Spider-Man: Far from Home

Spider-Man: Far from Home ★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'll write a full review when I get over the fucking injustice of this movie making a joke out of Captain America's offscreen death.

Edit: Here's the review.

Not since Clark Griswold has an American had such a series of unfortunate events ruin a European vacation.

With this week’s release of “Far From Home,” Spider-Man returns to the screen in his second stand-alone feature as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While dealing with the emotional aftermath of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” the high school kid underneath the Spider-Man mask (Peter Parker, played brilliantly by Tom Holland), wants a reprieve from superheroism, death, fighting, purple aliens and infinity stones.

He sees a class trip to Europe, where he plans to confess his feelings to classmate MJ (played equally brilliantly by Zendaya), as a way to get that breather and just be a normal kid for a few weeks. Along for the ride are best friend Ned (played by Jacob Batalon), who’s sort of a mix of Cousin Eddie and a damsel in distress and Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, who’s bullying in the first movie has been replaced by a desire to live stream the trip for his “#Flashmob.”

Just the way that the Eric Idle couldn’t escape the Griswolds in “European Vacation,” Peter finds that he cannot escape the great responsibility that comes with his great power.

Super spy /superhero wrangler Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson in his 35th movie of 2019), picks Peter up in Italy (read: kidnaps him), brings him to a makeshift S.H.I.E.L.D. base underground and introduces him to a new superhero on the scene – Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio.

Mysterio claims to be from an alternate dimension where his Earth was destroyed by gang of elemental monsters that are now running amok in our world’s Europe and only Spider-Man can help avert the apocalypse in a post-“Endgame” world that is left with no Avengers. Aside from Dr. Strange, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Hulk, Ant-Man or about a dozen other people who weren’t invited to the team-up for unexplained reasons, of course.

From there, things play out like an unfunny episode of “Three’s Company.” Peter makes a date to see an opera with MJ, but has to fake a sickness to go fight a lava monster. He’s even caught by another student with his pants down while changing costumes at one point. There’s also a hilarious (?) scene where Peter accidentally calls in a drone strike on his classmates.

From here things get spoilery, so proceed with caution.

Left overwhelmed, doubting himself and wracked with survivor’s guilt due to the death of his mentor, Tony Stark, Peter seeks guidance from Mysterio. The two talk briefly about what it takes to be a hero and the best ways to confess teen love.

The bond between the two heroes is extremely undeveloped in this movie, though the two actors shine in the small moments they’re allowed to exhibit their humanity rather than their super-powers.

Peter, a teenage kid who lives with his widowed aunt, is always looking for a father figure. It’s baked into his DNA as a character no matter what medium he finds himself in. As such, he’s quick to trust Mysterio to be a better and more effective hero than believes himself to be and – in a twist obvious to anyone who has even glanced at a single issue of the comic – is betrayed.

Mysterio, a.k.a. Quentin Beck, was from our world all along. He’s no hero, he’s just pretending to be.

Why? Well, we’re never really told. He has a grudge against Stark, but his evil plan is never really revealed. He just wants… attention? His villainy may be a criticism of film directors, but it’s never fleshed out into anything beyond a meta joke. Mysterio directs superhero battles from a proverbial backstage, yelling at special effects artist, costume designers and script writers to do his bidding and bring his vision to life with a serious of holograms. (Mysterio in the comics does have a Hollywood background).

When Mysterio’s monsters are revealed to be fake, I’m unsure how we’re supposed to feel. It’s all fake. The CG water monster never seemed real to begin. The reveal would work better with a real-life monster made from practical, tangible effects. Computer-generated monsters always kind of look like holograms.

Beck’s lack of a plan other than to “trick people into thinking I’m a hero” deflates much of the tension. If Spider-Man fails then what’s the consequence? Mysterio gets to meet the Queen of England?
I asked on Twitter if anyone knew what his end goal was and the best answer I got was from my friend, Mike, who said, “He wants to be Tony Stark … but evil.”

Mysterio’s illusions are cool, though. At one point, he makes the implicit explicit by using his film-projecting drones to conjure up a skeleton Iron Man hologram to haunt Peter.

Harkening back to “Iron Man in one of the film’s only truly emotional beats, ”AC/DC’s “Back in Black” plays while Spider-Man faces off with Mysterio in a climactic battle in the streets of London.

Much like the first, the film plays out like a bad high school comedy that just happens to have superheroes in it. This can work. The Captain America films seem like spy movies that just happen to have superheroes. And the first “Ant-Man” is a heist movie that just happens to have superheroes. But the coming-of-age-comedy never mixes well with the “weight of the world” superheroics here the way they did in Sam Raimi’s brilliant original “Spider-Man” trilogy.

The film also breaks its own back finding ways to remove Peter’s friends from danger, only to have to find ways to put them back in it. It gets tedious.

Being the 23rd Marvel Universe film, they can’t all be expecting to be winners, sure, but one hopes Marvel, like Peter, can escape the specter of a world without Tony Stark and find their way again.

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