This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
nyrobsivad99’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
“People need to believe. And nowadays, they'll believe anything.”
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a really fun film. I think, at the end of the day, that is its core ambition. Following on from the epic heights of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, it seems like Far From Home exists largely as a palate cleanser and epilogue to the MCU’s Infinity Saga. That being said, none of this gets in the way of the picture being a solid Spider-Man tale.
There is a lot that I like about Far From Home, particularly in terms of Peter’s character. I mentioned in my Spider-Man 2 review that that particular take on the character effectively depicted the chaotic struggle Peter has to balance every aspect of his life. I definitely think that is true but let the record show that I think this is the film that probably handles it the best of them all. The balance between Peter’s feelings of obligation to be Spider-Man and his personal life is handled really well here. Maybe I am just a sadist but I love seeing Peter’s aspirations be crushed by his duties as Spider-Man. The opera scene is a classic example of the standard conflict between Peter’s social and moral obligations. In fact, it is probably the single best example of how paining Peter’s responsibilities are for him in any of film adaptation to date.
The relationship between Peter and MJ in Far From Home is really compelling. Tom Holland and Zendaya have great chemistry and this script treats them extremely well. I cannot imagine anybody watching this film not being completely enamoured by either or both of them and I find myself elated every time I see them sharing the screen. They are just so cute and likeable together. While this character is not really Mary Jane Watson in most ways, I love how the film portrays MJ’s awkwardness and insecurity. It remains very true to who the comic character really is but is still a very unique character in her own right.
The way Peter is treated in this film is ultimately something I have mixed feelings about. Firstly, I am really not keen at all on Peter being so awkward and lacking in confidence when he is in the suit. Forgetting what I know about the source material, the Peter Parker in the previous film was much more quippy and self-assured, a guy lacking in inhibitions when he was behind the mask. To see him be so stifled in public situations as he is here* is strange. However, putting that aside, I do genuinely like how Peter more or less has a panic attack at the possibility of having to fill Iron Man’s shoes. This iteration never loses sight of the fact that Peter is still a teenager and the same character who rejected the offer to be an Avenger would absolutely be petrified at the prospect of being the next Stark and that progression plays out really well as the film goes on. But Peter’s writing continues to be inconsistent. For example, I feel like his being irresponsible with the Edith glasses on the bus is somewhat of a large regression after he suffered the consequences he did for hacking into his suit before he was ready in Homecoming.
This is not necessarily a critique but it is weird how Peter‘s spider sense is so inconsistent throughout this whole series. Civil War seems to suggest he has it in the form a sensory overload, hence the need for goggles, and then it is ignored entirely in Homecoming only to make a grand “debut” in Infinity War when Thanos’ gang shows up. None of that matters though because it seems to be dysfunctional again come this film in an oddly Spider-Man 2 sort of way. Since we’re on it, another superficial criticism is that I feel like Peter is barely in his Spider suit in this whole film. He has barely five minutes in the Iron Spider, has ten classic red and blue only when he meets Quentin (which is roughly twenty minutes after that) and then hangs out in the noir-ish Night Monkey suit until the third act when he finally gets some action in a conventional Spider suit
The superhero antics in Far From Home, especially Peter’s use of web-slinging, is vastly superior to the previous instalment, particularly in the Venice sequence. I am so thankful for the swinging sequence at the very end of the film too. I love everything about it, especially the romantic swing in contrast to the one in Webb’s first film. Lame visual flare was one of my big negatives about the first film so to see them step it up this time around is a great sign. It still never hits the heights of the action under Raimi and even Webb but it is a lot better. Aside from the romance angle, the villain plot is easily the best part of this whole film. I love Mysterio so much. Visually, this guy is straight off the page and Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely lives it’s up in the role. The character is just so much freaking fun. With a villain like Mysterio, it makes a lot of sense that this is visually superior to its preceding feature. The nightmare sequence at the end of the second act is one of the most creative things I have seen in a Marvel film full stop, let alone Spider-Man (although it is odd to see Peter haunted with guilt by a looming tombstone that is NOT Uncle Ben. Really strange).
Another observation I made on this viewing us that Beck’s whole deal is actually pretty meta which is always something I love to see. His speeches about how people these days will only listen to you if you have a cape and about how gullible crowds can be is really fun to see in a blockbuster like this. Does his plan completely hold up practically? I have a feeling it does not. For one, I am not sure how Beck was actually causing any damage in his illusions before he has access to the Stark drones. How much of what he does is actually real? This an especially pressing question in regards to the Hydro-Man attack in Venice. How does he drown people with just holograms?
Far From Home leans a little further into the comedy than its predecessor and it is not for the better. Homecoming is definitely a more light-hearted and comedic superhero romp but it’s sequel aims to be a straight up comedy. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 somewhat falls into the same trap and I am not so much a fan of it. The awkward comedy in this one is especially cringeworthy and I hate that Nick Fury has become a complete joke. I dread every time he turns up onscreen and he in no way resembles the character I grew to love from the phase one and two MCU films. I think the scene that best exemplifies my seething irritation at what Fury has become is when he is constantly interrupted by Peter’s teachers and classmates. The sequence is barely funny and completely obnoxious. Yes, I understand that there’s an in-universe reason why he is somewhat inept but it is difficult for me to buy into it since he behaves essentially the same in Captain Marvel anyway**.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is about as much a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming as it is a more or less complete remake. The broad strokes of the plot are largely identical; Peter grappling with the responsibility of being an Avenger while he tries to win over the affection of a girl he likes at school and a villain, who was spurned by Tony Stark, is on the loose. With its predecessor undeniably nailing the flavour and tone that Spider-Man should be and delivering both a strong characterisation and compelling narrative, the suits at SONY and Marvel clearly realised that they were onto a good thing but played it maybe a bit too safe this time around. While the character work is as good and the spectacle actually better, the overpowering feeling of rehash is pretty hard for one to ignore.
*The Iron Spider suit still sucks
**Redesigning Samuel L. Jackson’s scar makeup to resemble cat scratches pisses me off