Spider-Man: Homecoming – A Movie Review

I have to be honest, even though I thought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man proved one of the best parts of Civil War, I did not feel excited about yet another reboot of his own movie series.  I absolutely did not want to sit through poor Uncle Ben getting killed yet again, Pete getting bitten by a spider again, another turbulent romance with Mary Jane, and then a retread of the same villains we’ve also already seen.

Why didn’t I have faith in Marvel?

My mistake.

Spider-Man: Homecoming won me over completely.  It avoided all of those things I most dreaded.  Instead, we’ve got a Spider-Man finding his way months after Civil War.  This Spider-Man movie felt completely fresh and absolutely a part of the larger Marvel Universe.  Other than the web-slinging and the colors of the suit, Homecoming departed from much of what has already been done with Spidey on the big screen.  Tom Holland looks like an actual high school student.  He acts like an actual high school student.  He sounds like an actual high school student.  He’s got a whole new group of supporting characters.  Even Aunt May is a big departure from what we’ve already seen and they had some hilarious ongoing gags about her attractiveness.

As you’ve seen from commercials, Happy Hogan and Tony Stark play huge roles in this film.  This also sets it apart and makes it far more funny than any previous Spider-Man movie.  Tom Holland has great chemistry with pretty much everyone, but especially with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau.

In terms of tone, Homecoming is pretty lighthearted and humorous.  However, that’s not to say it doesn’t have some serious action scenes and real suspense.  I wouldn’t say it’s scary at all, but the Vulture is definitely an intimidating villain in both appearance and action.

Speaking of whom, Michael Keaton undeniably crushes it as the Vulture.  He delivers a multifaceted character who is both sympathetic and even likable.  I love how they set him up, the motivation they give him, and then his mindset.  I think that, along with Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, he is the best cinematic Spidey villain yet.  Maybe even the best contemporary Marvel movie villain, for that matter.

What delighted me most about Homecoming, though, is that it genuinely surprised me several times.  There were huge character revelations that I didn’t expected that made the story all the more intimate and definitely increased my investment.  I cared about virtually every character in this movie!

Spider-Man: Homecoming managed to somehow surprise while keeping a funny, light tone with real moments of suspense.  Tom Holland oozes charisma while emanating Peter’s intellect, charm, youthful indecision, and — most importantly — innocent heroism.

Against all odds, I am fully committed to this third Spider-Man reboot.  Here’s hoping Tom Holland will serve the anchor to Marvel’s cinematic universe for many years to come.

Image result for spider man homecoming movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Iron Man 3 – A Movie Review

(Note:  I don’t think I’ve touched on anything that hasn’t been revealed through trailers and commercials, but there are some spoilers if you’ve somehow managed to avoid promotions for the film.)

Too much Iron Man.

I never thought I’d say such a thing, but I really think we’re maybe getting a little too much Iron Man.  I loved the original Iron Man movie because it was unique in a lot of ways, but even it teetered on sabotaging itself with the Iron Monger villain as a simple imitation of the hero.  With Iron Man 2, War Machine came about as well as an entire battalion of “iron men” as villains.   Now, in Iron Man 3, while the villain is an interesting, unexpected character, Tony Stark now commands at least 42 Iron Men through remote connection and we still have War Machine/Iron Patriot.  As is the danger with any sequel, the protagonist is getting watered down and replicated to the point that he is no longer seen as especially distinctive, particularly when taking into account that much of his supporting cast are now “powered” in their own regard.    

Too much Iron Man.

However, even with that being said, there was something else about Iron Man 3 that bothered me a bit.  It just wasn’t fun.  Iron Man was a blast, and Iron Man 2, though it had some storyline issues, was still really entertaining, but Iron Man 3 seemed a little morose and humorless – it certainly didn’t meet my expectations.  I think a large part of the joylessness of it derives from the fact that Tony Stark didn’t really have anyone to talk to through much of the film.  And when he did have a chance to talk, it wasn’t under very humorous circumstances. 

Don’t misunderstand, the action was incredible and the special effects impressive, and I love what they did with The Mandarin and Killian twists, and the story was fairly tight and the motivations straight forward, but it just didn’t have the same “spark” as the previous installments.

One last thing bothered me about the film, and that’s the remote aspect of Tony piloting the Iron Man suit.  This film derived much of its core from the comic book Extremis storyline, and in that, Tony Stark gained the ability to control his suits from afar.  Just as with the book, the film ruined a lot of the adventurer aspect of the character by having him safe at one location while the suit did the heavy lifting.  When Tony Stark was in mortal peril, it was often without the suit.  I love Tony Stark, but I want him in the suit and, in fantasy stories, I need my heroes knee-deep in danger. 

Honestly, I think The Avengers handled Iron Man/Tony Stark so well that Iron Man 3 had a lot to live up to from a character standpoint, and Iron Man 3 might have come out a little too soon. 

Do we need a break from Iron Man for a while?  Perhaps. 

Too much Iron Man?

P.S.  Don’t bother sitting through the credits for the final scene.  It was funny, but certainly not worth sitting around the extra time.  Check it out on the DVD.  It’s nonessential. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death of Captain America: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m a guy who waits for the collected editions of my favorite comic books, so my knowledge of the death of Steve Rogers arrived long before I read the actual volume in which it occurred. And you want to know something? It didn’t lessen the impact one iota.

This is because Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is masterful. This is not a title looking to shock you in one-and-done scenarios, this is a title where each issue builds off the prior and the author clearly has an epic plot in mind. The story progresses organically and logically.

Collecting issues #25-30, Steve Rogers dies in the first installment and then his supporting characters take center stage. Brubaker gives us a level of richness and complexity with Tony Stark, Sharon Carter, the Falcon, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and Bucky Barnes rarely seen in comic books. The fact he keeps Captain America just as intriguing and captivating without Captain America is proof enough as to why this man won the Eisner award.

Now we all know who the current Captain America is, and this volume, as well as the preceding issues of this series, really sets up the events leading to Barnes donning the Captain America mask. It makes total sense and it didn’t feel at all forced.

In fact, I’d like to briefly congratulate Brubaker for reinserting Barnes into the Marvel Universe in a seamless, rational, and consistent manner. Unlike another once-thought-dead partner, Barnes has been handled with care and intelligence.

Furthermore, Steve Epting’s art is the perfect compliment to Brubaker’s realism. While cinematic in execution, Epting delivers characters and action that are believable yet extraordinary. His angles and layouts please the eye while strengthening the overall story.

Brubaker’s Captain America has been a delightful and unpredictable joy from the get-go, and I look forward to seeing where he takes us next!

Iron Man – A Movie Review

You don’t need me to tell you this movie has been warmly received by the masses, and for good reason.

When I first saw the trailer many months ago, I knew this movie would be the Iron Man I wanted.  I wasn’t sure it’d be a hit with the general public, but I was fairly certain the comic book fans would leave the theatre drooling.  Happily for me, everyone seems more than satisfied.

Let me first say that the actors and their acting are first-rate.  Robert Downey, Jr. is, without a doubt, Tony Stark.  He inherently captures both the nobility and arrogance of Iron Man’s true identity.  With his charismatic delivery and snide jokes, Downey, Jr. was perfect casting.  Terrence Howard plays Stark’s best friend and was also very good, though he didn’t get to stretch his acting chops much.  Not to worry, if you know the Iron Man mythos at all, you know Jim Rhodes will have his chance to shine (no pun intended).  Gwyneth Paltrow was surprisingly likeable and appeared to have real chemistry with Downey, Jr.  And finally, thank God Jeff Bridges is on the silver screen again.  I love Bridges.  His role wasn’t quite as meaty as I would like, and he fell victim to the superhero formula, but it was fun to see that bald head and huge beard.

The special effects were phenomenal.  Iron Man is a movie that, even five years ago, never would have worked.  Trust me.  It works.  Big time.

The origin of Iron Man is one that works surprisingly well as time goes on.  War is a pretty constant in our society, and so with a few tweaks and twitters, Tony Stark can get his start wherever the war zones are.  Downey, Jr. captured the complexity of a man wanting to do the right thing after a lifetime of living selfishly, and while he delivers true emotion, the story never became heavy-handed.  The first three-fourths of the movie really is quite dramatic and timely, but then falls victim to superhero cliché during its climax.  By no means does it ruin the film or even weaken it, but they don’t really give us anything new in the grand finale, the “big fight.”

Also, I was disappointed by the fact that I’d seen every cool shot of Iron Man in the trailers and commercials.  Luckily, the acting and story were so strong that Iron Man could have been totally absent, but really, I wish they’d saved a few snippets of the suit to surprise us.

The director, Jon Favreau, obviously understands both Iron Man and Tony Stark, as well as everything that makes both of them captivating.  Iron Man is a wonderfully entertaining movie with true drama, tension, comedy, and charm. 

By the way, I absolutely loved the end of the movie, right before the credits.  So Tony Stark.

Oh, speaking of which-for all the comic book peeps, make sure you sit through the credits.  Seriously.  You’ll be furious with yourself if you don’t.