy, mountainous region, where they find the executed bodies of three of The Colonel's men. Miraculously, one's still alive, and Caesar attempts to question him. Unfortunately the man can't speak, just like the girl. Hmmm... Caesar kills the mortally wounded man, putting him out of his misery.

Just then a shadowy figure steals one of their rifles and horses. They chase after it, and corner it in an abandoned building. They see it's a small chimp who calls himself Bad Ape (played by Steve Zahn). He explains that he lived in a zoo, and after the Simian Flu elevated his intelligence, he learned to speak from watching and listening to humans. Bad Ape gives his jacket to the girl, along with a metallic car emblem that reads "NOVA." Fan service!

The next day Luca and Nova bond, until he's shot and killed by one of The Colonel's snipers. Caesar says this is why he wanted to come alone. Maurice tells Caesar his thirst for revenge is turning him into Koba.

That night Caesar heads for The Colonel's camp alone. Outside the camp he sees several familiar apes crucified on large wooden "X"s. Why, it's almost like The Colonel's trying to send a message, and the camp is a Forbidden Zone! More fan service! Caesar tries to free one of the apes, who tells him that shortly after he left, the apes were all ambushed and captured by The Colonel's men. Just then Caesar's knocked out by Red.

When Caesar wakes up he's taken to see The Colonel, and tells him he plans to kill him for murdering his wife and child. The Colonel apologizes, saying he actually meant to kill Caesar. He orders him to be put to work with the other captured apes, to build a giant wall around the camp. Caesar's relieved to see that Cornelius and Lake are still alive.

The humans force the apes to work endlessly on the wall for days, with no food or water. Caesar eventually tells them to stop until they're fed. This angers The Colonel, who orders Caesar to be whipped. Lake and the other apes start working again in order to save Caesar's life.

Later Red and Preacher bring Caesar to The Colonel's office. The Colonel tells him that the Simian Flu is starting to mutate, and it's causing the human survivors to lose their ability to speak and to regress to a primitive state (which explains why Nova can't talk). The Colonel says his own son was affected by this new strain, and he was forced to kill him, which obviously unhinged him. The Colonel claims the military's blind to what's happening, so he and a group of men deserted to form their own enclave. The wall is meant to protect them from the military that's coming to put an end to The Colonel's rogue faction.

The Colonel then agrees to feed and water the apes— except for Caesar. Meanwhile, Maurice, Rocket, Bad Ape and Nova observe the camp. Somehow Nova sashays into the camp unchallenged and unseen, giving Caesar food and water, and inexplicably, her doll. A group of soldiers approach, and Rocket distracts them so Nova can get away. He's captured and thrown in with the other apes. The Colonel sees the doll in Caesar's cage and realizes something's going on. For some reason he picks up the doll and takes it to his office.

Somehow Bad Ape knows there're a series of tunnels under the camp, and Maurice realizes they can use them to free their people. Bad Ape digs through the top of a tunnel, popping up inside the main ape cage. Rocket creates a diversion by throwing his feces at a human guard (!). This angers the guard so much he actually enters the cage and demands to know who threw their poop. He just happens to stop at the perfect spot so that Bad Ape can pull him underground.

The apes begin evacuating their young out of the camp, and Rocket manages to free Caesar. Rocket's stunned when Caesar tells him to go on without him, as he can't let go of his hatred of The Colonel and plans to finish him off. Some leader!

Just then the real military shows up and launches an all-out attack on The Colonel's crazy faction. Naturally the makeshift wooden wall is no match for missiles and other high tech weaponry, and is instantly breached. In the confusion Caesar enters The Colonel's office, and sees him lying in bed, seemingly drunk. He sees The Colonel's holding Nova's doll and realizes he's been struck dumb by the mutated flu as well. That was quick! Caesar hands The Colonel his gun, and he uses the last of his intelligence to shoot himself in the head.

Caesar's then caught between the two warring human armies. He's shot with an arrow by Preacher, the man he showed mercy to earlier. I'll bet there's a message there somewhere! Red, who's still working for the humans, sees Caesar fall. He decides to have a third act change of heart, and turns on his oppressors. Caesar grabs a grenade belt and throws it at a fuel truck, blowing up the entire camp. Caesar of course manages to escape somehow.

Caesar watches as the newly-arrived army cheers the destruction of The Colonel and his forces. Just then a couple of these new soldiers spot Caesar, and draw their guns on him. Before they can fire, a massive avalanche— triggered by the explosion— flows down the mountain.

Caesar and the other apes quickly climb to safety, as the deus ex machina, er, I mean the avalanche completely wipes out the human army. Well, that was certainly easy! No more messy truces or trying to get along with the humans!

The apes then head for the magical Hidden Valley, where no mean nasty humans will ever be able to find them. They finally arrive, and see the Valley is a virtual paradise, filled with abundant trees and flowing rivers. Caesar and Maurice watch with satisfaction as their people make themselves at home. Suddenly Caesar slumps over, as we see his wound was more serious than he let on. He asks Maurice to take care of Cornelius for him. Maurice says he'll make sure that his son, and all apes, will know what he did for them. Caesar then dies in peace.


Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was absolutely lousy with Easter eggs, shoutouts and callbacks to the original Planet Of The Apes franchise. I counted at least twenty one such references in the film. One or two in-jokes would have been fine, but after a while this constant fan service became extremely distracting and downright annoying.

Thankfully, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes featured were few if any callbacks, and all was right with the world.

Annnnd now the references are back with a vengeance in War Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Many of the ape names are references to the original franchise. Caesar's son Blue Eyes is likely a nod to "Bright Eyes," the nickname given to Taylor by Dr. Zira in Planet Of The Apes. Caesar's youngest son is named Cornelius, which was the name of Roddy McDowell's character in Planet Of The Apes. Maurice the orangutan is a shoutout to actor Maurice Evans, who played Dr. Zauis in Planet Of The Apes. Caesar was of course the ape protagonist in Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes. (to be fair, these names were all established in Rise and Dawn, so I can't fault this film too awfully much for using them again. Still, a shoutout is a shoutout!).

The mute human girl found by Caesar and his peeps is nicknamed "Nova." Actress Linda Harrison played Nova, Taylor's mute human mate in Planet Of The Apes and Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.

The Colonel calls his rebel faction the Alpha & Omega. In Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, a group of underground mutated humans worshiped an atomic bomb that was called Alpha & Omega.

When Caesar first approaches The Colonel's base, he sees a group of apes crucified on large wooden "X"s. There were similar wooden crosses used to mark the edge of the Forbidden Zone in Planet Of The Apes.

After Caesar dies at the end of the movie, it's implied that Maurice will take his place as leader. In the original franchise, the ape society was led by an orangutan called "The Lawgiver."

• These motion capture actors have apes on the brain! In the film, Andy Serkis plays Caesar, while famed "movement coach" Terry Notary plays Rocket. Oddly enough, both men have played King Kong before— Serkis played him in 2005's King Kong, while Notary played him in Kong: Skull Island.

• Credit Where Credit's Due: The script might be disappointing, but the ape effects in War are top notch. The CGI has improved exponentially with each successive film, and that's especially true here. 

Take Maurice, for example. He looks absolutely real to me, and if I didn't know he was a CGI creation, I'd think that the director just filmed a real, highly trained orangutan. I think it's his realistic ape eyes that complete the illusion.

Unfortunately Caesar doesn't fare quite as well. It's not that he doesn't look a living, breathing creature, because he does. It's just that he doesn't look like a real chimp. That's no doubt due to the fact that the filmmakers did their best to map mocap actor Andy Serkis' facial features onto Caesar. Instead of looking like an actual chimp, this makes him look like some kind of weird human/ape hybrid.

• The Colonel's actual name is never spoken in the movie, but according to the patch on his uniform, it's "McCullough."

• The traitor apes working for The Colonel are called "donkeys" by the human soldiers. Supposedly this is a reference to Donkey Kong (com-O-dee!) as well as the fact that these apes are used as pack animals.

• As I said earlier, Dawn was a smartly written film, filled with realistic characters who acted accordingly. Suddenly in War everyone's apparently taken a large dose of Stupid Pills, as they make one boneheaded decision after another. Case in point: Why is Caesar suddenly such a horrible leader in this movie? In the previous film he did whatever was necessary to protect his tribe. Then in War he throws that all away, as he abruptly develops an Ahab-like obsession with killing The Colonel. In fact he's so dead set on murdering him that he can't be bothered to lead his people to their "promised land," sending them off on the journey by themselves!

Yes, The Colonel did kill Caesar's family, which was a bad thing. But that doesn't justify his abandonment of his his huge colony. "The needs of the many" and all that.

Worst of all, the screenwriters actually reference this in the movie, as Maurice says Caesar's need for revenge makes him as bad as Koba (the vengeance-obsessed villain of the previous film). So they recognized that they were corrupting their own character, and then went ahead and did it anyway!

• At one point Caesar and his posse run into Nova's dad, and shoot him in self defense. A few minutes later she wanders out of her cabin and stares down at her father's lifeless body. Not one wisp of emotion ever flickers across her face.

Later in the film, Nova stares amazed at a tree that's inexplicably bloomed in the snow. Luca the gorilla picks a flower from the tree and places it in Nova's hair. A few minutes later Luca's killed. Nova immediately climbs atop his body and sobs uncontrollably. If she was capable of speech, she no doubt would have thrown her head back and screamed to the heavens, "WHYYYYYY?"

So she couldn't possibly care less that her dad was killed, but she's devastated by the loss of a gorilla she's known all of a day. One that she had no prior interaction with, save for the flower thing. What the hell?

Wouldn't it have made much more sense if Maurice had been the one who was killed, and Nova grieved over him? After all, the two of them had a special rapport from the moment they met. I suppose the screenwriters couldn't afford to lose Maurice, since he's been with the series from the beginning and they obviously meant for him to take Caesar's place. The least they could have done though was to establish a bond between Nova and Luca early on, so her reaction to his death would have felt earned. As it stands it comes completely out of nowhere.

• Caesar and his crew meet Bad Ape, a chimp from a zoo who learned to speak by listening to his human captors. Supposedly this is a shocking moment in the franchise, as it confirms that Caesar and his tribe aren't the only talking apes in the world. 

Hmm. The Simian Flu enhanced the intelligence of apes across the globe, so I just assumed they all started talking too. Apparently not though. It seems odd to think that the only apes with the power of speech are in the San Francisco area.

I guess this makes sense though. Caesar was a special case, who was taught sign language at an early age and learned to speak from his owner Will Rodman. He then passed this knowledge onto the various members of his tribe. 

So what's going on in other parts of the world? Did the apes in Europe and Asia become intelligent, but never learned to talk or sign? Or did they made up their own languages?

• Bad Ape lives in a snowy, mountainous environment, and wears human clothing to protect him against the cold. Seems like a good idea. So why don't any of the other apes ever do this? Do they not like the idea of wearing human-made garments, or are they just not affected by the cold?

Seeing them wearing coats and hats would have been a nice tie-in to the original franchise, in which the apes were all fully clothed.

• Welp, they finally went there. 2017 will go down in history as the year in which a Planet Of The Apes movie featured an ape that actually threw its own feces at a human.

• More stupidity: After Rocket throws his crap at a soldier, the man is so incensed that he opens the ape cage and enters it alone! Doesn't tell anyone else what he's doing, doesn't call for backup, just waltzes right into a cage filled with hundreds of angry apes. And then of course he's immediately pulled underground and presumably killed. Serves him right.

• Even more stupidity: The Colonel knows the Simian Flu virus has mutated, causing human survivors to lose the ability to think and speak. Several of his men— including his own son— have succumbed to this new strain.

So of course he and his men take absolutely zero precautions against catching the disease. Not even so much as a cotton face mask. They even go so far as to house hundreds of captured apes (who are likely Simian Flu carriers) in the middle of their camp!

Granted, The Colonel does execute several of his own men who have the disease, but only AFTER they start showing symptoms. It's way too late by that point!

• Still more stupidity: Nova sneaks into The Colonel's camp to give Caesar food and water. Hilariously she makes little or no attempt to hide, and none of the human soldiers ever seem to notice her. Isn't The Colonel building a wall to keep out a rapidly-approaching army? One would think security at the camp would be at an all-time high in such a situation. Apparently not though, as a little girl can come and go as she pleases.

• I don't think the screenwriters understand how tunnels work.

Maurice, Rocket & Bad Ape look for a way to rescue Caesar and their people from The Colonel. Suddenly Bad Ape falls through some rickety wooden planks, down into a series of tunnels that run under the camp. Maurice and Bad Ape then explore these cement-lined tunnels. They spot a ladder, Bad Ape climbs it, and somehow pokes his head up through the ground inside the camp.

So... did he dig his way through several inches of cement while we weren't looking? Or was there a hole in the top of the tunnel, covered by just a couple inches of grass and dirt? Based on the way his head pops through, it certainly looks like the latter. How the hell did none of The Colonel's men ever accidentally fall through this deathtrap?

Later on Bad Ape finds another tunnel and this time sticks his head through the ground inside the captive apes' cage, rescuing them. Again, this second hole appears to be covered by nothing more than a couple inches of dirt and grass. There's no way at least one of the hundreds of apes in the cage wouldn't have fallen through.

• The Colonel says the Northern Army is coming to eliminate his rogue faction. In order to hold back this technologically advance invasion force, he orders a wall be built around his camp.

What's this tremendous, impregnable wall made of, you ask? Solid steel? reinforced concrete? Bamboo? Nope! It's made of logs and whatever other junk the ape slaves can find to stack up. "Primitive" doesn't even begin to describe it. In fact, if left to themselves, the apes could probably make a better looking and more substantial wall!

Sure enough, when the Northern Army arrives, it only takes one or two air to ground missiles to completely punch through the sad, ramshackle little wall.

• As I mentioned earlier, the film ends with a hilariously convenient deus ex machina in the form of an avalanche, that literally sweeps away every single one of the apes' human adversaries. It gives new meaning to the word contrived.

After watching this scene, I am 99% sure the following conversation happened in the War For The Planet Of The Apes writer's room:

Mark Bomback: "OK, so Caesar just singlehandedly took out The Colonel's troops with a well-timed explosion, but then the massive Northern Army arrives. How are we gonna resolve this plot line?"
Matt Reeves: "Well... we could have Caesar rally his apes and attack the Northern Army."
Mark Bomback: "Nah, the movie's already well over two hours long. That'd add at least another hour to the runtime."
Matt Reeves: "We could end it as the Northern Army arrives and have the apes fight them in a fourth movie."
Mark Bomback: "Nah, we can't do that. Andy Serkis is only contracted for three films. He'd want a fortune to do a fourth. What are we gonna do?"
Matt Reeves: "How about this? A big avalanche comes down the mountain and wipes out all the bad humans, leaving the apes fully in charge of the world?"
Mark Bomback: "Are you kidding me? That's the dumbest, most hackneyed ending possible! The movie'd be laughed off the screen and we'd never work in Hollywood again!"
Matt Reeves: "Fine. So what do you suggest we do instead?"

Cut to one year later, as the film ends with a giant avalanche wiping out all the bad humans, leaving the apes fully in charge of the world.

• In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a TV in the background airs a news broadcast stating that the spaceship Icarus has entered Mars' atmosphere.

A bit later we see a newspaper headline saying the Icarus has been "Lost In Space."

At the end of War, I half expected to see a post-credits scene of the Icarus returning to Earth, as the astronauts discovered the planet was now ruled by apes. I still wouldn't rule this out. They went to a lot of trouble to mention this ship in Rise, much more so than if it was just a fun little Easter egg.

War For The Planet Of The Apes is a big step backwards for the franchise, and a disappointing finish to the trilogy. Everything that made Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes great has been turned on its head and dumbed down here, resulting in a film that's mediocre at best. For completists only. I wish I could score it higher, but sadly, I have to give it a C+.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Resistance Is Futile!

As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I'm very much looking forward to Shia LaBeouf's new film, Borg/McEnroe! I'm assuming the plot has to do with the evil Borg race challenging Starfleet to a tennis match, for control of the Earth. Should be exciting!

It Came From The Cineplex: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming was written by Johnathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Christopher Ford and Jon Watts. Yep, it took a whopping SIX people to write this thing. It was directed by Jon Watts. 

Goldstein has worked primarily in TV, occasionally scripting mediocre films with actor/writer John Francis Daley (who played Sam Weir on Freaks & Geeks). Together they wrote Horrible Bosses, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, Horrible Bosses 2 and Vacation. McKenna previously wrote Igor, and wrote The Lego Batman Movie along with Erik Sommers.

Ford and Watts previously wrote the low budget indie films Clown (a mediocre movie about a man who transforms into an evil clown after putting on a costume) and Cop Car (a pretty good movie about two young boys who steal a police cruiser). Watts also directed both films.

Yep, once again a studio takes a novice director with one or two little films under his belt and hands him the keys to a major, multi-million dollar tentpole picture. Seems like a risky strategy to me. On the other hand, these days movie studios just lovvvvvve to interfere and micromanage their films. If they tried to do this with a seasoned director like David Fincher, he'd likely tell them to piss right off. If they tell a nooby director to jump, he'll eagerly say, "Sir, how high, sir!"

So how is Spider-Man: Homecoming? Is it better or worse than the previous FIVE Spider-films? Overall I liked it quite a bit, even though it seemed to take a while to get going and engage me.
I'd call it good, but not great. It's most definitely a standard Marvel Studios movie, as it has their fingerprints all over it.

Honestly I liked the movie more for what it DIDN'T do. There was no world-ending threat or blue laser stabbing into the sky, as the film's stakes were pretty low. That's fine with me, as Spider-Man is traditionally a street-level superhero. The villain actually had a pretty good motive for his actions, as for once there was no convoluted revenge plot. And best of all, we didn't get a THIRD tedious rehashing of Spider-Man's origin story! Amazing!

Spider-Man: Homecoming marks the THIRD big-screen version of the titular character. It's also the first ever joint venture between Sony (who owns the film rights to Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios. So how'd that happen, you ask?

It seems hard to believe now, but back in the 1990s Marvel Comics was in serious financial trouble and darned near went bankrupt (!). In order to save the company, they started selling off the movie rights to their characters to various studios. New Line bought Blade The Vampire Hunter, while Fox purchased the X-Men and all their related characters, along with the Fantastic 4 and Daredevil. Universal acquired the Hulk, and Sony bought Spider-Man.

The move worked, as it saved Marvel from bankruptcy. Unfortunately the various films produced by the disparate studios varied wildly in quality. Some were quite good, while others were so bad it's a miracle they stuck to the film.

Marvel executives were convinced they could do a better job of adapting their characters to the screen. In 2004 they formed Marvel Studios, and began making their own films based on the characters they still owned. Their first film was 2008's Iron Man, which they distributed through a partnership with Paramount Pictures. Iron Man was a box office hit, and over the next five years Marvel Studios carefully and deliberately released a string of other successful films (such as Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor), culminating in 2012's teamup movie The Avengers.

Meanwhile, Sony produced a series of Spider-Man films with ever diminishing critical and box office returns. Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) were both very good, but Spider-Man 3 (2007) stunk on ice (due partly to studio interference on Sony's part). The less said about The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the better. In fact The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the lowest grossing film in the series, barely making back its production and marketing costs.

Angry fans called for Sony to stop ruining the character, and give him back to Marvel Studios where he belonged. To their credit, Sony realized they suck at making movies, er, I mean realized they had no idea what they were doing, er, I mean realized they needed help. They approached Marvel Studios, asking them to produce a new Spider-Man film for them, while they'd retain creative control, marketing and distribution. Seeing dollar signs in their eyes, Marvel agreed, and a deal was formed.

In a brilliant move, Marvel introduced their new and improved Spider-Man in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. His appearance was one of the highlights of the film, reviving public interest in the character. Which leads us to Spider-Man: Homecoming. The title obviously has multiple meanings, as it references the homecoming dance relevant to the plot, as well as the fact that Spider-Man's finally been returned (more or less) to Marvel Studios, where he belongs.

Normally I hate 3D movies with the white hot passion of a thousand exploding suns. I willingly saw Spider-Man: Homecoming in 3D though, because all the 2D showings at my cineplexery were sold out, so it was either that or nothing. Some friendly advice: DO NOT see this movie in 3D. The fake, post-production 3D was some of the worst I've ever seen, and did absolutely nothing but siphon an extra $3 from my wallet. In fact there were times when the movie looked completely flat and I forgot I was supposed to be watching a 3D film— that's how poor the conversion process was.

So far the film's doing OK, grossing $571 million worldwide against its $175 million budget. While that sounds impressive, it's far behind even the lowest grossing Spider-Man film. I have a feeling the less than spectacular box office performance could be due to the fact that this is the SIXTH Spider-Man film in fifteen years, and the public may just be Spider-Manned out.  

Spider-Man: Homecoming's got a long way to go before it surpasses its predecessors at the box office. Hopefully it'll make it, because it's a decent film and I want Marvel/Sony to make more in the series.


The Plot:
We begin with a flashback to the aftermath of the first Avengers movie, as Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton) and his salvage crew are cleaning up the rubble caused by the heroes' battle with Loki and the alien Chitauri. Just then a group called Damage Control arrives and announces they're taking over the operation. Toomes is livid, wondering how his business will survive.

When Toomes finds out Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) owns Damage Control, he feels it's a case of the rich shoving aside the little guy. Toomes and his crew begin secretly salvaging junk from superhero battles. Cut to eight years later, as Toomes has built a mini empire by stealing high tech junk. He uses a flying suit, complete with a gigantic pair of wings, built from scavenged Chitauri tech. Why, he's just like... a vulture!

Cut to the events of Captain America: Civil War, as we see the Berlin Airport Battle from Peter Parker's point of view. After the fight, Tony Stark brings Peter back to New York. He allows Peter to keep the Spider-Man suit he designed for him, and assigns his assistant Happy Hogan (played by John Favreau) to keep an eye on Peter. Stark tells the eager young Peter he'll call him if he needs him.

Peter takes this "promise" seriously, expecting to be called up for a new mission any second. Eventually he settles back into his normal routine, as he tries to balance his life as a student at Midtown High with his newfound career as Spider-Man. He decides to quit the academic decathlon team to devote more time to crimefighting. This disappoints his classmates, including his best friend Ned and his secret crush Liz.

One night Peter goes on patrol and stops four bank robbers armed with high-tech alien weapons. Unfortunately during the confrontation, one of the robbers destroys a bodega across the street, nearly killing the owner. Peter realizes he's still got a lot to learn about the superhero business.

Later that night Peter avoids his Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei) by sneaking into his room through an open window. Unfortunately Ned's there waiting for him, and realizes he's secretly Spider-Man. Peter makes Ned swear to keep his secret in order to protect Aunt May.

The next day at school Peter and Ned gaze longingly at Liz, who of course isn't interested in either of them. When Ned hears Liz say she has a crush on Spider-Man, he instantly blurts out that Peter knows him. Liz invites Peter & Ned to her party, hoping they'll invite Spider-Man. Gosh, I can see why Peter likes her so much!

Peter and Ned show up at Liz's party. Peter's harassed by Flash Thompson (the world's lamest movie bully) who doesn't believe he knows Spider-Man. Enraged, Peter decides it's time for Spider-Man to appear and humiliate Flash. He goes out to change into his costume, but sees an explosion in the distance. He rushes to investigate, and sees two of Toomes' men, Brice and Schultz, selling Chitauri tech to local gangster Aaron Davis (played by a dozing Donald Glover). Brice demonstrates a pair of powerful, energy-blasting gauntlets to Davis.

Spider-Man tries to apprehend Toomes' men, but they get away and drive off. He follows them, which is easier said than done in the suburbs. Suddenly the Vulture swoops down and grabs Spider-Man, flying him high into the air and dropping him. Somehow Spider-Man activates a parachute on his suit, but it becomes tangled and he falls into a river. As he struggles underwater, Iron Man, who'd been tracking him, shows up and saves him. Iron Man scolds Peter, telling him to leave crime fighting to the adults. As Peter despondently heads for home, he finds an alien power source that one of Toomes' men dropped.

Back at Toome's HQ, he's angry that with Brice and Schultz for demonstrating high tech weapons in public, and dropping a power source to boot. He fires Brice, who then threatens his family. Toomes vaporizes Brice and gives his gauntlets to Schultz, nicknaming him the "Shocker."

Later Ned studies the alien power source, while Peter tries to figure out all the features in his Spider-Man suit. Ned discovers that the suit is in "training wheels mode," implying it has more advanced features that Tony Stark didn't trust Peter with. Peter forces Ned to deactivate the training mode. 

Peter hunts down Schultz and places a spider-tracker on him. Peter and Ned then see that Schultz is headed for Maryland, which is near the Academic Decathlon Competition in Washington DC. Peter then rejoins the team (much to Flash's chagrin) so he can hitch a ride to DC and find Schultz.

In DC, Peter sneaks out of his hotel room and tracks Schultz. He discovers Toomes' and his crew hijacking a Damage Control truck that's filled with more alien tech. Peter manages to stop them, but in the process he's trapped inside the truck and knocked unconscious. He wakes up inside a Damage Control warehouse, which is sealed till morning. He passes the time by discovering how his suit works. He talks to the A.I. system in his suit, which is similar to that of Iron Man's. He decides to call his suit's A.I. "Karen" for some reason. Karen tells him the alien power core he discovered will explode like a bomb if exposed to radiation. Peter realizes the core is in Ned's backpack, and figures out a way to escape the warehouse.

Peter misses the academic competition, but his school wins without him, thanks to weirdo loner Michelle Jones (played by Zendaya, whoever that is). The team goes sightseeing at the Washington Monument, as Peter unsuccessfully tries to call Ned. He rushes to the Monument and arrives just as the core explodes, seriously damaging the elevator. Spider-Man climbs up the side of the Monument, breaks through a window and rescues his teammates seconds before the elevator crashes to the ground far below.

Back in New York, Peter meets with Aaron Davis, who tells him Toomes is planning to steal more tech from the Staten Island Ferry that afternoon. Peter swings out to the ferry and confronts Toomes— in costume as the Vulture— and his men, including Mac Gargan, aka the Scorpion. During their altercation, one of the high tech weapons misfires, slicing the ferry in half. Spider-Man heroically uses his webs in a futile effort to hold the ship together. Suddenly Iron Man appears and saves the ship by welding it back together.

Tony Stark then meets with Peter on a rooftop and tears him a new one, saying he's reckless and dangerous. He demands the Spider-Suit back, which devastates Peter. He says he's nothing without the suit, and Stark says if that's true, then he doesn't deserve to have it. Ouch!

Peter goes back home, where Aunt May says she knows he skipped detention and missed the Academic Decathlon, and knows that he's been sneaking out every night. She demands an explanation, and he tells her he lost the "Stark Internship," which of course is code for the Spider-Suit.

Without the suit, Peter becomes a normal student again. He even musters up the courage to tell Liz he likes her, and asks her to the Homecoming Dance.

On the night of the dance, Peter goes to Liz's house to pick her up. He's stunned when he sees her father is Adrian Toomes (GASP!). Toomes drives Liz and a visibly shaken Peter to the dance. He says he feels he knows Peter, and after some shrewd and careful questioning, works out that he's really Spider-Man. He tells Peter in secret to stay away from him and his salvage dealings, or he'll kill everyone he knows.

At the dance, Liz asks why Peter's so distracted. He finds out that Toomes is planning to steal a plane full of weaponry from Avengers Tower. He leaves Liz at the dance, and dons a homemade Spider-Man costume. As he heads outside, he's attacked by the Shocker. Peter gets his ass handed to him, and just as the Shocker's about to deliver the killing blow, Ned appears and saves him. 

With Ned's help, Peter tracks Toomes to his HQ. Toomes uses his suit to destroy the building, bringing it down on top of Peter. He then flies off to intercept the plane. Peter's trapped under tons of rubble, unable to move. He's ready to give up, until he remembers Tony's words ("If you're nothing without the suit, then you don't deserve it"). This causes him to rally, and he uses his enhanced strength to lift the rubble off him, in a recreation of one of the most famous moments from the comic.

Spider-Man swings to Avengers' Tower just as the plane takes off. Toomes follows it, and somehow Spider-Man latches onto his flying rig without him noticing. They have an epic battle on the plane, which eventually disables it, causing it to head right for downtown Manhattan. Peter's able to divert the plane, causing it to crash on Coney Island. 

Toomes grabs some power cores from the wreckage and starts to fly off. Peter tries to warn him that they're unstable and will explode, but Toomes doesn't listen. Sure enough, the cores explode, causing Toomes to crash to the ground. Peter pulls him from the flames and saves him. A groggy Toomes sees a severely injured Peter limp away, and realizes what he did for him. Happy arrives with the police, and Toomes is arrested. 

Later at school, Liz tells Peter she and her mom are moving to Oregon while her father's on trial. She says she's sorry things didn't work out for them, and hopes Peter figures out his priorities. Michelle's made captain of the Academic Decathlon team, and tells Peter to call her "MJ." Fan Service! Happy shows up, thanking Peter for his help, and says Tony wants to see him.

Happy brings Peter to the new Avengers HQ we saw at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Tony presents Peter with a new, even more advanced Spider-Suit, and wants to make him an official Avenger. He says he's called a press conference to make the announcement. Peter's amazed, but ultimately turns him down, opting instead to be a "friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man." More Fan Service!

After Peter leaves, Pepper Potts appears, saying the reporters are getting antsy. Apparently Tony really did call a press conference, and his offer to Peter was real and not a test. Happy gives Tony a ring, so he can use the press conference to propose to Pepper.

Peter returns home, and finds a large paper bag (?) on his bed. Inside is the original Stark Spider-Suit. He puts it on, unaware Aunt May's standing behind him. She shrieks "WHAT THE FU..." as we smash cut to black before she can finish her sentence.

In the obligatory mid credits scene, Toomes is in prison on The Raft. Gargan approaches him, saying he plans on escaping and killing Spider-Man. He demands Toomes tell him Spider-Man's secret identity. Toomes says he doesn't know it and walks off.

• Many viewers
 myself included— were confused by the movie's timeline. It opens with a flashback set shortly after the Battle Of New York, as seen in The Avengers. It then jumps forward as we see a helpful caption that reads "Eight Years Later."

Woah, woah, woah, wait just a minute here! The Avengers came out back in 2012. If we assume the events of the film also took place in that year, then that means Spider-Man: Homecoming is set firmly in 2020.

Predictably, determined fans have taken to the internet with charts, graphs and convoluted theories attempting to explain this grievous and unforgivable temporal anomaly.

Personally I think the 2020 time frame was a deliberate choice on the part of Marvel Studios. See, in the film Peter Parker's a fifteen year old high school sophomore. I'm assuming in the next film he'll be a junior and then he'll round out the trilogy as a senior.

If the current film really takes place in 2017, then by the time the sequel rolls around three years from now, fans will demand to know how Peter could still be in high school in 2020. See what I mean? But by setting this movie a few years from now, Marvel's sort of future-proofed it.

Or maybe Marvel just forgot when The Avengers came out and screwed up. Who knows? Honestly this doesn't bother me, as I really don't think the timeline of the Marvel movies matters all that much. That's the last thing I think about while watching them.

• For once we get a Spider-Man movie with a Peter Parker who actually looks like a teenager, instead of a thirty year old. Well done, Marvel! Tom Holland, who plays Peter, is nineteen— the youngest actor to ever play the role. Tobey Maquire was twenty five when he was first cast, and Andrew Garfield was twenty six when he took over the part.

• The best thing about this film is that we didn't have to sit through yet another tedious retelling of Spider-Man's origin. We've seen it twice already— we don't need to see it again, thanks.

On the other hand, the movie seems to bank on the audience's knowledge of the character from the previous films, which isn't fair. Bad form, movie! If you've see any of the previous Spider-Man films, then you'll know how Peter got his powers. If you've not seen them, then you'll likely be scratching your head here, wondering how he can crawl on walls and such. There's a very brief mention of him being bitten by a spider, and that's it.

Also, Peter became a superhero due to the guilt he felt after the death of his Uncle Ben. There's absolutely ZERO mention of this in the film. Heck, the characters talk about the spider that bit Peter more than they do poor old Uncle Ben. The closest he gets to an acknowledgement is when Peter talks about "everything that Aunt May's gone through recently."

OK, I freely admit I sound like a typical whining fanboy who's never satisfied. I bitch when they rehash the origin and moan when they don't. But there's got to be a middle ground here.

• Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture (even though he's never actually called that in the movie). 
Apparently it's state law that whenever Keaton is in a superhero film, he has to play a character with a winged costume.
He was previously in Batman, Batman Returns and Birdman.

Toomes is actually an interesting villain for once, which is a rarity in Marvel movies. He doesn't want to rule the world or destroy the galaxy, he's just a little guy trying to eke out a living in a cruel world. It's a refreshing change, and one that everyone can relate to.

That said, I'm not a huge fan of this modern trend of "humanizing" villains. Why do their actions always have to be justified somehow? Why can't a villain just be a plain old asshole who loves being evil? Is that not interesting enough for today's audiences?

By the way, the big twist in the third act is that Toomes turns out to be the father of Peter's love interest Liz. GASP! Unfortunately this "Villain Turns Out To Be Someone Close To Peter Parker" plotline has been used in EVERY previous Spider-Man movie. 

In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn (the father of Peter's friend Harry Osborn) was revealed to be the Green Goblin. In Spider-Man 2, Otto Octavius became Dr. Octopus. In Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborn becomes the new Goblin, Peter's Daily Bugle rival Eddie Brock becomes Venom and we find out the Sandman was the one who really murdered Uncle Ben. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter's mentor Dr. Curt Connors became the Lizard. And in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter's friend Harry Osborn became the Green Goblin, while Max Dillon, a man he snubbed, becomes Electro.

As you can see, this "Familiar Villain" trope has more than worn out its welcome. Time for a new plotline!

• In the flashback at the beginning of the movie, Toomes and his crew are sweeping up after the Battle Of New York. They're interrupted by Damage Control, a private company owned by Tony Stark.

Damage Control was actually a thing in the comics, and appeared in three miniseries between 1989 and 1991. The comic was a bit more humorous than what we saw here, and it was pitched as a "sitcom in the Marvel Universe." It was founded by Anne Marie Hoag (played by Tyne Daily in the film), and was originally owned by Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin, seen on the Daredevil Netflix series). The Damage Control headquarters was located in the Flatiron Building.

Kinda cool to see such an obscure comic reference brought to life in the movie!

By the way, check out this house ad for the Damage Control series, complete with an image of the World Trade Center after it's been shattered and shoddily repaired. Yikes! The damage is played for laughs here, as no one back then could have possibly known the real life horrors that were to come. The 1980s were a different time!

• Marisa Tomei reprises her role as Peter's Aunt May, that she first played in Captain America: Civil War. As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, it's frankly disturbing and kind of confusing to see an Aunt May who's actually hot instead of a frail, elderly old woman.

Aunt May's traditionally been more, er, mature in the movies as well. Rosemary Harris was seventy four when she played the part in Spider-Man, and Sally Field was sixty five when she took over in The Amazing Spider-Man. At fifty two, Marisa Tomei's the youngest actress to play the part so far.

If this trend keeps up, eventually Peter and Aunt May are going to be the same age!

I kid, but actually it makes sense for Aunt May to be middle aged. Peter's mom was probably around forty when she died. If May's her sister, she'd likely be around the same age, not ninety five!

Maybe the traditional ancient Aunt May was Peter's great, great aunt?

• I'm very puzzled by Peter's best friend Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not because of his inclusion,  as he practically stole the show, but due to his name.

See, Ned Leeds first appeared in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #18. He was an adult white reporter for the Daily Bugle, and was Peter's workplace rival. He eventually became the villainous Hobgoblin and was ultimately killed.

Many years later in 2011's Ultimate Fallout #4, a black/Puerto Rican teen named Miles Morales became Spider-Man on a parallel Earth.

Miles' best friend was a Korean/American classmate named Ganke Lee, who first appeared in 2011's Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2. It's patently obvious that the "Ned" we see in the film was modeled after Ganke. Look at him! They couldn't have found an actor who looked more like Ganke if they'd tried! So why the hell did they change his name? Was the name "Ganke Lee" too ethnic? Too hard to pronounce? Too strange?

I'm betting it's an issue of money. Writer Brian Michael Bendis created Ganke, meaning Marvel would have to pay him royalties for using the character. Does simply changing his name (and nothing else) mean he's now considered a completely new character in the eyes of the law, and Marvel no longer has to pay Bendis?

• In the comics, Flash Thompson has traditionally been depicted as a dumb, musclebound jock who physically bullied Peter. I guess that's too much of a cliche here in "woke" 2017, because Flash is now a rich, entitled little asshole who just verbally antagonizes Peter. 

He's also on the Academic Decathlon team, meaning he's much smarter than the old school Flash. Oddly enough, this Flash is about the same size as Peter, if not smaller. Even without the proportionate strength of a spider, it looks like Peter would have no trouble cleaning his clock. So why doesn't he?

• I like Donald Glover quite a bit, but what the hell was up with his drowsy performance in this movie? He slurred his way through his role with an extremely laid-back delivery, like he was in danger of dozing off any second. I honestly can't tell if this was a bizarre acting choice on his part, or if he was legitimately high during filming.

• All In The Family: In the film Jennifer Connelly provides the voice of Karen, the A.I. installed in Spider-Man's suit. Connelly's husband Paul Bettany was the voice of Jarvis, the A.I. inside Tony Stark's Iron Man suit in his first three films. Bethany later became the Vision in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

• Kenneth Choi plays Principal Morita, the head of Peter's high school. Choi also played Commando Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger. There's a photo of the Howling Commandos in the Principal's office, which implies he's likely the grandson of Jim Morita.

Also if you look closely in the halls of Midtown High, you'll see photos of Howard Stark, Bruce Banner and Abraham Erskine (who invented Captain America's Super Soldier Serum).

• As we saw in Captain America: Civil War, the Spider-Man suit that Tony Stark made for Peter features articulated eye-holes. The suit's eyes are downright expressive, seemingly mirroring Peter's emotions as they narrow in suspicion and enlarge with surprise.

This seems like exactly the type of unnecessary but showy thing Tony Stark would build into the suit. He did it because he could.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony punishes Peter by taking the Spider-Suit away from him. Peter then starts using his original, homemade Spider-Man suit. Oddly enough, this primitive suit ALSO features crudely articulated eyes as well! What the hell? Why would Peter take the time and trouble to figure out a way to build completely useless and superfluous feature in his cobbled-together costume?

Unless.... what if it's not a useless feature after all? Maybe the eye articulation in both suits isn't just cosmetic, but functional. Maybe when the eyes on the suit narrow, they're actually zooming in on a subject?

• This is the first Spider-Man film in which his iconic "web wings" appear. The wings were a regular feature of the Spider-Man costume in the early days of the comic, but later they kind of came and went, depending on whether or not the artist remembered to draw them.

• At one point Peter and Aunt May eat in a Thai restaurant that's next to a Korean church.

If you look closely, the sign in the church window reads, "Korean Church Of Asgard!" Apparently the citizens of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have started worshiping the Norse Gods again!

This actually makes perfect sense. The people of New York witnessed a musclebound, blond-haired man flying around the city, conjuring up lightning with his magic hammer. Of course they'd think he was a god! He'd certainly be much easier to believe in than the invisible, faith-based gods of most other religions who can't be bothered to ever make an appearance in public!

• Several times in the film we see brief shots of Peter's smartphone, and its screen is cracked all to hell. This was a nice little bit of realism on the part of the filmmakers. Of course his screen's cracked! He's probably dropped his phone dozens of times while swinging through the city!

 features a ton of obscure characters from the comics that the general public will never, ever recognize.

In the movie: Toomes' righthand man is named Mason. He's the one who builds all of the Vulture's high tech gadgets. In the comics: Phineas Mason was an inventor who called himself The Terrible Tinkerer (!). He cobbled together weapons and gadgets for many of Spider-Man's enemies.

In the movie: Peter's high school has its own "morning news" program, hosted by two students: Jason Ionello and Betty Brant. In the comics: Jason was part of Flash Thompson's gang and often bullied Peter. Betty was Peter's first crush, and later worked as J. Jonah Jameson's secretary at the Daily Bugle.

In the movie: Jackson Brice, one of Toomes' men, wears an electrical gauntlet and calls himself the Shocker. Toomes eventually kills Brice, and gives the gauntlet to Herman Schultz, another of his men. In the comics: Jackson Brice was a member of The Enforcers, a gang that often clashed with Spider-Man. Brice called himself Montana, and had incredible lasso skills (?). Herman Schultz was the Shocker, one of Spider-Man's earliest and most persistent villains.

In the movie: Mac Gargan is one of the gang who attacks the Staten Island Ferry. Gargan has a large scorpion tattoo on his neck. In the comics: Gargan is the Scorpion, one of Spider-Man's deadliest villains. He wears— what else— a scorpion costume with a powerful, prehensile tail.

• At one point Spider-Man finds himself in the suburbs, and quickly discovers his web-swinging powers are useless outside the skyscrapers of New York City.

Believe it or not, this storyline actually happened in the comics! In Amazing Spider-Man #267, Peter chases a burglar into the suburbs and ends up having to hitch rides on various modes of public transportation back to the city. The filmmakers definitely did their homework here!

• At first I wasn't a fan of the high tech Spider-Suit that Tony Stark made for Peter. Spider-Man's always been sort of a DIY superhero— he's not supposed to have a billionaire patron! And he's definitely not supposed to have a costume that's filled with advanced weaponry and its own artificial intelligence! This new high tech suit made him seem more like a junior Iron Man than Spider-Man.

But then I realized it's not as radical an idea as it first seems. In the movie: Peter uses a mechanical spider to spy on and follow enemies. In the comics: Peter invented a spider-tracer that he could place on enemies and track them.

In the movie: Peter discovers the logo on the front of his suit is actually a drone, which can transmit what it sees to him. In the comics: Peter invents a drone that follows him around and photographs him, so he can sell the pictures to the Daily Bugle

In the movie: Ned unlocks the Combat Mode on Peter's suit, giving him access to several hundred different types of webbing. In the comics: Peter's often experimented with different types and formulas of webbing.

In the movie: Tony Stark makes Peter's advanced Spider-Suit. In the comics: Tony Stark built an advanced "Iron Spider" suit for Peter in the Civil War miniseries.

So the movie's high tech version of the Spider-Suit actually follows the comic pretty closely.

• When Peter's trapped in the Damage Control warehouse, he roots through a pile of high-tech junk. One of the items he picks up and quickly tosses aside appears to be Ultron's head, from Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

• In the third act, the Vulture literally brings the house down on top of Peter, trapping him under tons of rubble. He nearly perishes, but eventually gathers his strength and saves himself through sheer force of will.

This is obviously a nod to a similar scene in The Amazing Spider-Man #33, which is one of the most iconic pages in comic book history.

• As is becoming increasingly the norm these days, the various Spider-Man: Homecoming trailers feature scenes that aren't in the final film. Two missing scenes in particular stand out.

The first one features the Vulture swooping down inside what appears to be a huge hotel atrium. There really aren't all that many scenes of the Vulture in the final film, so it's too bad they had to cut this one.

The second missing scene comes at the end of the first and third trailers, when we see a thrilling shot of Spider-Man and Iron Man swinging and flying side by side over New York City. It's an awesome shot, and really sells the idea that Spider-Man's a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Unfortunately there's nothing remotely like this scene in the final film.

According to director Jon Watts, Marvel wanted the trailer to contain a shot of the two characters together in costume. Unfortunately there were no actual scenes like that in the film, so Watts shot one specially for the trailer. Bad form, guys!

To his credit, when Watts was asked about the team up scene, he admitted he wasn't a fan of it, saying, “I feel a little weird that there’s a shot in the trailer that’s not in the movie at all, but it’s a cool shot. It’s funny, I forgot that we did that.”

Well, no, Jon, it's not funny. It's deceptive at best, and false advertising at worst. At least there are only a couple of missing scenes in the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailers. They don't advertise a completely different movie like the Rogue One trailers did.

I feel like I'm the only one who thinks this is a very slippery slope here. The day's coming when this is the norm, and ninety percent of the scenes in movie trailers aren't in the actual film.

• It was great to see Tony Stark's gal pal Pepper Potts again, even if she is played by nutsy cuckoo actress Gwyneth Paltrow. If you've been paying attention to the news lately, Paltrow landed in hot water when she touted the health benefits of women stuffing wasp nests into their vaginas. I wish I was making that up.

• At the end of the film, Tony presents Peter with a new Spider-Suit and offers him a place on the Avengers. He even calls a press conference to make the announcement!

Peter ultimately turns him down, thinking the perks are all part of a test. A visibly shocked Tony Stark agrees that it was a test and that Peter passed. Pepper then appears and asks what they're going to tell the assembled press in the next room!

So apparently Tony wasn't testing Peter, and was seriously offering him a spot on the Avengers! D'oh!

• Nice attention to detail— in the public service videos, Captain America is wearing his costume from the first Avengers movie, indicating it's an old spot that was shot eight years ago (Maybe. Who knows when these movies take place?).

• At the end of the movie, Peter's classmate Michelle, who's been crushing on him for the whole movie, tells him, "My friends call me MJ."

Groan! The implication here is that she's somehow supposed to be Mary Jane Watson, the love of Peter's life, and we're going to rehash that storyline for a third time.

But in a recent interview, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige emphatically stated that Michelle is NOT Mary Jane. Said Feige, 
"She’s not Mary Jane Watson, that’s not who the character is. But giving her the initials that remind you of that dynamic certainly is intriguing about what could go forward... Is she going to date Peter? Are they going to fall in love? She seems to be intrigued with him. There’s a nice chemistry there. Who knows what will happen in the future films?”
Which of course translates to "Of course they're going to date, and we're just trying to be cute with the 'MJ' thing here." As proof, when Michelle says to call her MJ, there's a picture of a goddamned tiger on the wall behind her. In the comics and previous films, Mary Jane's nickname for Peter Parker was "Tiger." Case closed.

• In the mid-credits scene, Toomes refuses to tell Gargan, aka The Scorpion, Spider-Man's true identity.

At first glance it seems like Toomes is protecting Peter out of respect. After all, Peter saved Toomes' life, so he's returning the favor here.

Or is he? What if Toomes refused to rat out Peter so he can kill him himself after he's released or escapes?

• Spider-Man: Homecoming takes a while to find its groove, but once it does it's a good but not great superhero film, and the best Spider-Man film in years. I liked the film more for what it DIDN'T, as it tells a very low level story with no world-ending threat. Sony definitely made the right decision in partnering with Marvel Studios. I give it a solid B.

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