Why Homecoming Is a Great Example of Blockbuster Writing (and GoTG2 isn't)

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TheAmazingSpidey

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Edited By TheAmazingSpidey
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In light of the critical and commercial success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I'm interested in discussing why it is that Homecoming works so well, and how Marvel managed to do it sixteen movies and 9 years into their cinematic universe. To do so, I'm gonna compare SM: H, a movie a consider an absolute triumph, to 2017's other MCU movie, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2, a movie I consider an absolute letdown. I want to discuss why I thought Homecoming absolutely worked, and GoTG2 as a screenplay failed. If you disagree with my opinion, I hope you still get something out of this blog as it is still worth reading, I think ^_^

A big difference between Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians 2 is the role that the protagonists play in the story. For most of GoTG2, Rocket and Yondu are on their own little adventure, whereas Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora and Mantis wander around Ego, doing very little to advance the plot into it's third act, when their hand is forced to react to Ego's devious plan. They make very little choices throughout the movie, and do even less in terms of the choices they make to advance the plot to option ONE or opinion TWO. They are merely reactive protagonists. Peter Parker in Homecoming on the other hand, is the absolute opposite. His actions affect the story more than ANY MCU character before him. For instance, the decision to leave the party instead of using Spider-Man as a parlour trick, leading to his encounter with Aaron Davis, the Two Shockers, his eventual run-in with Vulture and being saved by Iron Man, obtaining the bomb which ends up in Ned's possession and endangers the life of his classmates, or the choice he makes to ignore Tony's warning and pursues the Vulture, leading to the accident in the Ferry, which causes Tony to remove the suit from him. Or his choice to ask out Liz, which leads to his date's father being the villain, which allows him to plant the phone in Vulture's car, which leads to him being able to track him down. Or his choice to leave the Homecoming dance and fight the Vulture despite Toomes's warning, which results in the defeat of the Vulture and Liz moving away from New York. And last but not least, the choice to resist the Iron Spider suit and not become an Avenger. Almost EVERY plot advancement down to the fact he ever encountered the villain, and why the villain put 2 and 2 together that Peter Parker = Spider-Man is caused by the protagonist's action. And I don't mean "if the protagonist doesn't do x and y, the world ends", I mean two valid options that enhance the plot, and Homecoming is full of those. A narrative informed by the characters's decisions is the ESSENCE of a character driven movie, and for a movie that tries so hard to be character-driven... those choices are fleeting in Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2. This is something I think all blockbusters should learn, not just James Gunn. Active protagonists = a more memorable story as the outcome is impacted by the character's decisions, and these decisions also explore the characters.

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"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" is a line that is intrinsic to Spider-Man's line of thinking and his decision to save people. Without uttering the line once, and without even mentioning Uncle Ben (who I hope does get mentioned in the sequel), Jon Watts and co. managed to get this across without exposition, but instead through the choices and the sacrifices he makes. Being one year older than Peter, I was happy for him when he asked out Liz to the dance and she said yes, and I relate to his simple desire to "get the girl." Peter could've gotten the girl like he wanted to all along. Peter could've joined Liz in the swimming people, but instead he chose not to. We see his face as he stares at Liz and his classmates in the pool, thinking of what he could have: the normal life of a teenager, and get the girl he likes, but he can't stand idly by while Vulture and his band of goons run crimes around New York City. Because with great power.... comes great responsibility. And they didn't have to say it once. It was all through the choices he made, and it's a valuable lesson of character building through meaningful choices, instead of holding your audience in one hand, and holding a thesaurus in other hand trying to find another way to say "with great power, comes great responsibility" >_>

This is where I think James Gunn got it wrong with GoTG2. He thought that character and plot are divorced, leaving us with a barebones script with barely any conflict, even less character decisions, and characters spelling out every single emotion they're feeling through syllables. Most of the character development arises when the movie suddenly decides it needs to flip the switch and have a character do a total 180, which makes most of the character changes unconvincing. Let's use a CBM that I think did character development very well: The Dark Knight. A lot of people say Harvey Dent's turn to darkness was "too rushed" but I couldn't disagree. As a matter of fact, I thought we got a perfect amount of glimpses of Dent's moral greyness to make his transformation convincing. For example, we see that he might be willing to "leave Thomas Schiff's life up to chance" when he interrogates him with the gun to his head, and that he rashly indicted all the mob-members. There is a discussion of how far Dent is willing to go, and his willingness to exert his sense of justice, making his change feel natural.

Ego on the other hand, goes from a charismatic, nostalgic and friendly guy to a sworn enemy in a sentence. A single sentence. Yeah, characters doubt Ego and think he's up to something, but we see so very little of that suggested in his personality. I'm surprised he didn't say "oh, by the way, your mother had a cute kitty and I kicked it! ^_^." The same goes for Nebula and Gamora's emotional arc: the former who goes from a hardass, stoic and serious assassin who speaks through gritted teeth... to a girl with emotions who 'all she wants is a sister?' I don't mind the change, but this has only been hinted through stuff we've seen off screen. Let's play a game: think about how much of GoTG2's dialogue is people talking about stuff that happened off-screen? Answer that question yourself.

That's without mentioning Yondu and Rocket's 'bromance', the epiphany that "Rocket is Yondu and Yondu is Rocket" being a great example of how not to do a character friendship. This is the closest the movie comes to earning a character trait as we see glimpses of Rocket pushing people away throughout the movie, but the fact that Yondu knows all of this about Rocket after a day is absolutely absurd: what motivates him? Why he does what he does? The parental relationship between Quill and Yondu isn't much better. Trying to force an emotional relationship between two characters who only interact 30 minutes before the end of the movie didn't work for me, at least.

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Villains

I think everyone can agree that although Marvel hasn't produced a villain on par with Joker, or even Magneto, Ego The Living Planet and Vulture were both a step-above your average MCU villain. I appreciated the ambition with Ego, but I thought Vulture surpassed him in every conceivable way. Besides the fact that Vulture's motivation is stronger and more relatable (a man trying to feed his family out of responsibility is much more sympathetic than I guy that wants to live forever), the people behind HC understood that the villain's perspective is important, not just the hero. Perspective is the key word. The first scene of Homecoming is a hardworking, working class man who is driven to desperation when he's ran out of business by people richer than him. This immediately establishes him as a man who, despite his eventually questionable methods, is just a poor working class man trying to earn a dollar for his family. In GoTG2, we never see the decisions Ego had to make. Imagine if we got to see Ego decide to leave Meredith Quill. We could've seen the internal struggle as he was forced to give up one 'important' thing: love, for something more important: eternal life.

I guess I could go into other factors such as the useless gold people, the fact James Gunn forgot to set the stakes (the Ego reveal is no surprise because Gunn forgot to set-up another villain), the prequels PTSD that I got out of seeing all these beautiful sets built only for people to just stand and talk, the impressive job that Homecoming does at expanding the MCU in a meaningful way (the ground level of the MCU, how the Chitauri incident affected those that catch the subway) 'and stuff', but I'll leave it at that.

Cheers for reading :)

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deactivated-5ebcd5ad9fb95

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Good blog. I personally liked GotG Vol. 2 and Spiderman-Man Homecoming (although it felt too different than comics teen Peter and too much like the current Peter plus a log of characters were missing or changed).

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MarvelandDCfan24

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Couldn't agree more Homecoming is a superior film awesome writing and did Spiderman justice after so many attempts at the character GOG2 was carried by it's previous films hype which was a great movie but it's predecessor fell flat imo

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deactivated-5c9535a734784

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As always, a well thought out and written blog, TAS. I may slightly disagree with your assessment but I enjoyed both GOTG 2 and Homecoming equally, maybe Homecoming slightly more.

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RavenVice01

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I agree with my fellow users. Both movies were enjoyable. I will admit Ego's master plan seemed open to interpretation because he didn't seem like the guy who wanted to spread across the universe just to bring single minded order. Vulture was a villain that came from fighting and struggling.

Overall, I got sick and tired of the high school theme in Spider-Man. There were no photos of uncle Ben and may together. Peter doesn't seem haunted by the bad choices he made that led up to ben' s death. They don't elaborate where the radioactive spider came from. This new Spidey film seems flawed to me.

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black_wreath

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Wow you really hate GotG2 huh?

Cool blog and all, very well written as expected but I really did feel Nebula's hidden affection for Gamora in the first movie and their relationship progressing in Vol 2 was completely natural in my eyes - it was one route with those two characters I was very relieved the movie went down.

I agree with Ego's heel turn though, the fact he gave Meredith cancer was completely unnecessary and (imo) a little bit tasteless. However, that didn't ruin the movie for me.

How did I turn into a GotG defender? I've become I've ever hated! >.<

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Thesenate

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#6  Edited By Thesenate

@ravenvice01: I don't think they even mentioned Ben's name even once, let alone show pictures of him. Considering this Spidey's age, Ben's death was fairly recent and should be something that's still fresh in Peter and May's mind in some capacity. They could have at least given us a little more on that front. Could have been done easily without making it look like they're retreading everything that has been done in the previous Spidey movies.

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TheAmazingSpidey

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Wow you really hate GotG2 huh?

Cool blog and all, very well written as expected but I really did feel Nebula's hidden affection for Gamora in the first movie and their relationship progressing in Vol 2 was completely natural in my eyes - it was one route with those two characters I was very relieved the movie went down.

I agree with Ego's heel turn though, the fact he gave Meredith cancer was completely unnecessary and (imo) a little bit tasteless. However, that didn't ruin the movie for me.

How did I turn into a GotG defender? I've become I've ever hated! >.<

Well yes, I do dislike GotG2. My feeling for the movie can be compared to the same way you feel when you search for a parking... and you're approaching what seems to be an empty spot........ only to find out that parking is occupied by a smaller car which was hidden by the bigger car, making you think that spot was free when it actually isn't: complete and utter frustration!!

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deactivated-5b2121a0a9a00

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I didn't like either films.

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mickey-mouse

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#10  Edited By mickey-mouse

See this blog, that's y u my Nicka...

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TheAmazingSpidey

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@lukehero said:

See this blog, that's y u my Nicka...

? Love the avatar, bro.

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mickey-mouse

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TheAmazingSpidey

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#13  Edited By TheAmazingSpidey

@lukehero said:

@theamazingspidey: U know who my girl is right?

SZA? As a Bryson Tiller/Kendrick Lamar fan, it's hard not to know lol. My bro is seeing her live later this year. She makes fire.

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killerravens

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Disagree I got what I wanted from guardians but I left the theater disappointed in homecoming

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Thor-Parker

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GOTG 2 was awesome bro, it´s pure enjoyment the entire movie.

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Supermanforever

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i watched gotg 2 because it comic movie and it was enjoyable but sometimes it was lame as hell. First part was far better.

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Mutant1230

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Even though I did enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 you articulated yourself well here and gave solid arguments for why you think Homecoming is the superior movie. I agree with you on many points actually. Props.

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the_stegman

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#19 the_stegman  Moderator

While I didn't absolutely love Homecoming, I will say it's leaps and bounds beyond the mediocrity that is GOTG.

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Alak

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As someone who really enjoy GotG2, I can agree with you criticisms of it. Good analysis.

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RavenVice01

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@thesenate: exactly. Doing something fresh doesn't always work. U need to keep core ideas fresh in any reboot or origin story

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Manwhohaseverything

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Just saw Homecoming..and I liked it well enough, but had some problems with the general writing. There's a rule in writing: Show things, don't tell things. And especially don't tell things after you show them. Homecoming broke this basic "writing 101" rule at least 4 times in the movie. 1 example. When he was on the bus to DC and gets the call from "Happy". Him receiving the call tells us he's being tracked/traced. His line after getting the call? "I"m being tracked" (or was it traced, I forget exactly) And who was he talking to when he said that anyhow? When he and his new suit are "spying" on the guys in the van. They tell us they're planning a heist..and Peter's next line? "They're planning a heist."(again, who was he talking to?) He also had one when his web shooters got knocked away and he says "My web-shooters" but I could see that being legit line of dialogue in that case. Again, I liked it well enough, but the writing..well, left something to be desired. I know your blog is about Blockbuster writing and not general writing rules, but those bits did bother me. It wasn't as good as either of the first to Toby McGwire films, but it certainly was better than Spider-Man 3. And probably better than ASM..maybe. I'm not sure yet.

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MadeinBangladesh

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nice writeup TAS. The best written blockbuster imo is the current Apes series.

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GXrevs06

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#24  Edited By GXrevs06

I don't know they made spider man this little kid. He's supposed to be fully grown in the comics. He literally has not been kid for decades.

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Yassassin

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but I couldn't disagree

more, couldn't disagree more.

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the_stegman

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#26 the_stegman  Moderator

@gxrevs06 said:

I don't know they made spider man this little kid. He's supposed to be fully grown in the comics. He literally has not been kid for decades.

This is the first time he feels and looks like an actual kid though, so I don't mind. As a matter of fact, he may have overtaken Garfield as my favorite Spidey.

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TheAmazingSpidey

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@MadeinBangladesh: hard to disagree. I'm looking forward to War (even though I doubt I'll catch it in cinemas).

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Druzzie

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#28  Edited By Druzzie

Because in this movie Uncle Ben was never killed because Peter did not stop a crook. It was just a tragedy so Peter could react to his power like any normal teen would, with glee. There is no guilt hanging over his head because of his Uncle Ben death or his failure in trying to stop it. Instead he is taught by Iron Man to be responsible like a father figure.

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PeterParkerJr

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Great write up. Left the theater happy with Homecoming, but completely disappointed with GOTG2. I like the way you broke it down like that.

Still don't think Holland's the best Spidey, IMO. Nor does Homecoming beat the first two Raimi films.

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GXrevs06

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@gxrevs06 said:

I don't know they made spider man this little kid. He's supposed to be fully grown in the comics. He literally has not been kid for decades.

This is the first time he feels and looks like an actual kid though, so I don't mind. As a matter of fact, he may have overtaken Garfield as my favorite Spidey.

The fact that he's a goody teenage kid is the problem for me, though. He's not supposed to be like that. Peter hasn't been like that in the comics since before Gwen died and that was like 40 odd years ago.

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black_wreath

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#31  Edited By black_wreath

I liked it more than I thought I would but I'm undecided which movie I liked more. It was a pretty good movie.

I liked the hyped John Hughes feel and am thankful that was actually there since they also said Doctor Strange would be like a classic horror and... then it totally wasn't.

Some things I didn't care for however:

  • I was worried Tony would derail Peter's story but until he showed up it was just dumb-fun Spidey shenanigans serving little to no purpose. Tony was a relief since he actually gave the movie a point.
  • Not mentioning Uncle Ben made Peter's motivation come off as "wanting to impress The Avengers" which comes off really shallow in comparison. One could say we don't need to see him die again but we do need context - this is a reboot, one in which they've changed so many characters - they cannot assume the audience will recall this aspect while accepting all these other changes.
  • Adrian kills his henchman and it's an awesome villain moment but then Marvel Studios just have to turn it into a joke "I thought this was the anti-gravity gun". Way to ruin a great scene.
  • I liked Michelle a lot as a new character and thought most of her lines were funny ("light protesting" however is one that did not land and "I don't have any friends" was a little confusing - she clearly does...) but then I liked her less when the reveal came bringing all that baggage and expectation with it.
  • Tom Holland's fking grating voice! He's 21... So it's probably going to stay that way. >.<
  • A really minor one: in Civil War Peter says the line "that really old movie Empire Strikes Back" but here he's a big enough fan to build a Lego Death Star (that's frequently shown because Spider-Man: Homecoming! Thy name is product placement!). I may not be a Star Wars fan but I'm pretty sure 99% of Star Wars fans would not use the phrase "that really old movie" to describe Empire.
  • I can't get that crappy "Hey ho, let's go" song out of my head now.
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deactivated-5d2b83d5a0d79

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I agree, accept I liked the Nebula stuff in GOTG2. The Yondu/Rocket stuff was pure cringe though.