Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

***This review may contain spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming***

The superhero genre is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance era. Franchise after franchise is being rebooted, remade and re-released for the viewing pleasure of the masses. It’s for this reason that a good Spider-Man remake was long overdue. Step in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

This is the third time now that the Spider-Man story has been covered on the big screen, after two sagas which failed to deliver for fans. Traditionally, Spider-Man films have been corny, cheesy and all manners of bad.

It is perhaps for that reason then, that Homecoming distances itself from some of the tropes of the first two sets of the films. Homecoming does its best to ignore or barely touch upon various elements of Spider-Man’s backstory such as Uncle Ben’s death or the radioactive spider. It’s a refreshing change which makes the viewer relate better to the film without having to suffer the same old story.

Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man is phenomenal. He perfectly encapsulates the naive, angsty teenager whose intentions are often better than his actions. This, coupled with that all-so-familiar youthful struggle of trying to be bigger and better than you are, lends itself to some excellent character development. How he interacts with Tony Stark and his assistant, Happy, does a lot to flesh out that naivety and Holland captures it very well. His relationship with his best friend, Ned, a chubby and charming sidekick, is hilarious and heartwarming and is a real highlight of the film.

The film ranges from silly to serious, from sinister to light-hearted. In previous films, there has been a tendency to stray from grittiness and darkness. Homecoming does not shy away. There are real moments of sinister behaviour, in part helped by the performance of Michael Keaton as Vulture – who does a fantastic job of playing off Peter Parker’s youthful ignorance. The director has done an excellent job of striking a balance between the classic sarcastic banter of the franchise and a more serious underlying tone. Jokes are plentiful and funny, but that doesn’t stop the film from being serious as and when it needs to be.

One of the main problems with the film is that the aforementioned Vulture’s backstory leaves a lot to be desired. The opening scene in the film does some work to explain it, then the narrative skips eight years and he’s a fully established villain with little to no details as to how he got there. It is a minor gripe but a gripe nonetheless. It cannot compare to the origin story of someone like The Green Goblin, for example. There’s almost nothing learned about him. Nonetheless, Keaton excels in the role and manages to leave the audience hating him and fearing him in equal measure. The scale of his villainy is never in question. He doesn’t feel cheap, but still maintains his flaws. It’s a shame there isn’t more to it and the movie focuses far more on Spider-Man’s inner struggle than the enemy he’s trying to stop.

Homecoming is an example of a franchise reboot done correctly. From beginning to end, it’s an enthralling film which will leave everyone, fans or not, satisfied when the credits roll. It sets an excellent foundation for future explorations into the story, and in the post-credits scene there are strong hints of a sequel (which most will know is not uncommon in Marvel films). If there is a lesson to be learned from this instalment in the previously underwhelming Spider-Man series, it’s that superhero films are far from dead and Spidey will have an important role to play.

 

EA Origin Access and The Death of The Demo

Yesterday I wrote a piece about my Mass Effect: Andromeda First Impressions in which I made mention of gaining access to a trial version of the game through EA’s Origin ‘Access’ system. This was my first experience with the service or any service like it.

For those who don’t know about EA Origin Access – it’s a subscription service that offers you access to free copies of old games, ‘trial’ versions of upcoming games, and discounts for existing, recent games. The subscription fee stands at around £4 for a month, or £20 for a year.

Many of you may remember being a child or a young adult and buying a gaming magazine with a bonus insert – usually a disc containing demos to multiple, upcoming, would-be AAA games of their time. They could also be included in cereal boxes, or you could find somewhere online to download a demo on your old-school internet connection. Now, I can’t remember the last time I got to play a demo as an added extra that came with a magazine or from anywhere else. That’s not to say that they categorically don’t exist anymore, and “free” multiplayer betas are prominent. Overall, however, the gaming industry and journalism in general have moved away from magazines and as a result physical, free demos are far less common. EA have seized this opportunity in their development of EOA. 

This raises a semi-moral question – Is EOA justified? Is it fair to charge for trial versions of games when in the past, they’d be accessible for free? Yes, EOA allows gamers to access some other, older games for free, and there are discounts available for other products as well, but as a whole, is it fair?

I am of the opinion that charging for access to demos is an inherently bad thing. Yes, you’ll get a discount on the final game with EOA, but the idea that they’re going to develop a version of the game for demonstration purposes and hold that back from a large number of people who aren’t willing to pay doesn’t sit right with me.

It isn’t EOA that scares me. I actually think that on balance, it’s a decent service. If you use it properly, you may end up saving money, but that’s only if you use it enough and you never run into a game whose full version isn’t appealing enough to you. It’s the precedent that services like EOA sets which worries me more than anything. At what point does it become too much about prying our money from us before a game is even released? Does it not drive a wedge between gamers who are willing and able to pay, and those who aren’t? While EOA doesn’t break the bank, it offers a real-life “pay to win” scheme and as a result, it segregates those who can pay and those who can’t. It makes the playing field unlevel, and the only way to level it again is by shelling out a subscription fee.

The solution for me would be to offer a subscription service which offers discounts and free copies of older games which may have fallen through the cracks, but make the service cheaper and leave demos out of it.

I sincerely hope that the likes of Origin Access aren’t the beginning of something much worse. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in future, developers did away with the subscription service and charged fees per demo. The whole idea seems like an attempt to gauge whether people are okay with paying to play demos, and the more we all buy into it, the more encouraged they’ll become to further divide the user base for monetary gain.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the signs are there. Free demos may be very much a thing of the past, but let’s try to avoid making paid demos a thing of the future. If you ever have the option to pay a one-off fee for the trial version of a game, don’t do it.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.