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At The Movies

Spiderman: Homecoming ★★★★★

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei

Spiderman: Homecoming is the latest addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Jon Watts the film focuses on the hero’s journey of the young Avenger wannabe Peter Parker, aka Spiderman (Tom Holland).

With this being the third incarnation of Spiderman in the last 15 years it was refreshing to see the studio avoid yet another origin story. We’ve already had two of those, the last coming as recently as 2012, and sitting through another re-hashing of the same would have been a chore. Thankfully Marvel and their superhero film record can be ranked somewhere between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’. And Spiderman: Homecoming is no exception.

The film begins with a clever little recap of how Spiderman got involved in the Captain America: Civil War final epic battle and what happened to him afterwards. Which is, basically, not much. Parker dreams of becoming an Avenger but his frequently absentee mentor Tony Stark prefers to have him stay put. Generally because Peter is a 15-year-old high schooler and not even Tony Stark is irresponsible enough to send a teenager into a serious battle.

That leaves the friendly Spiderman to spend his time catching petty thieves, saving cats and giving directions to old ladies within the confines of his neighbourhood. Of course, this would not last long, as one night Spiderman happens upon a bank robbery in progress. When attempting to stop the bad guys he discovers (painfully) that they are armed to the teeth with extremely powerful and technologically advanced weapons. It turns out that the weapons are being made and sold by a gang run by a disgruntled ex-city worker Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture (Michael Keaton). Spiderman relishes the idea of single-handedly stopping the gang, but Vulture is none too pleased when his arms dealing business gets interfered with. And that’s the film in a nutshell.

One of the strongest aspects of any Marvel film are their characters (at least when it comes to the protagonists). Those are usually very well defined and developed. Each Avenger has their own character traits and personalities. Tony Stark is distinctly different to Captain America, and Captain America is nothing like Thor. And it’s the uniqueness of the characters that helps Marvel films succeed as audiences are treated to something different every time.

Where the films falter is in their plots and villains. The plots are often generic involving a two-dimensional and unmemorable villain who’s main objective is to take over or destroy the world using a giant laser shooting into the sky.

This however is not the case with Spiderman: Homecoming. To its credit the script limits the scope of the stakes and action. The story takes place over three locations, with most of it taking place in Spiderman’s own neighbourhood. And it’s that neighbourhood that Spiderman is interested in keeping safe, not the whole world. Vulture is not some interstellar conquering overlord, but an average criminal with some hi-tech toys. His actions are motivated purely by greed, and his desire to kill Spiderman is dictated by the latter’s constant interference in his business.

This kind of story would not work for the Avengers (as Stark put it, Vulture is beneath their pay grade) but it works perfectly here. Peter Parker is an inexperienced teenager and so matching him up against a mere mortal Vulture works brilliantly.

Credit must be given to Tom Holland. He plays the titular character with lots of wit, cracking jokes as he fights his adversaries in the form of Spiderman. Then he manages to display just enough nerdy social awkwardness to make a believable and relatable teenage Peter Parker, without making the character too goofy (as was sometimes the case with Toby McGuire’s Spiderman).

Spiderman: Homecoming also gives us a rare three-dimensional villain. Michael Keaton as Vulture is really entertaining. His motivations are not only clear, but also something the average person can sympathise with. He becomes a crook out of desperation, and he is doing it for his family. While that in no way makes him a good guy, it does give him enough characterisation to avoid making him into your run of the mill moustache twirling villain.

The rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well, Jon Favrou is especially fun to watch.

While there are connections and references to the overall Marvel Universe throughout the film (most notably Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark) they are kept to the minimum and this allowed the filmmakers to create a neat little self-contained film. You don’t have to have seen the rest of the Marvel films to understand what’s happening in this one.

The look and sound of the film is just as good as what we’re accustomed to, perhaps being more colourful then Captain America: Civil War. Which fits the light-hearted tone of the film.

At its heart, this is a coming of age film. This is where Peter Parker learns what it truly means to be a hero and just how hard and painful (both physically and mentally) it can be. For the better part of the film Spiderman mostly just screws up. His actions cause more problems than they solve. And it’s through these failures that Peter Parker learns and becomes a better person, and as a result, a better hero. And all this without anyone ever uttering the words ‘with great power….’ etc. etc. etc.

If you’re a fan of superhero films or just teen flicks in general I would highly recommend this film. This is a nice addition to the Marvel Universe and a welcome reprise from all the dire and gloomy drama happening with the Avengers.

 

Tommy’s Honour ★★★

Director: Jason Connery

Cast: Jack Lowden, Peter Mullan, Sam Neill, Ophelia Lovibond

Tommy’s Honour is a Jason Connery directed (that Connery) biopic based around the life of professional golf pioneer Thomas Morris Jr. (played by Jack Lowden) and his rocky relationship with his father Thomas Morris (played by Peter Mullan).

The story goes through the life of Morris Jr. beginning with his teenage years (when his career began) and ending with his untimely death in his mid-twenties. ‘Young’ Tommy works alongside his father ‘Old’ Tommy Morris as greenkeepers on the St. Andrews golf course. Morris senior is renowned in his own right, as he is responsible for designing numerous now famous golf courses and for having won four Open Championships. In their spare time, they play as a tandem in local competitions. At the time, such things as professional athletes with astronomical salaries did not exist and golfers had to rely on getting their fair share of the wagers that the top-hat wearing high society ‘gentleman’ placed on their games.

As Tommy Jr. keeps winning his appetite for more success and wealth grows. He decides to break from playing with his beyond-his-prime father and strikes out on his own. What follows is a successful career in golf, with multiple consecutive Open Championship victories (Tommy Morris Jr. remains the youngest golfer to have ever won the Open Championship), a controversial (for the times) marriage to an older Meg Drinnen (played by Ophelia Lovibond) and an accumulation of wealth (Tommy Jr. was responsible for negotiating his own wage).

Tommy is hit by a tragedy when his wife dies during child labour. With both mother and child dead Tommy is devastated, and not long after Tommy himself dies on Christmas Day at the young age of 24.

While the story is about a golf player and his career, at its core, it’s about the changes that are happening within society at the time. This is represented by the often-rocky relationship between Tommy and his father. Tommy senior is very much a traditionalist and does not look kindly on the rebellious nature of his cocky son. This results with the two locking horns on more than one occasion.

One of the weak points that drags the film down is the golf action itself. For a sports film, the action is uninteresting and rather mundane. When the uninitiated describe golf as ‘boring’, I think this is what they have in mind. We see plenty of matches, but there’s little to distinguish one match from another. This is partly because most of the matches appear to have been filmed on the same location, but mostly there really aren’t any standout moments during those matches to make them memorable. Tommy Jr. was an innovative golfer, but we hardly get to see any of that on the screen. We do get a scene where Tommy shows his friends a new shot he developed called the ‘backspin’, but that’s the first and last time we see it. As a result, the pioneering legend of golf ends up looking fairly average and unremarkable with little to distinguish his game from that of his opponents.

Jack Lowden does a good job playing the young Morris. He portrays the character with energy and enough charisma to be likable. Drinnen likewise gives a good performance as the stern and stoic Morris senior. The two play well off of each other and are by far the best part of the film.

If you’re a fan of golf then this may interest you, though don’t expect to see any deep character exploration or an in-depth analysis of the game (I’ve learned more about golf from Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore than a I did from watching Tommy’s Honour). Though it is worth seeing for the father-son drama that plays out between the two Morris’.

 

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