SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING was another hit for Marvel Studios. It holds a 93% approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com and brought in $117 million its first weekend. However, the next weekend was less successful, as the film dropped 62% in revenue, setting a new record for a Marvel film. Theories abound as to why this happened, but many have pointed to the successes of WONDER WOMAN and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. These films experienced high praise and revenue like HOMECOMING but did not experience such a drop. So what factors caused these films to be received so differently?

Old Vs. New

HOMECOMING
Courtesy of Sony Entertainment

None of these films present completely new ideas — WW and HOMECOMING are adaptations, and APES is a reboot/prequel. However, WW was the first time Wonder Woman was brought to the screen. The successful portrayal of the character proved that women can lead comic book movies and opened up new possibilities. The original APES debuted in the 1960’s, but this version succeeded by telling a new story about the events that led to the first film. This approach has led to critical and commercial acclaim for the APES franchise.

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HOMECOMING is the sixth Spider-Man film. It features a new actor playing the role for the third time. The film stands as entertaining and a fun watch, but it doesn’t have the fresh approach of WW or the reimagining of APES. It exists as just another Spider-Man film, and arguably the most light-hearted as well. That makes the film entertaining, but it doesn’t push it beyond that. It doesn’t even do much to build its parent universe, as both WW and APES do. HOMECOMING is an entertaining cog in the Marvel Movie machine, but that’s all it is. In the wake of two groundbreaking films, being just another Marvel film was a strike against it.  Speaking of companies…

Corporate Handling/Organic Storytelling

HOMECOMING

HOMECOMING was born out of Marvel’s desire to use Spider-Man in a film and Sony’s desire for continued film ownership of the character. The two companies reached an agreement to share Spidey, which is why his appearance in CIVIL WAR and HOMECOMING was possible. That partnership does contaminate HOMECOMING though. WW exists to introduce the character and expand the DCEU. APES exists as the closing chapter of a trilogy. Neither film exists simply because of a familiar name.

HOMECOMING’s light tone hides the fact that Spider-Man is a late addition to the MCU. His presence came as a last minute addition, not planned in advance like Dr. Strange or the Guardians of the Galaxy. The film exists because of corporate handshakes; Sony wanted a film and Marvel wanted a title. Spider-Man comes across well, but he exists as a forced addition to the MCU and because of that, his film does little to expand it. The storytelling loses its organic quality as a result.  While WW and APES build their universe according to a plan, HOMECOMING simply states a character exists.

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Use of Character Mythology

HOMECOMING
Courtesy Marvel Entertainment

This is possibly the biggest mistake HOMECOMING made. WW updated the character but honored the mythology surrounding her. Themyscira, the Amazons, and WW’s history in wartime appear in the film. Steve Trevor, her romantic interest, not only appears, he arguably co-leads the film with her. Everything feels authentic and so WW works better as a film. APES tells a unique story that still makes room for nods to the original films. Caesar, the main ape, appeared in multiple APE films, as the mythical (and literal) ape savior. The new film series honored the established moment where Caesar started the ape revolution by uttering “NO!”. It also names Caesar’s son Cornelius (the name of the original Caesar’s father), which could be a lead-in to the Cornelius of the original film. These nods keep the film rooted in its mythology and function as an expansion of the original story.

HOMECOMING seems to be tentative about its history. It’s possible Sony feared having too many familiar elements after two Spider-Man film series. The result stripped HOMECOMING of many fan elements. Peter and Aunt May are fine, but there are other character mistakes. The film name drops familiar Spider-characters like Ned (Leeds), Liz (Allen), and MJ (Mary Jane). Characters share the names but are NOT the characters fans expect. Ned (a former Hobgoblin) is the bumbling sidekick, Liz is just the love interest, and MJ (aka Michelle) is a smart-ass. Ned works well with his role, but Liz exists only as something for Peter to chase. ‘Michelle’ appears only to drop smart-ass lines in the film, then states her nickname at the end. It’s equivalent to John Blake being named ‘Robin’ at the end of DARK KNIGHT RISES — a fan shout-out instead of a developed character.

What’s Next After HOMECOMING?

HOMECOMING was still a success at the box office, and plans are underway for more films. Sony and Marvel need to make sure not to repeat their mistakes and set the same record twice. Spider-Man needs to be a major part of the MCU. He shouldn’t be just a corporate addition, and having more depth to his character and his films’ tone is essential. Ultimately, these films have to embrace the mythology they are bringing to the screen. APES honored an important moment with Caesar’s ‘NO!” but HOMECOMING doesn’t even mention Uncle Ben. There’s no need to go overboard but these characters and moments deserve more than name drops. They exist to be explored and to add depth to the film.

Something to chew on, Marvel.  Good luck next time.

2 Comments

  1. Ram

    July 27, 2017 at 1:18 am

    According to box office mojo, apes dropped 62.9% on its 2nd weekend vs SMH’s 62.2%. Apes opened less than half of what SMH earned on its 1st weekend. And although Apes bumped SMH off of the top spot on its 1st weekend, Apes is already below SMH the following weekend. Apes may have pulled in its share of movie goers that away from SMH but it’s not a box office succes this article is painting it to be. Don’t glorify the monkey movie too much.

    Reply

  2. bschlacht@gmail.com

    July 26, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    War for the Planet of the Apes plunged 64% in week 2… How is that a better week 2 than Spider-Man?

    Reply

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