ALL SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL!
LESSON #1: CAST TEENAGERS TO PLAY TEENAGERS— Sorry, makeup artists specializing in the Hollywood Fountain of Youth, but if you want your movie to have convincing teenagers, cast teenage performers. I don’t care how young somebody looks. You can tell they are too old when they’re too old. Take Spider-Man: Homecoming as an example. Tom Holland was 19 when cast as the web-slinger and he was finally a convincing high schooler after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both well into their twenties playing the character. His best bud Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is the same age, as is The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson. The girls were 50/50. Zendaya was the same 19 playing Michelle, but then 27-year-old Laura Harrier soars past the mark as #1 crush Liz. Earlier in the year, 27-year-old Britt Robertson feigned playing 18 in The Space Between Us. Casting agents, dive deeper and younger. There’s plenty of talent out there.
LESSON #2: NO ACTOR OR ACTRESS DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR ANYTHING— Speaking of Tony Revolori, one tremendous and progressive aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the casting diversity. However, when you get enough terrible Comic Book Guy-types from The Simpsons bearing silly and short-sighted torches, stupid and nitpicky crap occurs. Revolori recently revealed that he received death threats when he was cast as the typically white jock character of Flash Thompson. I don’t care what someone does to butcher a character or an entire movie (which Revolori doesn’t, by the way). No one deserves death threats. It’s a movie and supposed to be simple entertainment. The film and the people making it have zero effect on the balance of life. Tony Revolori may have parents of Guatemalan descent, but he was born-and-raised in Anaheim, California. He’s as American as you or I. The same goes for the Hawaiian Batalon, the African-American Chicago native Harrier, and the biracial Zendaya from Oakland. If you want to complain about immigrants or foreigners, kindly remind yourself that the Tom Holland you are watching and loving as Spider-Man is as British as an English muffin. He’s the least American thing in the entire film. Wipe the racism off your face and leave everyone else alone.
LESSON #3: SPIDER-MAN IS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN HE DOESN’T CRY— Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their chances and, for what it’s worth, had their merits for their interpretations of Spider-Man. Their films asked for angst and the actors gave them angst. That said, it is so incredibly buoyant and refreshing to have a Spider-Man that doesn’t cry like a big baby multiple times a film. Tom Holland plays the kid with stresses and troubles, for sure, but with a gumption to weather the moments. I’m not saying he shouldn’t ever cry. I’m just saying stories should save that for real loss and we’re not there yet. No “Tobeyface” is an awesome thing!
LESSON #4: DEAR SONY, PLEASE DON’T MESS UP THIS GIFT YOU RECEIVED FROM MARVEL FILMS— Sony Pictures wisely put aside studio rivalries to allow Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, even further, Marvel Films to co-produce Spider-Man: Homecoming to fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They fixed what Sony ran into the ground TWICE with over-stuffed franchises. Spider-Man: Homecoming smartly scaled the character and setting down to New York and essentially a single villain instead of two or three as has happened in the past. That’s the right pace. Yet, we’re still watching Sony not be able to help themselves by announcing a Tom Hardy-led Venom film before our shiny new Spider-Man even works for the Daily Bugle and encounters an alien symbiote costume. The future introductions of Carnage, Kraven, and Mysterio were also announced. In addition, director Jon Watts is talking Morbius, Chameleon, and even an MCU version of Blade in his ideal future (which should send Wesley Snipes’s agent into a tizzy). Spider-Man 3 aside, all of those villains, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, are untapped characters for the big screen and would make excellent stories… but in due time. Sony, please take your time. Slow play this and milk every dollar. There’s no need for a quick score. You’ve got a young Spider-Man and you’re set to make a billion bucks on his first film. This windfall could last a decade or more with patience. Don’t screw this up. While we’re at it, I hope big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are watching how this plays out. Deadpool was a nice success, but your X-Men films are lacking. Hop on the Marvel bandwagon and unite families together
LESSON #5: MARVEL KNOWS WE LOVE POST-CREDITS SCENES AND THEY ARE BEGINNING TO MESS WITH US— When you see Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’ll know what I mean. Face it. They have us trained. No one leaves the theater of the MCU film until the projector turns off and the lights come on. Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel signature since Iron Man and they are fun little details, even when they are not important or essential. The final post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming trolls our trained behavior so hard. You will see and I, for one, applaud them for messing with us.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.