Thursday, July 13, 2017

SpiderMan: Homecoming

Spiderman: Homecoming, the latest movie in the Marvel Universe
franchise, is getting great reviews (93% at Rotten Tomatoes from critics, 92% from the audience). It’s not the best movie Marvel has done, but it’s solid. This version of Spider-Man is going to be an interesting addition to the Avengers: he’s lighthearted, somewhat naïve, and not yet jaded (matured?) by life; he’s also strong, fast, brilliant, and incredibly excited about fighting evil and injustice with his heroes. But, as this movie makes clear, he’s got some growing up to do.

I'm going to offer dual reviews of this movie: I will give mine first, then Karl Meszaros's second. We walked out of the theater with different reactions because we both saw the story unfold from sharply different perspectives that I think are compatible but are nonetheless in tension.

I post these both because I respect Karl's opinion. I talk with him a lot before I post most of my reviews because he has a much more extensive comic book background than I do, and he understands more about the classic representations vs. how the characters are changing. (Check out a podcast he did recently on this very issue.)

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts as well! 

* * * * *

Anthony's Review

As entertaining as all the special effects were, I enjoyed the moral heart of the story even more.* Peter desperately wants to do something with his powers, but perhaps even more he longs to matter. He is bullied at school, laughed at by girls, and overlooked by Iron Man. Whenever he tries to do something cool, it blows up in his face. At one point Peter tells his friend Ned, “I’m just gonna be myself.” Ned replies, “Peter, no one wants that.” Ned only meant it in contrast to being Spider-Man, but we can tell it hits home for Peter.

Tony Stark’s gift of a new spidey suit unleashes the amazing Spider-Man that Peter Parker always knew lurked beneath the surface. Tony ignores his calls about criminals? No problem. Peter can do this himself.  But…he can’t. 

He leaves a remarkable trail of petty destruction in his attempts fight crime. Whenever he stumbles upon a crime that really matters, mass destruction follows because he can't sufficiently handle the situations. 

  • His favorite sandwich shop gets blown up when he tries to foil a robbery. 
  • A ferry would have sunk without the aid of Iron Man because Spidey tackled way more crime than he could handle – and blew up an FBI sting in the process. 
  • He saves the day at the Empire State Building – but it was his fault to begin with. 
  • When he finally takes down the villain, he almost takes out an amusement park full of people as well. 

After the fiasco with the ferry, Tony Stark has an important conversation with Peter:
“What if someone had died?”
“I was just trying to be like you.”
“I need you to be better. I'm taking back the suit.”
“I'm nothing without the suit!”
“ If you're nothing without the suit, then you shouldn't have it.”
Iron Man and the Vulture prove the merits of this comment. They both just allow the man in the suit to be himself on a super level. In the comic stories, Stark's self-indulgent and narcissistic life catches up with him eventually. I hope the movies allow this to play out as well. Iron Physician, heal thyself.

The end of the movie reveals a Peter Parker who decides that he has to work a lot harder on the man without the suit before he embraces the celebrity and responsibility that the suit brings. Who knows: maybe some day he can teach Tony what that looks like.  

I was talking recently with some friends about a potential danger of superhero movies: we can begin to think that only super things count. The ordinary life of the Muggles (I know, I’m mixing stories) is almost too mundane and boring to  deserve one’s time and energy. Who cares if you can’t do your chores or homework or show up at a job on time day after day? Who cares if the time in your ordinary days is frittered away on your phone or your money sifts through your fingers as you keep going to the newest party? Your big moment will come! When push comes to shove, you know you will be noble, strong and brave even if nothing in your life hints at those attributes.

This is the what Peter Parker finally realizes. One becomes strong through ordinary moments: with Aunt May, with his friends, in school clubs, doing his homework, patiently waiting for Stark to call him rather than continuing to pester him. He has been given great superpower through a freak accident; that's not enough. He must support this super gift by building his moral power one ordinary moment at a time. He’s going to have great responsibility; what better way to prepare than being responsible now?

Sony’s chairman has said that “Homecoming” is a “homecoming to the cinematic universe that Spider-Man belongs in.” The title also works well as a reminder that Queens and Midtown High are the home where he belongs until a boy's mastery of ordinary moments turns him into the man he needs to be.

* * * * *

Karl's Review

Spiderman: Homecoming was a movie without a hero. Every bad thing that happens is a hero's fault.


The Toby McGuire version played fast and loose with the mythology of Spider-Man, but he had the moral core of the character. Peter is supposed to be a guy who doesn't want to be Spider-Man. He does it out a sense of responsibility. In this version, they replaced Aunt May and Uncle Ben as the moral center point in Peter's life with Tony Stark. They removed the “great power comes great responsibility” morality from this movie and lost the moral core of the character. Having Stark as his mentor and idol not only gives us a very different Spider-Man; it gives us one for whom it is hard to root.

In McGuire’s version, Parker doesn't want to be Spider-Man; he does so out guilt and responsibility (which is in line with the comic narrative). If there's anything that defines Peter Parker. it's that he's only Spider-Man out of the guilt over uncle Ben's death and the responsibility to make sure it never happens again.  For McGuire’s Parker, having no big crimes to handle would've been a blessing. Watching this Peter pine away for big crimes to stop was painful.

When there are crimes, Peter makes them worse. He nearly turns a victimless ATM robbery into a major tragedy. He takes a hammer to an alien power source in the middle of a high school. He gives the same power source to his friend and it explodes, nearly killing several classmates. The ferry debacle was a disaster. Even the third act of the movie was Spider-Man's fault. Throughout the whole movie, The Vulture keeps telling his crew he's not going to rob the plane. The only reason he does is because Spider-Man took away his other sources of income.

In every instance, either Stark or Peter are responsible for the problem, or they make it worse. There isn't a single moment of heroism in the movie. “Hey, look! Peter saves his friends at the Washington monument!” Of course, they were only in danger because he gave an alien power source to a friend - the same power source he used a hammer on in the middle of a high school. 

This Peter was an unlikable jerk. He does the opposite of everything he's told and nearly getting hundreds of people killed. There's not a single heroic scene in the entire movie. Every person Peter saves is someone he got into trouble in the first place. The “How it Should have Ended” will be Tony paying the Vulture for ruining his business and Spider-Man not doing anything, because he always does the wrong thing.


The Vulture is surprisingly well-rounded and likeable. He is basically an average guy. He has contacts that connect him to the clean up the alien invasion, and in order to do so he heavily invests in the business. However, Stark Enterprises and the government come in take away the contract without compensating him. There’s no reason to think Stark knew about this, but Stark bankrupted him, and he ends up being the motivation for The Vulture to turn to a life of crime. He wasn't out to run the world, get revenge, or make a fortune. 

He even shows a form of honor throughout the movie. When he finds out Peter is Spider-Man he threatens him, but he also lets him live because Peter saved his daughter’s life. Even in prison, he protects Peter's identity.  It may be honor among thieves, but it’s honor nonetheless. 


Unfortunately, Marvel movies treat women as basically eye candy. There was a lot of the sexist stuff that felt weird in a post-Wonder Woman world. 

What was the point of having Marisa Tomei play Aunt May? I feel like they went with a younger, more attractive Aunt May just so the movie could have some crude moments.  No less than three times we see men make a pass at her. The worst was in the sandwich shop where the guy says she's a hot Italian woman. To make matters worse, Peter doesn't say, "Hey that's my aunt you're talking about!" Instead, he asks about the store owner’s daughter, as if to say, “If you're going to be crude about my aunt, I'm going to be crude about your daughter.” 

Oh, and did you catch the girls playing “F***, Marry, Kill?” The girl says she would F*** Thor, marry Tony, and kill the Hulk. It’s such a depressing representation of how the writers assume high school girls view the world. 


This movie removed Aunt May as moral influence on Peter and replaced her with Stark. At one point Peter tells Stark, "I want to be like you". Great. So we get Stark as mentor and lose things like this great line Aunt May gave in Spider-Man 2:

“He knows a hero when he sees one. Too few characters out there, flying around like that, saving old girls like me. And Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero. Courageous, self-sacrificing people setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”


*There are several crude scenes getting quite a bit of press. See both my and Karl's comments. Parents, it's worth considering this. In my opinion, the wheat in the movie far outweighed the chaff. I respect the opinion of those who would decide it is not.

The casual reference to porn has fielded criticism in ways the other incidents have not - and rightly so.  Pornography is a plague upon our culture. It ruins relationships, damages brains, and trains people to view others as objects that are selfishly used as means to one's personal pleasure rather than as dignified people with value, worth, and dignity.

I thought its reference in the movie did not suggest it was not a big deal as much as hint that it is a shameful habit one would rightly want to hide. Ned uses that excuse so a middle-aged female teacher won’t see what he is doing on the computer (which is aiding Spider Man). He's trying to think of what she would believe was a valid excuse; considering today's statistics on teenage porn use, he picked a good one. I asked a couple teenage boys what they thought of the scene. They responded, "It's the excuse I would use if I didn't want someone looking at what was on the computer." 

If your kids see this movie, that scene is a good opportunity to talk with them  about why shame and hiddenness is associated with an activity that sears our souls. Check out all these links at Salvo Magazine. They can aid in that very important conversation. 


Porn Blockers

A Primer for Parents

by Marcia Segelstein


The Porn Factor

The Path from Playboy to Sex Offender Is Well Traveled

by Judith Reisman


Artificial Wife

Not If But When Marriage Becomes Extinct

by Regis Nicoll


It's Academic

Kinsey's Love Affair with Pedophilia Three Generations Later

by Judith Reisman


Sex & the Kiddies

The Sexualization of Children & How Advertising & Entertainment Change Their Brains

by Robin Phillips


Lie Charts

A New Book Explains How Kinsey Perverted a Nation with False Science

by Marcia Segelstein


Porn Is Not Free

The High Social & Personal Costs of Pornography

by Regis Nicoll


Slave Master

How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain

by Donald L. Hilton, Jr.


Idol Threat

Porn is Deadly For Girls Today

by Alexander Jech


Pink Cross

The Story of Shelley Lubben, Former Porn Star

by Judith Reisman


Hello Bunny!

Playboy Utilizes Spencer's Gifts & Kiddie Designs at Your Local Shopping Mall

by Judith Reisman


Game Over, Man?

The Big Guy's Guide to Guydom

by Les Sillars


Blindsided Kids

Thanks to the Internet and the Supreme Court, Pornography Is Now Available In Every Home In America

by Marcia Segelstein


Game Over, Man?

The Big Guy's Guide to Guydom

by Les Sillars


Blindsided Kids

Thanks to the Internet and the Supreme Court, Pornography Is Now Available In Every Home In America

by Marcia Segelstein


Rape Rates

Kinsey's Junk Science & Other Unreported Sex Crimes

by Judith Reisman


Porn in the USA

Examining Our National Addiction

by John Coleman


The Naked Truth

An Interview with Dr. Judith Reisman

by Bobby Maddex

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