Movie Mayhem – Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man Far From Home — 2019; Directed by Jon Watts; Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Cobie Smulders and Jake Gyllenhaal

If you didn’t already know from the second trailer, the fallout from the events of Avengers: Endgame plays a large role in Spider-Man: Far From Home. So much, in fact, that it feels as if Robert Downey Jr. is somehow playing puppet master in the background of the entire film. But that isn’t to the detriment of Spider-Man’s newest solo outing; having Iron-Man’s presence be such a large part plays into the larger themes of the film and helps propel both the story within the film as well as the overarching story of the entire MCU forward into new and interesting places.

As in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Iron-Man is a large part of Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) life. The original Avenger recruited him, trained him and put all of his faith in a sixteen-year-old New Yorker who’s thirst for being a part of something bigger nearly got him killed. Now, after returning from what everyone is referring to as “the blip”, Peter is no longer sure he can live up to the name that the world admires. This has led Peter to feel incapable of performing up to the standards he believes everyone expects (and in some way needs) from him. He just wants to have fun, go on vacation, fall in love — you know, be a sixteen-year-old kid.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), though, isn’t having any of that. After Peter ignores Fury’s multiple calls in favor of going on a trip across Europe with his class, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up in Peter’s hotel room in Venice and drags him into the fight against the Elementals — large creatures made out of the base elements. Because of Tony Stark’s affinity for the kid, Fury believes Spider-Man is the only one who can help Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) — a superhero from another Earth (!) — defeat theses destructive monsters.

Peter is full of doubt; of being an Avenger; of professing his feelings for MJ (Zendaya); of competing with another classmate (Remy Hii) for MJs affection; and of living up to Tony’s standards. It’s a complete reversal of who Peter was in the first film — the overconfident kid who thought he knew everything. But after what happened in the last Avengers double-feature, it makes sense he would see the world a little different; that he would feel out of his element; that his idea of being a superhero is nothing but a kid’s fantasy — an illusion of his youth.

And that’s really what plays into the heart of Spider-Man: Far From Home. You can’t believe anything or anyone in this movie. Almost everything is some sort of illusion, lie or played as subterfuge for something larger. It’s a game that helps Peter find his true path as both a person and as a superhero. Even Peter’s new suit — a sleek, all-black getup created by S.H.I.E.L.D. — fits in with this theme, as Peter doesn’t want to wear his Spider-Man suit for fear of his identity being discovered.

Now for a little criticism. Compared to Homecoming, Far From Home feels juvenile and a little meandering. Peter’s emotional journey can sometimes get lost in the need to layer the film in silly characters. The chaperons on the school trip (Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove) feel out of place in the larger picture. And although I like that Ned (Jacob Batalon) has a chance at love, I wasn’t sure sidelining him with a typical, by-the-numbers girlfriend (Angourie Rice) plot that doesn’t really go anywhere did much for his character or the film.

Gyllenhaal is also a mixed bag. I’m not sure the writers knew quite how to make the character work the way they needed. Gyllenhaal does all he can with what he’s given, but the character never finds his footing among what’s happening. And although he does have some beautiful moments (and is integral in telegraphing where the story will go in Spider-Man’s next outing) there’s one scene in particular that is so expositional, it feels as if writer Chris McKenna couldn’t figure out a way to get all of the information out in a more streamlined, natural way, so he just threw all of his original notes into the script and hoped no one noticed.

With that said, Spider-Man: Far From Home rises above all of that criticism with sprinkles of clever, sharp writing, some fine acting from everyone involved — most especially Holland — and a bevy of action sequences (and one mind-altering illusion) that completely make up for whatever flaws may be apparent.

Holland is such a likable actor, you’re drawn into what he’s feeling without having to try, and because of that, you’re open to go with whatever the producers throw at him, including two incredible post-credit scenes that alter the franchise in more ways than one. Like most films in the Marvel cinematic cannon, Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t perfect, but it is yet another welcome addition to the MCU.

My Grade: A

Bonus Review:

I’m not sure what writer/director Ari Aster’s obsession with cult’s are, but whatever it is, I hope Midsommar was a therapeutic release, as the film digs deep into some dark undertones, highlighted by an incredible scene that releases so much pent-up anguish, it’s extremely hard to sit through and tells you everything you need to know about how disturbingly good the film is in exploring several themes dealing with loss and one’s own sense of self. A-


Next week, new movies include Crawl and Stuber. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.

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