Published on July 7th, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant0
Spider-man: Far From Home
Spider-man and the gang are back in Spider-man: Far From Home, a really fun movie and a great palate cleanser after the epic Avengers movies.
I saw a number of reviewers saying that Spider-man: Far From Home was a great high school movie and a mediocre superhero movie. I couldn’t disagree more. It all worked in tandem. It was surprising even when you knew what beats would be coming sooner or later. It wasn’t the best Spider-man movie; heck, it wasn’t even the third best Spider-man movie. But it was fun, it had depth, great stories and characters, and a lot of zip. Did I say zip? I meant, ‘thwip.’
As a huge childhood fan of Spider-man comics, I’m so glad Sony and Amy Pascal and Marvel/Disney could make this all happen. As we catch up with Peter and his school chums, it is the aftermath of the events of Avengers: Endgame (mild Endgame spoilers to follow). The world mourns the loss of Tony Stark and the other Avengers who lost their lives. Peter is under pressure to be more than just the friendly neighbourhood webslinger. When he has the chance to go on a school trip to Europe, he wants the opportunity to rest and relax — and to woo his classmate MJ (Zendaya, in a much different turn than her character on HBO’s Euphoria, where she is also excellent). Once the trip is underway, an Avengers level event interrupts the fun and Peter finds a new mentor in the form of a man from another dimension, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal, who comes full circle, having once been a frontrunner for the Spidey role years ago).
Before we jump in, let’s talk about Tom Holland for a second. It’s always fun to compare the actors that have played Spider-man. You can often tell how old someone is by who their favourite Spidey is. While I like Andrew Garfield as an actor, I could never take his cool, snarky millennial take on the character (and it doesn’t help that the movies are unsalvageable, especially Amazing Spider-man 2). I was always a Tobey Maguire man, which I know can be controversial in itself. But he was closest to the lonely nerd Peter Parker that I grew up reading. I have to say that Holland is winning me over in a big way. He’s also able to channel humour and vulnerability in ways that work well for a modern take on Parker without jettisoning everything that made him special in the first place.
In terms of the story, I’m not usually a fan of taking the characters on the road. These movies only come along every few years, so doing ‘the gang goes to Europe’ can feel like a gimmick. However, I’m happy to say that my trepidation was unfounded; the trip made a lot of sense in the scope of the story. And I even liked that they didn’t ignore the danger of everyone discovering Peter’s secret identity. I did miss the skyscrapers of Manhattan, but we also needed to see Peter further out of his element to alienate and challenge him further.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that anyone with even a casual knowledge of Spider-man could see the twist coming from a mile away (but hey, at least they didn’t give it away in the trailer, right?). But I still enjoyed how it played out. I’d also note that this film proves that you don’t need universe destroying stakes to enrapture an audience. Once all the veils are lifted and the audience knows what’s happening, the stakes are still quite powerful.
There were a couple of pieces that didn’t work well, but they were minor. One is the thread about Peter’s Spider-sense (or, Peter Tingle, as May hilariously calls it, much to Peter’s consternation). It is introduced near the beginning, with a hint that it may not be working properly. We hear nothing about it throughout the rest of the movie. Then it comes back at the end in an important moment, and lo and behold, it works. We never know what was wrong with it. We never know how he fixed it. He doesn’t have to clear his head or make peace with the loss of Tony or figure out how to tune into it or whatever. I have to believe that some material ended up on the cutting room floor here, because this sloppiness sets off my Movie Geek Tingle. It would have been smarter to just introduce it at the start so the audience gets what it is, then he can use it at the end in that crucial moment. Establishing that there’s a problem with it and then not dealing having Peter solve that problem is weak writing.
While I’m complaining, I also don’t understand how the character of Brad works. In the blip, Peter, Ned, MJ, Flash, and everyone who disappeared because of Thanos are missing for five years. It is explained in the film that when they come back after the events of Endgame, they are forced to assume their schooling where they left off (in fact, they have to start the year over again). It’s also explained that some of their classmates grew up by five years, which is what happened to Brad. If Brad never disappeared, he would have finished high school and he’d be about 20 now. So why is he still in high school? Why is he trying to wheel a 15-year old? I have to believe that this is so glaring that I must have missed something. Am I totally wrong about Brad in the first place? I’m sure readers or a rewatch will fill me in. (If someone answers this to my satisfaction, I’ll delete this paragraph, the review equivalent of “felt cute, might delete later”).
Speaking of the blip, it also would have been interesting to see a scene of our characters coming back, especially Peter reuniting with May, who must have been heartbroken. However, I understand why they didn’t add another thread and I applaud them for this bit of story editing. I’m always preaching that you should just tell the story you’re telling well, so I have to give kudos here.
Anyway, to be clear, I really loved this movie and I already can’t wait to see it again. The antics of the high school kids were fun to watch and the Spider-man scenes were terrific. I loved that they included Happy and Nick Fury. The action was dizzying and heroic. And the final act was emotional and exciting. Spider-man: Far From Home might take the characters out of their comfort zones, but that just made it clear that the series is settling into its own place, its own home.
For the record, my Spider-man film ranking is as follows:
- Spider-man 2 (2004 – Sam Raimi)
- Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)
- Spider-man (2002 – Sam Raimi)
- Spider-man: Far From Home (2019)
- Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
Raimi’s Spider-man 3 and the dreadful Andrew Garfield films don’t make the list. Spider-man 3 has a couple of redeeming qualities, but not enough to ignore how terrible it is. I blame the studio, not Raimi. I do like Homecoming a lot, but it meanders a bit and I really can’t suspend my disbelief that the Vulture is Liz’s father. I can believe a kid can be bitten by a radioactive spider and gain the proportionate strength and abilities of an arachnid, but I refuse to believe that bit of lazy scriptcheating. It pulls me out of the movie every time I watch it (even though I love Keaton in the part).