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This is Spider-Man.

I once wrote a blog post singing the praises of casting Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He had something I liked for it (one of my very first blog posts, so be gentle) that Tobey Maguire did not. I also really dug the first Amazing Spider-man movie (don’t know what happened to the second one that it was so very bad) and have always been pretty lukewarm about the Sam Raimi trilogy. I think I’ve cooled on TASM and am considering a reappraisal of the Raimi trilogy, but even back when they came out, I liked them but I was never into them. I feel like after five tries, though, it’s kind of reasonable to expect that basically everyone and their uncle understands how to make a decent Spider-man movie. One that will please just about everyone by getting all the most fundamental parts of the character right while changing things up just enough to be fresh and exciting. And so, now we have one.

That may sound like I’m underselling here, and I don’t mean to. Spider-man: Homecoming is a greatly entertaining movie and it has a little bit of depth even though a lot of people are talking about how shallow it is. How formulaic. How Marvel. I have some issues with a few choices they made with the movie and with how muddled its messages are, but I don’t think any of it hampers the enjoyment of the movie itself. I think at most you could say my misgivings are a direct result of the MCU’s usual insistence on playing it safe even when they’ve definitely earned the right to take larger risks. Not so much with big game-changing events like character deaths as I don’t really agree with the people clamoring for that and I’m comfortable with the incremental storytelling the MCU specializes in. More like I think there’s a little too much here that’s on the nose, that shows a lack of trust in the audiences to “get it”. I chose the title quote not only because it’s a good line, but because it is brought in twice and the second time is definitely one of those moments where we don’t need it. It’s this movie’s “with greater power comes greater responsibility” and it’s probably not a great idea to remind the audience how much weaker a statement it really is. To say nothing of the fact that, in the end, the “suit” cake is had and eaten too.

I think if you are one of those folks who is tired of the MCU or superhero movies in general, Homecoming is unlikely to sway you. It’s easy to see many of the exact same problems in it that are well-documented par for course with the franchise overall (less for female characters to do, underdeveloped romance), but it’s also true that Homecoming sidesteps one or two of them (bad villains, clunky greater universe connections). Still, it’s a breezy fun time and it’s delightfully confident even when it sort of stumbles.


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I spent like 5 hours yesterday writing about this movie. Did two complete drafts of the review as my first go around felt unsatisfying and overly focused on the reception of Age of Ultron as opposed to being about the movie itself. I was much happier with my second, 4000-word review and I will do my best to make this third attempt as good, but if it feels a bit half-hearted just know that it’s because of the heartbreak of losing 5 hours of work and not because the movie sucked. Age of Ultron did not suck.

To me, Age of Ultron is the biggest movie of 2015. And I don’t just mean the most exciting or something. It is a massive, massive movie. Plenty going on, many characters, and so on. But yeah, it’s also the one I was most excited for (sorry Star Wars, but I’ve been hurt before). Some have said you don’t need to see the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to follow this, but I think you really do. At this point, you either like what these guys are doing and you’re okay with the superhero monolith… or you’re not. In many ways, Joss Whedon relies on our familiarity and our investment to navigate an incredibly tangled web of characterizations, sub-plots, and even missing pieces cut from what was once a three hour long movie.

The two hour movie that remains is fast, relentless, and full of amazing moments. Because the concept of giant, shared universe superhero team-ups is now familiar as well, Age of Ultron quickly acknowledges our affection for that before moving on to something else. This is a movie about how things change, and how we are often the architects of the pain those changes bring. It’s easy for an identifiable theme to get lost in the shuffle of a movie this big, but every character gets a subplot and arc of their own which will lead them into their continued solo adventures.

If there are weaknesses in Age of Ultron, they are likely the result of cuts. You still have to lay this at the feet of Whedon, since as director he’s the most directly responsible. At the same time, you can forgive hard sacrifices that get made for a movie as impossible as Age of Ultron to even exist. So for the most part, an avowed fan like me can overlook some rough patches (but I’m still going to discuss them with you). This is a movie that knows what you want to see and is more than happy to give that to you and then some. The hype machine being what it is, some people are always going to be satisfied or ambivalent and I suggest to you that Age of Ultron deserves better. It could never be as surprising and novel as The Avengers was three years ago, but its highs are just as high and it never hits the low points (mostly in the first twenty minutes) of its predecessor. It’s entirely a success.


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And then this happened.

Warning: There will be spoilers

My version of what everyone is saying about The Avengers is that we’re now living in the post-Avengers world. For over 3 years, everyone knew this was coming. The Avengers is a huger part of the public consciousness than it ever was as a comic and now that the movie has finally arrived, and the big ballsy gamble paid off, it’s going to get even bigger. No joke, The Avengers is hands-down the best Marvel movie yet made and is almost hilariously easily the best superhero movie yet made. This is because Joss Whedon was the right guy, with the right cast, and the right amount of money to create a big blockbuster movie that is a total treat, presenting set-ups and pay-offs not only within its own confines, but dependent on 4 years of Marvel movies and 40 years of Marvel comics.

Just how right is Whedon? It won’t even surprise anybody who’s watched shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and especially Angel that the guy is the world’s leading expert on juggling superhuman egos and powers with humanizing vulnerabilities, attachments, and aspirations. While able to juggle the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, Whedon shows the potentially unique ability to let each character weave their way in and out of the core narrative, making sure that everyone has their moment in the spot light. And yes, this extends to Black Widow, Hawkeye, and especially the Hulk. Not only is Whedon the first filmmaker to give us a Hulk we can stand up and cheer for, he also manages to take an eye-candy non-character like Black Widow (as far as Iron Man 2 had it anyway) and turn her into someone far richer. If you’re well-versed in Joss Whedon’s work, his ability to capture depth in character and theme with a deft and effortless hand isn’t going to surprise you. All I can do is tell you that he pulls it off here, and then some, and for everyone else: this stuff is what makes this movie so very exceptional. Read the rest of this entry »


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