In Theaters: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Superhero, 133 minutes, PG-13

StarringTom HollandMichael KeatonRobert Downey, Jr.Jacob BatalonMarisa Tomei

Imagine the smile on my face when poor-boy me gets a movie ticket to see something that just got released. A big thanks to my friend Mike for hooking me up with the ticket! Dear reader, you may not know this, but I don’t go to the movies very often and it almost never happens that I see something first-run… much less this close to the release date. I just had to do a review.

So Spider-Man finally had his legs unshackled from the confines of Sony, (even though the digits in handcuffs are still collecting checks) to take a romp through the MCU. Old news, considering Civil War, but this was a much needed addition to the universe. And, like always, it’s a good one.

Peter finally skips the whole origin story nonsense and gets to work as awkward superhero Spider-Man. But we all knew that, right? What we don’t know is the Vulture’s plan and how it ties back to the events of the Chitauri invasion from the first Avengers movie. Explosions? Yes, please!

By now the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be blending into a giant smudge of coy references somewhere in the back of your mind… providing you’ve kept up with it for the past decade. This movie, while no different (I saw you Triskelion construction sign!), acts as a slight refresher, quickly running on a nearly parallel line to the events already gone by in previous films until it reaches the present. Thus we skip that played out origin and are given the shortest of passing conversations about the whole ordeal. Thumbs up to the MCU.

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, so of course I like this movie. But by the end of it, I realized that I didn’t see it for him. I came for Vulture. And I hate Vulture. Some boring old man in tights that robs banks? Get that trash out of here. No, wait. Woah. Who is the guy in the mecha suit? THIS Vulture put a sinister sneer on my face. I loved THIS Vulture and I very badly want to see him again.

Let me do a little explaining on that point, because Michael Keaton is behind that role and his performance is certainly noteworthy. Keaton’s Batman is very well known, even though it was on the campy side, but his Bruce Wayne marred that film. Then there’s Birdman, where Keaton plays a disgruntled actor that may or may not be a superhero, and it was just… weird. Both of these roles were superhero-related, but they just didn’t seem to fit him.

However, there’s something different going on in this newest Spider-Man film. I feel like Keaton had had enough practice and was now fully ready to take on the role of a supervillain. The predatory darkness that Keaton brings to the role while keeping from being over the top makes the movie. And I feel that character was well written, too. He’s a bad guy, but not a boo-hoo-feel-for-me bad guy. Vulture is a strategic survivalist with enough brute force to back up his threats. His wings, a beefy mechanized powerhouse beyond anything Norman Osborn cooked up in the 2002 film, have a screen presence all their own. Plus he’s a salvager, so the name and the role completely fit like two perfect puzzle pieces.

Don’t get me wrong, Spidey is also great, but by the end of it, the movie didn’t really feel like it was about him. Perhaps my focus was too narrow. Of course Peter has plenty going on with him, but his own unfocused attitude might have reflected in the movie’s watchability. What is a stand-out feature of the film is that both Spider-Man and Vulture have stories that revolve around responsibility and the task of facing it when you screw up. I found that the interplay worked well.

I know I’m in a minority here, but I am actually a fan of both the McGuire and Garfield Spider-Man movies. So… all of them. This movie is just another serving of the same, except we’re finally allowed to talk about other superheros without upsetting someone’s bank account. One of the great things this movie has done is giving Spider-Man a chance to shine among his peers. Better yet, we get a chance to rediscover a whole slew of baddies that are still waiting for their own time in the spotlight.

Rating: Own it… eventually–along with the inevitable $1,000 special edition box set of everything MCU (in stores sometime around the year 2035 when they finally stop making these movies or whenever the sun gives out–you know, whichever happens first).

Watch: The Vulture (who I hate in the comics) is amazing on film.
Don’t watch: Because you’re not a nerd and you haven’t seen that stupid Captain Iron Hulk movie anyway.


Kick-Ass (2010)

R, 117 minutes, Crime

StarringAaron Taylor-JohnsonChloe Grace MoretzMark StrongNicolas CageChristopher Mintz-Plasse

We’ve all wanted to stand up for something. We see the kids getting bullied, friends go through hardships, and jerks cut us off on the freeway, but have we ever really put ourselves in the position to seek justice? Or perhaps to enact our own version of justice…?

Kick-Ass plays off of a bizarre trend (okay, so maybe it’s just me that thinks it’s bizarre) where average citizens dawn masks and capes in order to fight crime. No, I mean it. Real people. Like, this is a thing that actually happens. Except, of course, our story takes the reality of the trend and mashes it with the glitz and glam of comic books. What comic book nerd hasn’t thought of running around stopping purse snatchers and metallic supervillains who have tapped into the power of the Dark Arts?

I just wanted to find Mr. Bitey!!!

Meet Dave (Taylor-Johnson), better known in this case as Kick-Ass.  Dave gets the idea to go vigilante from the pages of his favorite comics because he keeps getting robbed. When his first attempt at being a superhero doesn’t go so well, he gains the attention of other like-minded individuals. Before he knows it, Kick-Ass becomes embroiled in a war against a drug lord that turns out to be more than he can handle.

Although this movie plays off comic panels with familiar notations like “Meanwhile…” and “Elsewhere…” the stand out aspect is actually the color-coding of the main cast. When on screen, each hero pops against the background thus gaining territory over the frame. The bright colors are reminiscent of the drawn inspirations, because let’s face it–what superhero looks good on paper without bright colors? Don’t answer that…

Hey, look! It’s Batman! Wait, why does he have a sniper rifle and a Fu Manchu?

On the controversial side, this flick does a grandiose job of making cute, little Mindy/Danger Girl (Moretz) into a stabbing, swearing, slicing, killing machine. Moretz filmed this movie when she was still about 12 or 13. Her age and her acting caused some people to fret as they didn’t think she should be depicted as dropping f-bombs and hacking people to bits. Ah, Hollywood…

Overall this title isn’t going to outshine the rest of the Marvel line-up. It isn’t even going to involve the rest of the Marvel line-up. It plays outside of the rules by being a superhero movie that isn’t technically a superhero movie. It’s coarse and it’s unfair. It’s introspective and it’s hormonal. It’s… mortal. It’s more just a movie for the rest of us.

Rating: Watch it.

Watch: Offbeat superhero film about people who aren’t superheros.
Don’t watch: Violence, gore, and free-flowing swearing (mostly involving a 13 year-old girl).