(Also read this on Medium)
To have remade Spiderman this way feels nothing less than an act of pure villainy to me, which, as a film reviewer, I have the responsibility to expose, but my mind couldn’t help writhing in pain before I even started. To force myself to recall and iterate what exactly that makes this piece of cinematic trash so bad is equivalent to volunteering myself to be a victim of torture.
Some have noted sensibly that the CGI jumps lack the weight and impact that a human jump should come with, but the chief problem that plagues and threaten to topple the whole narrative lies in its characterisation. While prequels starring Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield were by no means flawless, at least they managed to show why Spiderman is a unique character among superheroes such as the like of Superman and Batman, unlike Spider-man Homecoming, which reduces Spiderman into a dismissible and unexceptional sidekick to Iron Man.
As a matter of principle, the motive behind every credible superhero character should be made clear, as it is hard to relate to any human who puts on a cape and changes into an alter-ego for fun or a sheer desire for fame and glory. It’s hard to go wrong with is a backstory which implants a strong motive to do good for the sake of good. Karl El, for one, becomes Superman because, as Kryptonian, he is much stronger than his earthling counterparts; Bruce Wayne goes Dark Knight so as to conquer his fear of bats while Spiderman/ Peter Parker realises upon the death of his uncle that pardoning criminals leads to the loss of innocent lives. I imagine that director Jon Watts sees no need to revisit the original story considering we have already seen Uncle Ben die twice in the last two decades. Fair enough, but is it really a good idea to characterise Peter Parker as a brainless worshipper of the Avengers who has no reasons to do good other than the pathetic desperation to prove his self-worth to Tony Stark? I don’t think so. I know Parker is supposed to be 15 in the film, but is it exactly convincing (or advisable) that someone with such a level of maturity to be recruited a superhero? And do not expect our Spiderboy to outgrow of his desire to be appreciated in the story. Because he wouldn’t.
Not only does Peter Parker act like an immature teenager through and through. Worse still, he operates like an incompetent one. Relying more on the nifty suit that Elon-Stark has designed for him for instructions than his own instinct, his few only attempts to solve problems himself, which involve slinging single-stringed webs to prevent two dismembered parts of a ship from falling apart, seem feeble and lame. His successes to resolve crises hinge largely on fluke than a flair in saving the world. A superhero starting out to be naive and incapable is forgivable. This is especially the case given Spiderman/ Peter’s unique charm lies in being adorkable. Remember how Toby Maguire’s Peter Parker responds when Uncle Ben gives him the “With greater power comes greater responsibility” lecture? This is what Peter tells Uncle Ben, “Stop pretending to be my father!” How much an ungrateful brute Peter starts out to be doesn’t prevent Maguire’s Spiderman from becoming one of the most beloved superhero characters that have ever graced the big screen. But don’t forget, unlike Holland’s Peter, Maguire’s Peter stops being a jerk and turns a new leaf midway through the film, using his brawn and brain for good, neither of which Holland’s Peter seems to have any. The fact that he remains to be an impulsive youth throughout doesn’t make a fun movie, only cash-grabbing fan-servicing targeted at adolescents.
If you think that given teenage angst is themed, it is logical that hormones play a big part in Peter’s falling in love. – Bingo! – Roughly 15 minutes through the film, Peter develops an instant (and conveniently unexplained) crush on Liz, one of his high-school classmates who looks hot but dumb. Peter claims that she’s super bright and super nice, but we don’t see any evidence of her brains and kindness. I personally would feel better off staying at home rewatching on Netflix the Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2. At least there was chemistry between Gwen and Peter…
Michael Keaton, who plays the villain, is usually a pleasure to watch. I especially enjoyed the emotional depth of his rendition of Batman under Tim Burton’s direction. Keaton in Birdman was also a stunner. But Vulture played by Keaton here struggled to strike me as relatable as his motives and methods were unclear. How do his ultra-powerful and high-tech weapons really function? What gives him the incentive to trade them? The lack of explanation fails to offer the credo necessary for any thinking member of the audience to be at ease. Peter’s best friend Ned (starring Jacob Batalon) is also an irritating pain in the ass, who, like Peter, shows no mental growth whatsoever. And there’s no explaining anywhere as to why he could have managed to hack into Vulture’s highly sophisticated computer system.
I had high hopes for this film because of the praises critics have showered on it. Judging from how it is received, the majority of the public seem to appreciate how good a job the film has done of pleasing the crowd. Sadly it left me racking my head in puzzlement as to why even professional critics seem to be indulgent on it, calling such entertainment harmless fun.