This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jim Caddick’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I had already seen this movie once before on a plane journey, and let’s just say, it was better than I remember. Must have been the jet lag. Anyway, I’m tired and not really thinking straight - so get ready for me to over-analyse a family movie!
Far From Home, to me, as a Spider-Man movie, does nearly everything right. I’m very fond of Homecoming as it is, but there was certainly this feeling of ‘generic’ to it, especially when it comes to Spider-Man as a character - aside from a few unique setpieces with cool Spidey stunts and a few new gadgets, it was very ‘been-there-done-that’. Now, though? You’ve got memorable characters, a clever plot really exploring the issues with Peter Parker being a school student but also an Avenger, brilliant comedy, plenty of beautiful locations, jaw-dropping action, and more importantly to me - a fantastic villain. It’s pretty obvious by now that Mysterio is indeed the bad guy of this film, but I’d be lying if I said I knew he was bad from the beginning. His eventual reveal is smart on multiple levels; and is far beyond him just being greedy, or messing up details in a conversation to give himself away - his reveal, as much as everything else he does, plays into his character. Gyllenhaal makes for a brilliant con artist and trickster, taking full advantage of the naive and well-meaning Holland with the previous events of the previous MCU movies working beautifully in his favour. It feels like he was waiting for a world-wide casualty to happen like in Infinity War, and then got extra lucky with Tony Stark now being dead, leaving his backstory of ‘extradimensional alien crime fighter’ to actually look absolutely believable to everyone, including the audience. He subtly urges Peter to return back to being a normal teenager, making him appear to be caring and considerate while making Nick Fury look unreasonable and manipulative in his own way, which I even stopped and considered for a second - until I remembered that Peter willingly jumped in to help out whenever he could with a The Avengers, so he’s already too far deep into that for Nick not to talk to him a little bit more seriously, and get him to decide what the hell he wants to do. Mysterio made me think Nick Fury was an asshole, that’s a good move for a character like him.
Also, I do know that Mysterio is a villain in every other piece of Spider-Man media, but hey - this is a new cinematic universe and a new take on the characters, so I think it’s fair to expect they may have actually turned Quentin Beck into a hero.
The villain’s manipulative behaviour and dominating scenery-chewing presence isn’t all that I love though; how he commits his crimes and bends reality to his will is what really makes him, and this movie, stand out. The idea of everything you see from Mysterio being fake projections, yet the underlying truth being more horrifying, is extremely well-done. Sure, giant elemental monsters destroying Venice is creepy, but at least you could stop that eventually and have it never come back - but what about a bitter and unstable genius having access to a multi-billion global defence system with an army of attack drones bending to his will, while nobody realises that’s the case, and thinking the same person is actually the hero that is saving the world from the problems he himself is creating? This is essentially what Syndrome does in The Incredibles, but making way more sense and not being as bitchy and pathetic. Let’s be real, we’ve all figured out by this point how questionable of a person Tony Stark really was, and his ego and ridiculous ideas not only screwed people over while he was alive, but now beyond the grave, too. As smart as Peter Parker is, at first I couldn’t fathom why Stark would leave control of his defence systems to him, or why Stark would screw over everyone in his company that had genuinely good ideas that he himself implemented into his company. However, considering he named his AI glasses that controls everything ‘EDITH’ (Even Dead, I’m The Hero), that goes to show how he viewed himself and other people in The Avengers team. He sees himself as some sort of God before he died (remember the ‘I privatised world peace’ line?), views his peers in a similar ‘gifted’ way, and the fact nobody had equal power to stop them other than other random supervillains says a lot about why Stark picked Peter to run the systems in the first place, over someone like Beck. Peter is the smartest and most morally sound, but only out of the Avengers. Bruce Banner was probably the obvious choice, but Hulk wouldn’t have been a good idea to run things, let’s put it that way. Stark’s trust in everyday people was so low, that he only felt comfortable with his Avengers, even if they were school students. It makes sense, but yeah, makes you think about the motivations of everyone involved and if Stark had the right idea, or was just insane. I mean, Mysterio worked for Stark, he was a ‘normal’ person, and then ended up screwing everything over and blowing up Europe after his feelings were hurt - so maybe Stark was right to trust a kid over him. I don’t know, but it’s a discussion I didn’t think I’d have over a Spider-Man movie, and that needs to account for something, since it’s not only clever, but also is the entire basis on how the story kicks off. I love it when villains are ultimately wrong and need to be stopped, but also have a totally understandable reason as to why they’re pushed over the edge. Think about this, as well - Beck and his team were so unknown to anybody despite their work, that whenever the public see the face of Mysterio behind the fishbowl mask, they don’t even recognise him. That shit must cut deep.
And come on, this film is worth a viewing based entirely on that initial drug-trip rollercoaster of Mysterio using his first set of hallucinations and projections to nearly get Spider-Man killed. The trippy and creative nonsense that happens in this film elevates it beyond generic into something memorable - while still maintaining the action and effects that the MCU is best know for. Combine that with all the different countries and environments Peter’s school travel to, and you get one of the most visually varied and unpredictable Marvel movies out there. We get a bit more time to develop and have laughs with all the side characters, there’s some decent slapstick on occasion, and the pace never seems to lag behind whatever happens, even during longer dialogue scenes. Much like how Stark is a puppet master even beyond the grave, I also loved how the very ending showed Mysterio doing exactly the same thing as he sends off manipulated video footage of Spider-Man calling in a drone attack. Not only a great cliff-hanger, but a nice parallel.
Sure, the film as a whole still has that tinge of things we’ve already seen before, the score is nothing special, and I think the worst bit was how long that reveal of Mysterio really was with his ridiculous speech explaining every tiny thing for minutes on end to his own team, VERY LOUDLY, WHILE SPIDER-MAN HAD JUST LEFT THE ROOM - but as far as superhero movies go, this one I fucking loved, and I was able to ignore the flaws to stay entertained from start to end. Also, J. Jonah. Jameson. I don’t need to say anything else.