Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
If you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of MCU’s Spider-Man series. For starters, the character’s backstory has been completely re-written, mainly to differentiate itself from Sam Raimi’s far superior trilogy and Marc Webb’s decent but critically mauled duology; this new series basically accredits Peter Parker’s entire origin/ transformation to Tony Stark — heck, his name might as well be changed to the Iron-Spider! Secondly, the characters, including a beloved favorite of mine Mary Jane Watson, have all been altered; Flash Thompson (played by Tony Revolori) is no longer a star football player that picks on Parker, but a loser-ish buffoon who’s used for comic relief; Zendaya’s MJ is an awkward, snarky classmate called Michelle Jones instead of an unattainable redheaded girl-next-door love interest for Peter; and don’t even get me started on Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May!
So, with all of these carry over issues, I was never going to ‘love’ the sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far From Home, which, ironically, is about as far from home as the character gets when compared to the comics created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Thankfully, though, this sequel is a lot better than its predecessor.
Directed, once again, by Jon Watts, Tom Holland’s second (solo) venture as the web-slinger, and the 23rd film in the MCU (it gets a bit confusing, I know), follows in the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), where the world is trying to cope with the re-appearance of those who vanished in Thanos’ snap (those who disappeared and then rematerialized unchanged in the exact same spot five years later) — which, here, is referred to as ‘the Blip.’ People are also mourning the loss of several superheroes counting Iron Man, with murals and tributes popping up everywhere; the movie opens with a rather amusing school report presented by Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) and Jason Ionello (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), explaining how Midtown School of Science and Technology is trying to deal with this bizarre situation. In order to get back into the swing of reality, Peter and his best bud Ned (Jacob Batalon) prepare to go on a chaperoned science class trip across Europe’s most iconic cities, where Parker can get away from Queens along with the daunting thought of having to fill the shoes that his late mentor left behind.
Luckily, Aunt May — who’s still just an object for father figures in Peter’s life to swoon over (this time it’s Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan) — packs his Spider-Man suit, you know, just in case Peter gets that Spidey sense or ‘Peter tingle,’ as she likes to call it. And thank heavens for that because the kids’ European odyssey is disrupted in Venice when a giant water monster aka Hydro-Man splashes into the piazza to wreak havoc. Realizing that his costume is still in his room, Parker does the best he can without exposing his identity until another ‘hero’ shows up to save the day (and maybe fill the void left behind by Iron Man) — this time it’s a guy with a fishbowl on his head who flies around on green smoke, and goes by the name of Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
That very night, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up in Pete’s Italian hotel room, demanding that the high schooler give up ‘normality’ to help defend the Earth yet again, asked to partner up with the super-powered Quentin, a man from an alternate Earth who’s here to stop a bunch of elemental creatures brought about by cracks in multiverse. If you’ve ever picked up a Spidey comic book, though, you’ll know exactly where this one’s headed, and that things are not quite as they seem.
Written by returning scribes Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, Spider-Man: Far from Home is a little too chaotic and busy, the story featuring way too many subplots, the main involving Parker trying to figure out what a larger-than-life billionaire saw in a kid from Queens, and whether he’d ever be able to live up to the potential that Stark once saw in him. Peter is also using the getaway as a means to get closer to MJ, attempting to muster up the courage to tell her how he truly feels about her whilst trying to keep an eye out on his competition, a chiseled kid named Brad Davis (Australia’s Remy Hii) who used to be a junior but survived the Blip and has since aged five years.
Unfortunately, the film struggles when it comes to comedy (there’s too much of it, and a lot of the jokes fall flat) whilst some of the plot revelations are unsurprising, boring (mainly the use of drones) or come off as overly contrived — there’s a bit where Peter jumps out of a moving bus, shoots his web thingy, then re-enters the vehicle through the same opening that he exited from, even though the bus has since moved, but he hasn’t.
Shifting away from the doom and gloom of Endgame, it helps that Spidey adds some new stamps to his filmic passport, with the adventure taking him to a number of picturesque locations such as Italy, Prague (where Peter dons a sleek black suit with flip-up goggles and is nicknamed Night Monkey), Berlin and London (where the finale takes place, and our hero must battle a thundercloud elemental that appears over Tower Bridge); fun fact: this is the first Spider-Man movie that isn’t set in NYC. The flick is also light, breezy and very easy to watch, thanks to some nifty action and special effects, the highlights being an exciting clash with the ginormous Molten Man, and a personal battle for Peter as he fights delusions of the mind — three words, zombie Iron Man!
Performances, for the most part, are pretty strong with Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker, a polite, aw-shucks, relatable teen struggling to balance the trials and tribulations of life with that of being a hero, the best we have seen so far — even if his movies are not. Jake Gyllenhaal — who was originally going to replace Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004) after Maguire got injured during the filming of 2003’s Seabiscuit — is also stellar as the interdimensional soldier Quentin Beck, Gyllenhaal having fun with the part and elevating the material with every line.
Jacob Batalon, Every Day (2018), is good at Peter’s friend Ned, even though the script makes him look like a jerk, with Ned ditching Peter as soon as he hooks up with Angourie Rice’s Betty Brant. With that said, while I liked Martin Starr, Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), and J.B. Smoove, Top Five (2014), as teachers Mr. Harrington and Mr. Dell respectively, their incompetence fells way too far-fetched (a couple this inept would never be allowed to take kids on a field trip, let alone overseas — I work at a school, I would know). Lastly, the film’s first assistant editor Dawn Michelle King does an okay job voicing a set of high tech glasses that Tony leaves behind for his successor called EDITH (which stands for Even Dead, I’m The Hero), and although it’s good to see Cobie Smulders reprise her role of Maria Hill, she has very little to do here.
Sure, by the time Spider-Man: Far from Home is over Peter’s gone through some physical and emotional journeys as he begins to see what Stark saw in him and reaches a place where he feels that he can live up to that potential. But given that the film’s biggest plot revelations happen in the post-credit scenes, the whole thing comes off as pointless filler, existing just to tie up loose threads from Endgame. I dunno, call me a purist but this MCU iteration of Spider-Man just isn’t as amazing as Raimi’s earlier series. Oh, and what’s the deal with all these new Spider-Man movies ending on an f-bomb?
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Spider-Man: Far from Home is released through Sony Pictures Australia