Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home ★★★

2-Minute Review:
On rewatch, I can say that everything I wrote in my initial review for this still feels true (boxd.it/Ss46z) although I found the humor less grating. There's still too many bits in that should have been cut, whereas some great deleted scenes were left out of the film, especially early on. This film feels about 20 minutes too long for the kind of breezy summer film it sets itself up as, though you can almost forgive that because of the two exciting post-credit sequences. Now, everyone is super excited for the return of old favorite Spider-actors and the merging of properties, but what actually works better I think is the reveal that Fury is offworld. The MCU films unfolding without his oversight now, and how easy he was to fool in this, make a lot more sense that way. This is still a much dumber film than the previous Spider-Man movie, with a villain's plan that is incredibly convoluted and makes very little sense when you rewatch (more on that below). There are lots of big dumb Hollywood blockbuster logic features, such as waltzing right into the vault with the Queen's jewels. But mostly I'm just sad this never embraced the horny teen Eurotrip premise it set up. The film tries to fit in too much and ends up as a very middle-of-the-road Marvel movie that succeeds because of its casting more than anything else.


For the Real Cinephiles:

After the broad success of the first joint Marvel/Sony film incorporating Spider-Man into the MCU, it at first looked like it might be the last, with the character ending up getting The Hulk treatment: a perpetual guest star in films focused on other characters. Much of the drama of Peter Parker trying to earn a place at the big boy table with Iron Man and the other Avengers takes place in Infinity War and Endgame. So when a drunken phone call from Tom Holland led to Sony execs relenting and reopening negotiations with Marvel, the next Spider-Man film catches up with everyone after a lot has passed.

It's very difficult to say this works as a straight sequel to the previous Spider-Man film, as the kid actors are all quite noticeably older despite supposedly only one year having passed for them in the film. Peter and ALL his main friends miraculously all "blipped" out for 5 years after Thanos' snap in Infinity War, and are all now back and on a summer vacation field trip to Europe. As much as the previous Spider-Man film was a throwback to the '80s high school Brat Pack films, this movie attempts to channel movies like European Vacation, Eurotrip, Road Trip, Harold & Kumar, and The Sure Thing. The setup is for it to be a bit of a hormonal comic misadventure on the road, but it never really embraces that like the previous film embraced its John Hughes vibes. The key is that Hughes actually never directed one of those movies, and the influences just aren't as iconic as his Brat Pack films. Simply put: they aren't as good.

What ends up being a far bigger influence on this movie is the greater MCU. If anyone was unhappy that Spider-Man was so influenced by larger MCU events in the previous film, they're going to have a really hard time with this one. Far From Home suffers from classic sequelitis: it tries to stuff in more comedy, more action, and more bits for all the supporting characters, assuming if we liked them before then we'll want even more now. All this instead of focusing on coming up with a STORY as good as the first film. And so, what we get here is a pretty typical case of diminishing returns in a franchise.

Yes, Holland is great again, and there are a lot of fun moments in the film. It's far more of a big action movie than the previous one, with huge set-pieces like in an Avengers movie. Sadly, one of the best bits of Spider-Man just fighting like Spider-Man was left on the cutting room floor: a scene of him early on in his "Iron Spider" costume taking on local gangsters. Perhaps in response to some fans who disliked all the high tech upgrades for Spider-Man in the previous film, this movie finds him spending most of his time with no suit or another low-key, low-tech one. But that's not to say the focus is on him being a traditional Spider-Man, as the overall narrative is certainly not intended for anyone familiar with the comics.

For anyone who's ever read a Spider-Man comic (or even seen many of the trailers for this), the central reveal about the villain of the film will be pretty transparent. You can't help but feel that the writers were going for something like with The Vulture in the previous film, but they took a big swing and a miss. In fact, the writing in general here is what holds the film back. The first movie managed to capture the angst and the intensity of high school conflicts without ever looking down on them or assuming the teens were stupid or less-than. THIS film loses that. It does the typical Hollywood thing of excusing stupid and selfish character decisions as 'well, they're immature teenagers' when it's blatant that the narrative choices are made because the script NEEDS that to happen, not because the characters would do that. It often talks down to the characters, treating them as awkward, immature, flighty teen tropes.

The script falls down in many other ways, too, from virtually every aspect of the villain to many of the ham-fisted efforts at comedy. Whereas the first film's hit-to-miss joke ratio was very high, this one is much more mixed. But the real issue is with constantly dumbed-down plot points. What is Mysterio's plan again? To become "the world's greatest hero?" Firstly, exactly HOW is that supposed to make him and his team rich? The Avengers are funded by Tony Stark's other work, it's not like they make money from being heroes. Secondly, HOW does he think he can keep manufacturing illusions and keep avoiding any other heroes getting involved? It's seriously just a matter of time. Third, what does he even need EDITH for?! He's already executing his plan without Stark's satellite drones, so why are they an essential to get? Isn't it a bigger risk to get Spider-Man involved? Shouldn't he just keep using the drones he has and become a hero that way?

And it continues! I *love* how their entire explanation of how Mysterio knows Peter is Spider-Man is just a toast to this one woman in the bar and a throwaway line that "you're the one who found out Tony Stark was giving the glasses to a kid". Tony has failsafes on failsafes, particularly in the wake of his guilt about his weapons being misused...but here some random science lady can get one of the biggest secrets Tony knows, and also EDITH has no failsafe check before launching a missile strike, and also Tony didn't program EDITH to oh, I don't know, be an AI that would actually recognize a Stark employee that was fired for being dangerous and then warn Peter or refuse transfer permission?! And THEN, we're meant to believe that with Mysterio knowing Peter's real identity, the BEST plan for him is to make an elaborate scheme with huge public illusions, rather than just go to his home or school and hold his loved ones at gunpoint until Peter turns over the glasses?! It's literally the fundamental vulnerability of a superhero, and the whole reason they wear masks.

That other aspect gets completely ridiculous here, and is the major failing of Jon Watts, the director. We had established from the start that Tony figures out who Spider-Man is...fine, he's a genius. Then in the previous film, Peter's friend Ned quickly finds out his identity. Okay, it's a nice change for Spider-Man to have a confidant. Then The Vulture finds out...okay, this is getting to be a lot of people, but it was done so well that I forgive it. Then in the final moments of the film, Aunt May finds out! Argh, this is getting ridiculous...what is even the point of a secret identity? Alright fine, new film. So here, they skip right over that Tony apparently told Nick Fury who Peter is, who apparently told Talos, we find out. Mysterio randomly finds out, along with his whole crew of 50 people. So at this point, it's just a question of who's going to sell the identity first. Michelle (I refuse to call her MJ) finds out, at which point do we even care any more? And then finally Peter's identity is exposed to the world post-credits. I mean, this thing was kept a secret about as well as Tom Holland did with Infinity War spoilers.

The whole sub-plot with "MJ" or Michelle, is a sore point, too. There was literally not an ounce of romantic interest on Peter's part in the last film, but suddenly after the blip he's infatuated with her? This is another example of the writers writing down to teens, as if their love interests come from nowhere. In fact, it's blatantly just because she's supposed to be a nod to the comics character (which, I reiterate, she has NOTHING in common with) and a romance is expected. And whatever romance Holland and Zendaya had while filming this, ironically none of that chemistry translates on screen. Sorry, but they seem incredibly platonic here. All the romance in this film falls very flat for me and just seems like very hammy, obvious writing by comedians who don't know how to actually write a relationship.

The one aspect of this film that works quite well is the theme they're extending throughout this trilogy: mentorship. Peter Parker is a kid who grew up without a dad, and when we saw him last film, he's clearly hungry for a role model, for someone to impress and live up to. Tony Stark is a natural fit for that, and the chemistry between Holland and RDJ made that relationship work very well. With Iron Man now having departed the MCU (as well as Cap, Vision, and Widow), who's the elder statesman that a young superhero can look up to? Nick Fury would seem to be the guy in charge, so he takes on the primary guest star role here that Iron Man had last film. But if you thought Tony was unprepared to be a mentor to a kid, Nick is far worse. He treats Peter like a child soldier, making the argument that his participation in the Infinity War brings him up to par with the other Avengers now. But Peter doesn't feel at all ready for that.

As egregious as it is to not mention Uncle Ben in this film (which Peter obviously would have been thinking about when dealing with the loss of yet another father figure), it's natural for Peter to turn to someone other than Nick to look up to. Gyllenhaal plays Quentin Beck/Mysterio as the kind of young, cool uncle that a lot of kids would like to have. He says all the right things with just the right amount of sympathy and tough love. If his whole plan weren't so stupid, Gyllenhaal's performance would make Mysterio a great villain. Ultimately of course, Peter falling for this is dependent on the writers just having him make blatantly stupid decisions and also deciding that like, for NO reason, his Spider-Sense has stopped warning him of danger and ill intent. Except at the end of the film, when they decide he can make it work again.

In the previous film, Peter was running away from his personal responsibilities while trying to prove he could do something great as Spider-Man. This time, he is wise enough to be careful about taking more responsibility than he can handle, instead trying to focus on being a good friend, student, and neighbor. But throughout, he's looking for an adult role model to help guide him to becoming the super-hero and leader that we as an audience know he can be. It just makes sense that next film he would turn to Dr. Strange, a man who already has many of the qualities of Tony Stark.

Next film will be Peter's "senior year", both literally and metaphorically, and we can imagine the thrust of the film will complete this arc of him coming into his own. He might finally learn the balance between personal responsibility and a responsibility to others. I do hope that they tone down the reliance on gags and setups for the action and comedy, and instead let it spring naturally from the characters. With all the cameos and ties to other film worlds, it feels like we're going to be further from the '80s throwback of Homecoming than ever before, but since this film failed on that score, maybe that's a good thing.

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