Spider-Man MCU

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ averaged across 3 films.

tl;dr: It may have taken several failed attempts, but we finally have a worthy live action Spider-Man franchise. Peter Parker joins the MCU in style.


Marvel Cinematic UniverseMarvel

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Everybody has always said that the only way Spider-Man would ever be done right is if Marvel did. Everybody was (sort of) correct: Homecoming is brilliant and perfectly captures everything Spidey, whilst also managing to be a genuinely clever and interesting film. Right now, Marvel is very much back in its groove and top of the superhero game.

But I say sort of correct because I genuinely don't think that Homecoming could exist without the original Raimi trilogy or the Andrew Garfield reboot. Why? The original trilogy did the truly comic-book, fan service films that had to come first. Peter Parker was a little wet-behind-the-ears and the third film was awful (though none have stood the test of time), but crucially the characters all felt like they'd been lifted straight out of the Silver Age comics which made them famous. It also contained just enough of the 90's TV cartoons to appeal to the younger fans. The films are riddled with bad acting, poor scripts and terrible direction and feel completely amateur by modern standards, but they were very definitely Spider-Man films. To contrast, Homecoming takes extreme liberties with the source material. There's no origin story, there are new characters, Aunt May is young and attractive, MJ is a brunette person of colour, and there isn't a hint of Osborne or Oscorp in sight. If Homecoming were the first cinematic outing for Spidey the fanboys would have their pitchforks out screaming blue murder.

Similarly, the Amazing Spider-Man films got a bit of the grittiness out of the system. I will further maintain that Andrew Garfield was an almost perfect casting for Peter Parker, and Emma Stone was brilliant as Gwen Stacy. The films were poorly paced and had terrible villain designs, but the main characters and action were great. They also provided a crucial buffer and got Gwen some well deserved time on centre stage. Again, without these films ticking off the last few items on a fan's wish-list there would have been much greater pressure on Marvel. Between the original trilogy and the two Amazing reboots, pretty much all of the iconic Spider-Man scenes and plots have been told. Marvel was therefore clear to take the character and truly mould him to fit their vision, making him work within the MCU without having to tip-toe around fan service.

Which is brilliant, because the end result is truly fantastic. In Homecoming Marvel is finally starting to play with the incredibly intricate universe it has built. The villain is directly tied to the Chitauri invasion of New York, but in a human and believable way. Peter is being directly mentored (read: monitored) by Happy and Stark. The US schooling system has a library of inspirational video recordings of Captain America. Not only are the cross overs between the other films genuinely clever and entertaining, they make Homecoming feel incredibly included. Whereas films like Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy feel divorced from the events in the Avengers franchise, Homecoming is happening around the edges. It's very well done, often incredibly humorous ("I think he's probably a war criminal now, but whatever") and makes these new characters feel like they've been there since day one. It's something the TV shows in the MCU are desperately needing, but for a more street-level hero like Spidey, it works perfectly.

On top of the nods to past events in the MCU I have to mention the possible hints at a pretty major future event: Miles Morales. And by possible I mean that Kevin Feige has heavily hinted that they're going to happen. Donald Glover is in this film, which is a fun nod towards his year's long campaign to play Miles in a Sony reboot. Unfortunately, instead of playing the Ultimate Spider-Man, Glover has a role as Aaron Davies, a small-time crook. He does, however, mention that he has a nephew in Queens, which instantly made me wonder if that nephew could be Miles. Sure enough, in the comics, Davies is Miles' uncle. We also have Parker losing his backpack in an alleyway in Queens near the start, which is a similar origin to how Miles original gets his webs in one variation of his origins. It's an incredibly exciting Easter Egg for long time fans of the black web-slinger and personally I'm so much more hyped for future Spider-Man films now there's a (good) chance Miles may make an appearance.

All of which is to say that, yes, you absolutely should go and see Homecoming. It's easily the best Spider-Man film we've had to date, with perfect casting across the board, some very clever humour and a genuinely interesting plot. The Vulture may not be top of Spidey's rogues gallery but Keaton plays him brilliantly, and combined with the twist of his relationship with Peter makes him a genuinely chilling yet believable villain (not something I thought I'd be saying about the Vulture...). The inclusion of Iron-Man does feel a little forced at times but also helps explain Parker's appearance in Civil War whilst also making the universe a lot more believable, with both inhabiting the same city after all. Plus, that Iron Spider wink-nod near the end is a brilliant fan moment. Homecoming has set up an interesting, nuanced and funny version of Spider-Man whose future outings are now firmly atop my Must Watch list.


Homecoming is one of those MCU films that seems to get better with age. The few small irks I seem to remember from the first viewing (the slightly-forced MJ reveal, the shoe-horning of Iron Man, etc.) all now feel right, somehow. With another film under their belt and a wider, more fleshed-out role for Peter in the MCU, going back to the roots is just a reminder that they created a brilliant foundation. Keaton is still brilliant, the humour is still on point, and at this point Tom Holland just is Spider-Man, in the same way that RDJ just is Iron Man. Plus, the story holds up really nicely, making it a joy to rewatch. A gem within the MCU, for sure.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Going into the latest entry in the MCU felt a little jarring at first. Coming off the back of End Game, and even Captain Marvel before it, Far From Home has a much slower pace and much reduced stakes. To be clear, this was both expected and the right move (solo movies can hardly feature end-of-world scenarios if Avengers films are still going to be spectacles), but with all the hype around the Marvel Universe so far in 2019 it genuinely took me a little bit to of time to adjust.

Once that had happened, however, I found myself in the midst of a fun and surprisingly nuanced superhero movie. Far From Home carefully (and deftly) balances the high-school narrative and vibe that made Homecoming so much fun whilst feeling like a natural evolution for both Peter's personal story and the wider universe as well. The impact of End Game and a society where billions of people have missed five years of existence, a time span now referred to as the "Blip Years" or just the "Blip", felt real enough; it was hardly central to the ongoing plot, but it's clearly a constant within the world and lives of the people that live there. We got just enough answers in this area for the movie to feel like a clear extension of that narrative, without stealing time away from the characters and plot it was trying to set up for itself. In other words, this felt like one of the best examples in the MCU of balancing the fact that we now have dozens of interconnected characters, story arcs, and events, whilst still wanting to focus in on these particular people and specific period of time. For that, it deserves serious applause!

It also deserves recognition for a really great villain. The one consistent thorn in the ankle of the MCU is that their villains are either a bit two-dimensional or, even when they get character depth, are then sidelined in favour of epic battles and an early death. The care that goes into building out our heroes rarely even nudges the villains, meaning that some movies may as well just cast robots (and indeed, one did just that). Whilst Mysterio could still have benefited from a greater dive into his background and reasoning (beyond simply hand-waving some of that away by mentioning that he was a bit mentally unstable), the performance from Jake Gyllennhaal combined with a slightly subtler introduction as a new hero meant that we could spend some time getting to know (and initially sympathise with) Blake. In terms of staying true to the source, there's definitely plenty of liberty taken, but it makes all the right nods whilst generally improving on elements of the character.

The result is a solid, interesting villain with a novel plan and motive that the audience can get behind. Better yet, the use of technology previously seen in Civil War, along with the way it was tied in to both Stark and Peter's own stories, worked nicely and created a believable package that was visually stunning. The scene where Mysterio defeats Spider-Man (or, I guess technically Night Monkey - a superb running joke :D) is one of the most interesting fight sequences we've seen so far, and the rematch in London (alongside the introduction to the MCU's official spider-sense implementation, which had only previously been hinted at) was superb in terms of cleverly "showing" an invisible force.

But Spider-Man isn't really Spider-Man without his friends, and luckily Far From Home sticks that landing as well. Ned plays a less pertinent role than he did in the first film, but his contribution feels genuine and natural whilst providing for some fun, more lighthearted gags that help ground the film. Flash and the other students, including their slightly clever use of the "Blip" in Brad, all feel real, and the teachers have some great chemistry (and comedy). Queen of the crop, though, is MJ who truly gets to shine; she was a fun and quirky character in Homecoming but this time out she's just brilliant. The onscreen relationship between her and Parker feels natural and lends a huge amount of credence to the plot, whilst her character development is just a lot of fun. Zendaya is excellent in the role (as are all of the cast) and more than holds her own against a nearly perfect performance from Tom Holland. More please!

Some final thoughts:

  • It was nice to see a Marvel film step out into different parts of the world without necessarily having to blow them up (though of course that still happens a lot too);
  • The whole subplot about the Black Dahlia was great;
  • Getting one of Mysterio's workers to be the "I'm not Tony Stark" guy from the first movie was perfect;
  • There's a huge number of parallels here to Iron Man, including a number of plot beats. Whilst I realise a core theme was "is Spider-Man the new Iron Man?" I do hope they don't go that route and instead just leave this as a nice homage to the first Avenger and RDJ.

Oh, and then there's the after-credits sequences, which were some of the best since, well, probably since the first Iron Man. The sequence with MJ was a lot of fun and perfectly MCU, but that it led up to that reveal, plus J. Jonah Jameson as an alt-right internet pundit/troll with J K Simmons reprising the role!!! *chef kiss* Perfection! Oh and then they went ahead and simultaneously blew open so many new theories about Phase Four whilst also papering over the one element of the movie that was a bit off: Fury.

By making Fury and Hill actually be Skrulls for the entire film, it suddenly makes so much of the movie make sense. There's the big one: that a Nick Fury who can be completely deceived and who relies on a single teenager during an "Avengers-level" event is a Nick Fury not fit to wear the eye patch. Whilst we get a couple of snippets of dialogue throughout Far From Home which goes some way to allow suspension of disbelief, and builds a world where even S.H.I.E.L.D (or whatever Fury is currently in charge of) is pretty much lost in the dark, but that isn't a great payoff. It works whilst you're watching, but it would definitely fall apart as soon as the credits roll, so it was a neat sidestep for the film makers.

But then there are all the little details which suddenly click into place. There's the out-of-character snap at Peter, the complete lack of hands-on approach, and (possibly best of all), there's the reaction to Peter questioning the whereabouts of Carol Danvers. That response seems like a funny throwaway line at the time, but it becomes a surprising little reveal when viewed in full context; of course Talos takes particular affront to an upstart child questioning the integrity of the person that saved his family.

My one issue (though that's a very small issue, with an acceptance that it was probably the right thing to do and deliberate) is that the reveal of the Skrulls completely masks one of the biggest bombshells in the entire movie: that there are Kree sleeper cells on Earth! It's practically a throwaway line from Skrull-Hill as she gets into the jeep before calling Fury-proper, but it has huge implications. For starters, it makes her first line in the film in Mexico actually make more sense (another clever wink to fans): she isn't annoyed that they're investigating a cyclone, she's annoyed they aren't investigating Kree. It also makes their presence on Earth make more sense. Sure, Fury could use a vacation, but he strikes me as the kind of man that you would comfortably describe as a workaholic. But if you're trying to locate hidden Kree, who better to rope in than a Skrull leader that successfully evaded capture for years and has thousands of generations of intimate knowledge of Kree tactics at his disposal?

So we're now heading into Phase Four with at least one potential threat. People had long wondered if Secret Invasion would be a core concept once Thanos was defeated, but the plot of Captain Marvel seemed to shoot that theory in the foot. However, the MCU has fairly consistently played the Kree to be villains, so it almost makes more sense to flip Secret Invasion and have the Kree be the antagonist instead of the Skrulls. Could that be the big thread for the next few phases? Maybe, though I think it's more likely to be either Captain Marvel 2 or possibly the next Avengers. Whatever it becomes, it's an exciting reveal that has a lot of potential.


Far From Home definitely doesn't quite stick the landing as well as Homecoming did, but it's still a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Mysterio is a great villain, even if his lengthy exposition-filled diatribe is a bit hacky, and the effects they get to use during his big showdown are still some of the most visually interesting parts of any MCU film to date. The story is still a huge amount of fun and does just enough to justify itself as it goes along, although it definitely feels a little more "stock MCU" than I remembered. MJ becoming a more fleshed out, interesting character is handled really well (and does so without mythologising her to the extent that she often gets in the comics or other adaptations). And whilst those end-credit roles don't have quite the same impact second time around, they're still a really fun intro into the next phase of Marvel events. Overall, then, a really enjoyable, action-packed film with great effects, a brilliant cast, excellent humour, and some genuinely nice character moments.

Spiderman: No Way Home

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I'm honestly not sure whether No Way Home is more or less meta than Matrix: Resurrections, a film that makes its own existence an integral part of the plotline 🤔 I think Matrix clinches it, but it's a close call!

I'm also no longer sure which of the MCU Spiderman films holds the crown. I think everyone will agree that Far From Home sits on the bottom of the heap, which is saying something considering I still think that's one of the finest MCU movies of the latter few cycles, but is No Way Home better than Homecoming? Probably not, as the former is just a little tighter and cleaner, but wow, it's close. No Way Home certainly has a much bigger scope and a much larger idea, an idea which it executes incredibly well.

After all, what's the number one criticism that a lot of the older Spiderman films receive? That they introduce too many villains and become bloated messes as a result. So here comes a notoriously difficult third act boasted not just two villains, or three villains, but almost all of the previous villains, from all the previous franchises! Yet, somehow, it sticks the landing. We get a movie with a ridiculous number of bad guys, and not only are they all interesting, but they also get individual arcs, several of which are almost more well developed than the main heroes are. Okay, the previous movies do a lot of the heavy lifting, and if you've never seen them you're not going to get as much out of NWH. And sure, James Franco's Goblin gets stubbed a little here, but I understand why two Goblins flying around may have been overkill (his character also lacks the necessary "scientist's hubris gets the better of them" arc; it's more personal to the Tobey Maguire Spiderman than the others).

But the point is that we get meaningful, character-driven plotlines for Doc Ock, for Green Goblin, for Electro, for Sandman, for Aunt May, and for all three of the Spiderpeople in the film. Some of these beats are incredibly subtle, but they're all there. I welled up a little when Andrew Garfield caught MJ and slowly lowered her to ground; it was such a heartbreaking moment and he did it so damn well. Tobey Maguire getting to acknowledge how he fucked up so many times, and finally being able to help both Osborn and Octavius. And, yeah, the "villains" arcs are great. Doc Ock as the antihero is a brilliant take, beautifully done, and Alfred Molina is so damn good in this role! Ditto Willem Dafoe, who just nails the whole Jekyll/Hyde duality of the character. And even where they chose to update the characters a little, it's great. This is the version of Electro we should have had and it's just so nice to see Jamie Foxx get to take another shot at that. Even Rhys Ifans' Lizard gets a nice moment at the end, even if his is the least developed of the villainous arcs. It's just all so neatly pieced together, it pulls off so much so well.

Amongst all of which, it's kind of surprising to think that this film also includes Doctor Strange, who gets some nice beats, and cleverly ties up the whole name reveal from the end of the last movie. I don't know if they did that with this plot already planned out, but it works so well and gave them such a good excuse for live-action Spiderverse, you've just got to applaud the writers 👏👏👏

I'm a little surprised that they chose to kill off Aunt May, though I do think the whole "great responsibility" line was a nice touch; it wouldn't have felt right in any other movie, but in one as meta as this it works and now Tom Holland has had his quintessential Spidey moment. Plus, I'm very aware that they've left the character with one foot firmly out of the MCU. None of the Avengers or Guardians remember him. His only family is dead. Even his best friend and girlfriend don't know he exists. It's a clean break for the MCU/Sony deal, if they need it. I sincerely hope they don't and that we get more Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, more Tom Holland in the Avengers, more everything, but if they had to break up it's a nice way to do so. Plus, I have to forgive anything like that a little when we get Matt freakin' Murdoch just dropped-in as a nice little cameo, officially bringing Charlie Cox into the MCU proper 🙏

In fact, there are very few criticisms that I have for the film. The one small nitpick I have is the Venom cameo; it doesn't make any sense. The characters brought through the multiverse rift are those killed by Spiderpeople, or are Spiderpeople. In the cameo scene we see, Tom Hardy's Venom makes it clear that he's never heard of Spiderman (which means he exists in a universe without one), so he can't have been killed by one. Nor is he a Spiderperson. Yet somehow, he evaporates and gets returned just like the rest of them. Except, he leaves a glob of Venom behind, which doesn't work because Venom is sentient so should all go away at once. What irks me the most about this is not just the hamfisted way it undermines the entire plot for a meaningless, throwaway gag for fan service (something which the film manages so well to avoid up until this point) but that it's not necessary. I admittedly haven't seen Let Their Be Carnage, so it's possible that that sequel breaks the Venomverse firmly away from the MCU, but from what I know Tom Hardy could exist in the MCU. We know from the trailer for the upcoming Morbius film that that Sony Spider-movie-verse movie is in the MCU, because we see the Vulture in it. And in that trailer, Morbius makes a gag about Venom, which heavily implies that he shares the same world as that character. Yet here, in this stupid mid-credit scene, Venom is shown to be from a different universe. Why? Why do that? It's not even a particularly good cameo. Why mess up all these timelines? You manage a nearly three-hour movie about multiverses and time travel with no glaring continuity issues, tieing together two decades of films neatly, and then create an absolute mess of your own future releases in a two-minute scene 🤦‍♂️ Sorry, needed to get that off my chest 😁

Other than that, the film retains the humour and action of the previous movies; the core cast is still excellent; and it sets us up for either a more street-level sequel with the likes of Daredevil, or a college-based smaller-threat character-driven film, a lot more like Homecoming. It's all pretty great stuff.

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