Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Spider-Man: Far From Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Jon Watts

Well now that we’re FINALLY done with Thanos (and James Gunn is back on Guardians 3), we can finally get things back on track, right? I mean sure, we needed a nice big climatic sendoff for the big stars that helped bring this franchise to life, but now that the party’s over things have got to keep going without them and the MCU, if they’ve done NOTHING else, have managed to create something that can go on even after closing the book on some of its biggest characters. Still, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room (or perhaps SPIDER-PIG in the room!) called Into the Spider-Verse that came out between the last Tom Holland film and this one which frankly blew Homecoming out of the water. Homecoming is still great, but Into the Spider-Verse? Woo boy is that a hard act to follow! Can this Post Thanos and Post Spider-Verse entry into the MCU cement itself as the first step to the future of this franchise, or have we already seen the best this version of the hero has to offer and will be left wanting for something more? Let’s find out!!

So hey! That whole… dead for five years thing was pretty rough, wasn’t it? Well the world keeps on turning I suppose and that’s definitely true for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as well as the entire cast from the first Spider-Man movie who JUST SO HAPPENED to be blinked out of existence as well which makes sense to me because this is a movie and everyone liked the cast from the first film. This includes Ned (Jacob Batalon), Mary Jane (Zendaya), and even Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori); all of whom as well as a couple of other students from Peter’s school are going on a European field trip. Frankly, Peter could use the time off considering how much he’s had to go through in the past… I guess it’s only been a few months for him, and after… well ENDGAME SPOILERS WILL BE IN THE REST OF THIS REVIEW SO LOOK AWAY NOW, Tony died saving the universe, he’s been having trouble coping with this whole “superhero” thing which has gotten a lot more real than just being a dude doing back flips on roofs and stopping two bit muggers. Of course nothing can be that easy for good ol’ Peter Parker because Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) along with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are trying to pull him into this “save the world” situation where elemental monsters from another dimension are tearing up cities all over the world, and with the Avengers kinda doing their own thing (the ones who aren’t dead at least) all they’ve got to work with is this kid and some dude named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) who claims to have come from the same alternate dimension as the elementals and wants to help us stop them. Oh, and at some point people start calling him “Mysterio” for some reason, but I’m sure that’s fine. This is all WAY more than Peter was ready to handle so soon, but then again if he’s not ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and save the world, was he ever truly worth of being Tony’s protégé and a possible future Avenger? Can the world possibly get along fine with the new guys out there like the square jawed and overly capable Mysterio fellow to let Peter just be a kid for once? Seriously, considering where he ends up in Into the Spider-Verse, he might as well quit now. Yes, EITHER version of Peter in that movie!

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“So what’s it like having already done this already? When you look back on what you’ve accomplished, was it worth the years of sacrifice?” “What? No, that wasn’t… I’M NOT TOBEY MAGUIRE!!”

Okay, I know this might come as a surprise to all of you… but this is a good movie! Yes, the MCU machine has pumped out yet another very good superhero movie to go along with the bajillion other very good movies they’ve made, and like ALL the other very good movies they’ve made this one manages to find something unique and interesting to set it apart from the rest of the catalog while still feeling like a part of the greater universe. It actually has one of the best villains that Marvel has come up with which is quite a boon considering how often those are sore spots in this movie, Tom Holland continues to be very solid in the role and carries a lot of dramatic weight, and while it’s certainly not as good as Spider-verse, it’s yet another great entry for one of the most reliably entertaining big screen superheroes out there. I’m sure we’ll get sick of these at some point, but we might as well keep enjoying them while they’re still this much fun!

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“RUNNING, RUNNING, RUNNING, RUNNING!!”

Let’s go ahead and cover the basics which, admittedly is the part that is starting to feel a bit tired. Now sure, the MCU Spider-Films have a distinct tone from everything else in the MCU (MAYBE Ant-Man is the closest to it), but the MCU essentials are still all there. The world building from the previous films permeates many scenes throughout the movie, especially as this is the one that takes place immediately after Endgame and is dealing with the fallout of that. Murals of Iron Man are seen throughout the many countries that Peter Parker visits, the movie begins with a tribute to the fallen heroes, and they even give us an idea of how the world works after the SNAP which they are now calling the BLIP. All of it by the way is either light hearted or tongue in cheek, so the funeral tone of the Thanos films as well as the horrifying implications of half the population disappearing for five years is mostly absent to get us back on track for what the MCU does best which is FUN. It’s all good stuff, but doesn’t feel particularly original as the MCU aesthetic (at least for the Earth bound movies) hasn’t really progressed since this whole thing began over ten years ago, and while I appreciate the effort to get us acclimated to the new normal now that we’ve reached what is perhaps the peak of the franchise, the formula does definitely feel like… well, a formula.

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“I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers initiative.” “Wow, I’ve never heard that one before.” “Is that REALLY what you want to say to the man with the gun?”

Where it excels however is in the characters, which really bring out this movie’s full potential. Tom Holland’s arc about trying to find his place in a world without Tony (somewhat mirroring Miles’s in Spider-Verse) is well told and Holland proves himself to more than capable of getting those mixed emotions across. It took me a bit to realize it, but this is a very different Spider-Man than any of the ones we’ve seen before, in that he’s got all the resources in the world instead of spending his meager allowance on web shooter fluid and food for Aunt May. Well that’s a bit unfair as it’s heavily implied that prior to winning the Tony Stark jackpot he was the lower class Peter Parker of yore, but it’s interesting that he’s now able to afford things like a luxury school vacation in Europe and basically being handed the keys to the internet as a parting gift from Tony. Heck, he doesn’t even seem to be motivated by the death of Uncle Ben who as far as I can recall wasn’t mentioned once in this film. To a certain extent it leaves Peter feeling a bit like a blank slate, but on the other hand his relationship to Tony fills a lot of that void by making his arc less about choosing between himself and the rest of the world (with great power comes never being happy apparently) and more about whether he even CAN hold the weight of the world and Tony’s legacy on his shoulder’s in the first place. I mean sure, the martyrdom is still there, but its so recontextualized by making the dire consequences be about Peter’s sense of self worth (the world will keep turning if Peter steps aside) that it feels like a whole new conflict entirely. It’s certainly a new take and I think that if we’re doing this character for the third time in two decades (fourth if you count Spider-Verse), then giving him something else to focus on is a decent way of keeping the character from growing stale. Besides, if you’re not gonna top Sam Raimi’s ultra-tragic and bittersweet interpretation of the classic mythos, you might as well not even try. What works even better than Peter and is the best part of this movie hands down, is Mysterio. HOLY CRAP is this guy an amazing villain! The thing is that you know EXACTLY where his story is going because he’s a villain, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays it so well that you can’t help but get swept up in the narrative and secretly hope that things aren’t going where you know they inevitably will. Even when they do end up getting around to the very telegraphed “twist” for his character, it still manages to go in a rather unexpected direction and one that I found really cool to see play out. I honestly don’t know the “source” of Mysterio’s powers, but I’m guessing that it’s the same in the comics as it is here so I can’t speak for whether this particular guy is a good interpretation of that character (he’s got the fishbowl at least), but taking this character as he’s written here and the creative things they do with it, I can’t say I felt like much was missing. He’s so unique as an antagonist and approaches things very differently from everyone else we’ve seen so far that it makes this movie stand out from the pack, and frankly that seems to have been the secret of the MCU all along. For most of the movies, you can point to something that it has which you can’t find in any of the other movies and therefore they all feel like unique pieces to a bigger puzzle rather than a series of copy-pasted sequels. If I’m going to rewatch this movie again, it’ll definitely be for Jake Gyllenhaal’s fascinating portrayal of this character and how different of a threat he is from anyone else that the other heroes of the MCU have had to face, and frankly I liked him WAY more than Thanos. YEAH I SAID IT!!

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Did Thanos have a fish bowl for a head? I DIDN’T THINK SO!!

Now the film isn’t perfect and we do need to talk about its flaws. For all the credit I gave this movie for doing a great job with the MCU formula, the biggest issue I have is one of its most iconic contributions to cinema; namely its post credits stingers. I don’t want to spoil them here, but the two that we have feel a bit forced with the first one feeling a bit TOO much like sequel bait and the second being an overly convoluted continuity gag. Heck, I didn’t even quite get what was going on there, and I’ve SEEN all these freaking movies! The MCU has done a great job of not making continuity feel like a burden, but this one bit at the end might have been the turning point for me. Other than that, I think the movie drags a bit here and there as there’s really no reason it has to be just over two hours long which is still shorter than the Thanos films, but perhaps we shouldn’t be using the big blow off extravaganzas as a measuring stick for the lower key films.

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“You know what they say! Every time a Marvel stinger shows its head, we all get six more weeks of comic history articles!” “At least it’s not another Thanos think piece.” “Hashtag Thanos was right.” “Flash? Can you not? Okay?”

At this point reviews of MCU films are about as formulaic as the films themselves. Heck, I can’t be certain I didn’t use those exact words in ANOTHER MCU review at some point which kind of proves the point and hopefully isn’t an indication that I’m a total hack. About sixty percent of every MCU film is the same level of big budget competence that a lot of other studios would kill for, and the remaining forty percent, while DEFINITELY worth talking about (I LOVE YOU, MYSTERIO!!) don’t fill up much of the word count. I love Jake Gyllenhaal in this movie, I think Tom Holland does a great job with the character, and I’m fine with where the universe is currently headed now that we’re in MCU 2.0 even if the stingers are below average for this franchise. Look, if you don’t know if you want to see an MCU film at this point, you’re either not seeing a lot of movies in the first place or you yourself pulled a Captain America back in 2006. I certainly think it’s worth seeing in theaters, but then I think that way about nine out of ten MCU films, so I’m hardly breaking new ground even in my own way of critically analyzing these films. The gravy train will no doubt run out at some point and we’ll get sick of these eventually, but until then why don’t we just enjoy what we have while we still have it? Okay, I’m PRETTY sure I’ve said THAT before!

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