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The 250, This Just In, Episode #13 – Spider-Man: Homecoming (#–)

Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney host This Just In, a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming.

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Non-Review Review: Spider-Man – Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is two movies, both effectively set up by the title.

In its most literal sense, it is a teenage coming of age movie set against the backdrop of a superhero action film. More than any other entry in recent superhero canon, Homecoming is very explicitly a “young adult” movie. It is Peter Parker channeled through John Hughes, the tropes and conventions of the genre as glimpsed through the prism of a teen movie. As such, the “homecoming” of the title is a seismic event in the school calendar.

He ain’t playin’.

In a more metaphorical sense, Homecoming is the story of integrating Peter Parker into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that began with Iron Man. It is a story that celebrates the joint custody agreed between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, the deal that allows Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War while allowing for the appearances of several major characters from The Avengers in this feature film.

One of these movies is stronger than the other. About half of Homecoming is a really great Spider-Man-as-John-Hughes teen film, while the other half is a so-so Avengers sequel.

Climbing to new heights?

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Trial and Trailer: The Perils of Publicity in the Internet Era

It is a cliché to suggest that trailers are spoiling movies.

Clint Eastwood was complaining about the trend more than a decade and a half ago, lamenting, “Half the time you go and watch a film, you see eight or 10 different trailers and you’ve seen the whole plot line. There’s really no reason to go see the film.” While film fans might look back nostalgically on classic trailers like Alien or Point Blank, the truth is that movie trailers have always been a bit of a haphazard artform. The trailer for Carrie is as spoilery as any modern trailer.

At the same time, there is a definite trend in contemporary trailers – especially for big blockbuster releases – to ensure that the audience knows exactly what they are going to get. This is most obvious in trailers like Alien: Covenant or Spider-Man: Homecoming, which go beyond spoiling the entire plot thread to spoiling big moments from the film; memorable cameos or distinctive sequences. When dealing with spectacle driven films like Kong: Skull Island, there is a conscious effort to load the trailer with spectacle, revealing monsters and set pieces.

To be fair, this is arguably more of a problem with big budget summer releases. These trailers typically belong to blockbusters that have to absolutely saturate the market in order to build hype, releasing trailers more than a half a year before release or even offering trailers for trailers. It is inevitable that this desire to effectively carpet-bomb the media landscape with footage will reveal far too much about the film in question, particularly for those who task themselves with keeping track of this information. The sparse understated trailers for smaller films like Get Out are a blessing.

It is interesting to wonder what drives these creative decisions, why studios are saturating the market with trailers that seem to lay out every beat ahead of time and which effectively promise every twist that will be delivered over the course of the narrative. There is a lot to be said for the joy of seeing a film blind, without knowing exactly what is coming and how it will be delivered. It seems reasonable to argue that the job of a trailer is to tease, to offer the viewer a hint of what is in store, instead of mapping out how they might spend two hours of their lives.

However, while these views are quite common on the internet and among film fans, it is interesting to wonder whether they reflect the opinions and taste of the mass audience. Is this increasing tendency towards spoiler-heavy trailers that plot out the entire arc of a film are driven by the tastes of audiences? Is this how the majority of viewers want their entertainment delivered, even if they would never frame it in those terms?

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Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine is a beautifully absurd comic book. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert keep the comic moving at a frantic pace, twisting and turning as they introduce crazy concept after crazy concept. There are enough brilliant over-the-top ideas in Astonish Spider-Man and Wolverine to sustain an on-going for years – and yet the duo tear through them with a speed that makes all of Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine seem like a delirious blur.

And yet, despite that, Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine reads like a tribute to the glorious ridiculousness possible within the confines of mainstream comic books – giant metal-faced sentient planets! robotic dinosaurs! guns that fire the energy of creation! a diamond-encrusted baseball bat as a means of time travel! There’s a surreal magic to Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine that marks it as one of the highpoints of Jason Aaron’s work on Wolverine. It’s funny, awe-inspiring and even occasionally moving.

Blood brothers...

Blood brothers…

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Todd McFarlane’s Run on Spider-Man (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Todd McFarlane is undoubtedly one of the best artists ever to work on Spider-Man. His take on the character is iconic and influential. He really captures the sense of Spider-Man as a character who should be unnerving or disturbing – a character who is part insect, whose limbs are able to bend and contort in ways that would seem unnatural to a casual observer. His run on The Amazing Spider-Man with writer David Michelinie is one of the most underrated Spider-Man comics ever produced.

McFarlane was working at Marvel around the time that the company was investing more power in its artists. More and more, artists were becoming more essential to the creative process – whether credited as “plotters” or “writers.” Jim Lee was wresting control of the X-Men franchise from veteran writer Chris Claremont. Rob Liefeld was writing and drawing on his popular X-Force, launched from New Mutants.

Holding it together...

Holding it together…

In this context, it made sense to allow Todd McFarlane to branch out and write his own Spider-Man title. Launched to run alongside The Amazing Spider-Man, McFarlane’s adjectiveless Spider-Man remains one of the comic book success stories of the nineties, selling 2.5 million copied on initial release. It remains one of the best selling comic books of all time, with the original artwork recently selling for over $675m.

As with many of its contemporary artist-drive series, McFarlane’s Spider-Man is a compelling read. It’s a glimpse inside the mindset of the comic book industry, a snapshot of trends that were still developing. McFarlane’s writing might be a little over-cooked, his plotting a little weak and he may not have the strongest sense of theme or structure. However, McFarlane’s artwork is absolutely spectacular, and there’s something very fascinating about McFarlane’s attempt to write Spider-Man as a horror comic starring the iconic web-slinger.

A sting in the tale...

A sting in the tale…

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Spider-Man: Chapter One (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Spider-Man: Chapter One is a strange little comic. In context, it makes a great deal of sense. Spider-Man has always been one of Marvel’s most popular and iconic comic book heroes. In the late nineties, the comic book industry was trying to figure out how to push forward, following the sales explosion and implosion of the mid-nineties. With superheroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men primed for a transition to the big screen, revisiting the early days of these heroes made a great deal of sense.

And John Byrne was the logical choice for a book like this. Byrne was a unique talent. He had enjoyed incredibly successful runs on Uncanny X-Men and The Fantastic Four at Marvel. More than that, though, he had already overseen the successful relaunch of another classic character. In the wake of DC’s universe-altering line-wide Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne had been the writer who re-drafted Superman’s origin as part of the Man of Steel miniseries in 1986.

Boundless enthusiasm...

Boundless enthusiasm…

And so, Marvel gave us Spider-Man: Chapter One. The comic was a reimagining of the earliest days of the wall-crawling superhero, spanning thirteen issues and covering many of the character’s earliest encounters with his classic foes. John Byrne was writing the script and providing the artwork for the comics, which seemed primed to introduced Spider-Man to a whole new generation of readers, giving audiences a back-to-basics take on Spider-Man that was fresh and accessible.

At least, that was the idea. In actuality, Spider-Man: Chapter One feels like a massive miscalculation on just about everybody’s part. It seems to be aiming for some middle ground between Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe’s contemporary Untold Tales of Spider-Man and Brian Michael Bendis’ pending Ultimate Spider-Man. It seems like Byrne is never sure whether he’s simply re-telling the classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run on The Amazing Spider-Man with a few bells and whistles, or trying to make it his own.

You are about to enter... the Spidey zone...

You are about to enter… the Spidey zone…

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Non-Review Review: The Amazing Spider-Man II

What is remarkable about Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man II is how much it resembles a comic book. Not a particular comic book – although there are numerous shout-outs to iconic Spider-Man moments, right down to the choice of costuming – but in general terms. It isn’t that Marc Webb tries to construct his film to evoke the look and feel of a comic book – this isn’t Ang Lee’s Hulk; in fact, Webb seems much more comfortable here than he was with The Amazing Spider-Man, making a movie that feels more playful and relaxed within its medium.

Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man II borrows the structure of a comic book. It offers its own story, but that story isn’t constructed particularly tightly. Instead, the story seems to have been fashioned as part of a greater – as if part of a larger serialised narrative that has yet to take form. It’s quite distinct from the approach taken with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, where the films feel more like blocks that fit together. Instead, this feels more like the second chapter in a larger story, without being dissolved completely into the larger narrative.

The Amazing Spider-Man II has its own themes and motifs, and it documents a pretty epic selection of events, but the emphasis isn’t so much on this one encounter as what this encounter says about its hero. It’s much more interested in what these events tell us about our hero than it is in documenting a single self-contained story. It’s a novel (and somewhat bold) attempt at a serialised superhero narrative, and the results are absolutely fascinating.

Electro-fying!

Electro-fying!

Note: This is a spoiler-filled review of The Amazing Spider-Man II. You can find a spoiler-lite version here. Continue reading for more in-depth thoughts on the film, with the knowledge that absolutely everything is up for discussion. Continue at your own peril!

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