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Film Review – Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Two years ago, Spider-Man: Homecoming gave us a true taste as to what this universe’s bleak Spider-Man had to offer. That’s right, I say ‘bleak’ because the character wasn’t Spider-Man; the movie changed too many fundamentals about the character. Taking things in a different direction isn’t bad as long as it’s not the defining trait of what you’re trying to do. Homecoming did just that which is why Spider-Man: Far From Home had to do a lot of heavy lifting if it wanted to sell me on this version of Peter Parker.

Especially coming off the likes of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,we know going back to the traditional take doesn’t have to get stale. I’m convinced Miles Morales and the other non-Parker Spider-Heroes were also better representations than the standalone MCU one. There lay the true themes of our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and I was wondering if we’d see them surface here.

The following review will be spoiler free, but it will contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

Synopsis

Directed By: Jon Watts

Written By: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Peter Parker (Holland) goes on a trip across Europe! It’s finally the time to hang out with friends and confess his feelings to a girl (Zendaya). Things can never be that simple, though. The world is in danger of the creatures called the Elementals, monsters from a parallel universe to ours. Along comes the mystically enhanced Quentin Beck (Gyllenhal) who teams up with Nick Fury (Jackson) and our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man to defeat the threat from consuming the world.

Background

Captain America: Civil War was like a dream come true for all Spidey fans. Peter Parker was funny, quippy, nerdy, child-like, sincere and finally a part of the MCU. Watching the scene in Queens where he meets Tony Stark for the first time was a great introduction for the character. The question, “What gets you out of that twin bed in the morning?” led to a promising response that managed to generate excitement for the future of the hero.

Naturally, many fans thought this was only a sneak peek, a preview so to speak, as to what we could expect down the line. Well, Spider-Man: Homecoming came and went without any of that. Instead, it was a major disservice to the Web-Slinger. It didn’t follow up on all the promising themes from Civil War that were so integral to the character. Instead, there were plenty of jokes, giggles, and Avengers references — which aren’t bad if you like those.

Marvel Studios forgot about priorities as simple as spider-sense and instead threw in an A.I. called Karen. It rejected Uncle Ben for Tony Stark. The supporting characters were inconsequential to the story with the exception of Ned and the Vulture. Overall, the film was somewhat enjoyable, but it wasn’t Spider-Man.

Then came the marketing of Spider-Man: Far From Home which threw me into complete disarray. It seemed like the film doubled down on everything from Homecoming that deviated from traditional Spidey roots. The overuse of gadgets, variant suits and the number of the supporting characters is why I would go on to dub this film SpyDer-Kids or Far From Spidey, More Like Spy Kids.

Telling

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via CBR

Spider-Man: Far From Home finds a way to have it both ways when guiding us through the plot. There’s a popular phrase in film criticism, “Show, don’t tell,” that this movie often breaks. The thing is sometimes it actually works and other times, it’s unacceptable and laughable.

Some of it might be due to the need to also explain what happened after Avengers: Endgame before getting to the main story. The scene explaining the major 5-year gap and its effects on the world such as the educational systems is rather quick yet fitting and humorous to the situation.

Apply this same tactic to the main plot and things take a nosedive. Often the background of characters such as Mysterio gets no attention. At first, it boils down to a few throwaway lines and not much else, making some revelations play out blandly. This leaves no room for any dramatic scenes that tie directly with the characters’ identities.

Quentin Beck didn’t serve much of a function for a good chunk of the film. He was so disposable; switching him with almost any of the Spider-Man villains wouldn’t have changed anything. Thankfully, the second act unleashes Mysterio’s might. Watching his best scenes was everything I ever wanted to see from the comics.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via slashfilm.com

Beck’s powers and abilities bring forward some of the most visually interesting and mind-twisting scenes in the MCU. I would instantly find myself in suspense and glued to the screen. It’s as if the movie’s tension and stakes would finally coincide thanks to those moments. Although I do find myself finding holes that tie directly with the powers, I’m willing to overlook them. Sony and Disney really did justice to the character in this regard. His character brought life and some edge missing from before.

Still, with a stronger build-up, I believe he could’ve been more. By valuing the things setup from the start more, Quentin Beck might’ve lent himself as an emotional force as well. I find it funny when movies as long as this one struggle to give proper screen time to their most important assets. Usually, that boils down to one thing.

Too Many Ingredients in the Pot

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via Polygon

Spider-Man: Far From Home takes on too much. First, they have to explain how the world operates after the events of Endgame. Second, they have to focus on Peter’s normal life, how it’ll later intertwine with his superhero one. Third, the absence of Iron Man leaves a big void in the lives of many, especially for Pete who feels some obligation to pick up the mantle. Fourth, introduce a new villain, the main antagonist, the main conflict that’s ideally supposed to bring these parts into question. Fifth, the occasional side gags, jokes and supporting characters that play into setting the tone.

This is why Mysterio is so uninteresting as a character when we first see him. He’s so disposable; there’s nothing to his role in the first half of the film. This collision of interests also hurts the plot when Peter later makes a decision that’s foolish and emotional. I was more frustrated with Spider-Man more so than worried about him. It’s important to flesh out all of the components in reference before they culminate into a pivotal moment. Otherwise, it’s not helping to earn the scene.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via Polygon

Weirdly enough, Spider-Man: Far From Home turned me around on the things I despised in Homecoming. Suddenly MJ has more personality, her relationship with Peter takes on meaning, and for the most part, I find myself enjoying it. Peter trying to cope with the death of Tony Stark works nicely too. Spider-Man finally feels a little more like his own hero. This time around, Marvel is transitioning into the new take instead of jumping into it…that is until the ending throws the only special part remaining about Spider-Man out the window. Not only was such a crucial moment in Spidey’s life oddly placed in the movie, but it’s also another attempt to do something shocking for the sake of being different. On paper, Marvel wants to take Spider-Man into territory that we’ve never seen before. In practice, it loses focus of what makes the character so unique and leaves him with the same qualities as any other MCU hero.

On top of that, most of the supporting characters in these Spider-Man movies are still inconsequential, often relegated to throwing around jokes. They’ve crammed them into the main plot this time without a purpose. Some of them are in certain scenes just…because.

The Leakage

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via The Verge

Often times movies end up with a lot of creative decisions that are a result of outside forces. It’s when our real-world leaks into the fictional one. The most recent and popular examples are Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique or Harrison Ford as Han Solo. The actors show strong disapproval to their characters and as a result, it is their character that ends up biting the bullet or getting a makeover. And although no actor wants to distance themselves from this franchise, I can sense something similar.

I always had a problem with Spider-Man’s odd status of handling this much new technology and suits. Ironically, to bring the Web-Slinger into the MCU, the deal would settle so that Sony would gain the box-office profits while Disney earns a merchandising boost. Suddenly the push to include multiple gadgets and superhero suits made sense, only not in the context of the story.

Kevin Feige is a producer who can easily tip the scale his way. And if Disney is only making money from the toy division, they’re going to try to squeeze as much as they can even if it means for the slight detriment of the movie. I understand it’s no discovery that Disney wants to make money — the live-action remakes are a testament to that. Nonetheless, I always thought corporate greed is acceptable as long as it’s not directly shifting creative decisions and going against the fundamentals of these characters.

Something like this is acceptable for the likes of a Tony Stark where every movie naturally grants a slew of different suits. Spider-Man is not Iron Man! And it shows when Peter puts on a different costume with little to no new functions. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel matched the two heroes together for that sole reason.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via planetbroadcasting.com

There are other moments that feel like they didn’t add up for some random reason. For example, Peter shouldn’t be carelessly meandering around without the mask on while in costume. Around every corner, he wouldn’t care about the possibility of anyone walking in and discovering his big secret. In this movie, so many people are in the know of his identity, yet never is it a cause of concern.

This hearkens back to Homecoming as well. These new Spider-Man movies just don’t care about addressing the things that could create long-lasting ripple effects. Peter may make mistakes, but none of them continue to haunt him. When people like me want these new Spider-Man movies to be like the originals, we don’t mean beat-for-beat remakes. All we ask for is for consequences to bare a dramatic effect — and develop throughout the story, not appear at the end.

On the Bright Side…

The thing I adore about Far From Home is how it feels like a comic in a certain way. In comic books, there are stories that often focus on a hero’s slice of life. Some days they can mind their own business until the trouble finds them and, out of responsibility, they answer the call. This sort of design accompanies the entirety of the film, and it’s a lot of fun. It makes it so I feel like I’m tagging along with Peter on the trip.

Then there’s the feeling of every location adding an aesthetic and a visual awe to it all. Seeing Peter swinging somewhere that’s not New York is a nice change of pace that’s also justified in the plot. It’s changes like these that I applaud because they don’t alter the core of these characters in order to give a fresh take.

The comedy of the movie usually checks all the boxes. When it comes to the funniest characters I’d give it to the teachers (J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr). A lot of it works thanks to the excellent cast who constantly feeds off of each other and bring out a ton of memorable moments. Even if some of it is cliché they still spin the tropes in ways I can still laugh and enjoy myself. This is the sort of stuff Jon Watts flourishes and finds the most success in. It doesn’t always serve the plot, but it certainly captures my mind.

Final Thoughts

Spider-Man: Far From Home

image via CinemaBlend

Spider-Man: Far From Home provides for wonderful action sequences, breathtaking special effects, and plenty of comedy to guide us through the trip across beautiful Europe. It’s a fine movie that makes you appreciate so much of the things it’s reaching for. The only problem is that it’s reaching for too many things, struggling to give each its proper screen time.

The writing juggles too many items and cares more to avoid the chance of coming off as predictable rather than to tell an effective story. On top of that, we have creative choices that, in general, don’t fit or hold meaning to the character of Spider-Man. What should be a great Spidey movie instead feels more like recruitment for the next Iron Man. And with that, I struggle to care.

Grade: C


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2 Responses

  1. Jeff Tucker says:

    Great review! Thanks for checking out my Youtube video!

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