Spider-Man: Far From Home ***
One Liner Review:
A pretty entertaining movie, this one does a really nice job with the villain, and also with telling the road trip through Europe teenage coming of age story.
A solid entry into the Marvel cannon and the MCU Spider Man films. Tom Holland continues to show why he’s the greatest Spider-Man ever put on film, (it start with the simple idea that he actually looks like he’s in high school,) and this movie is loaded with comedy. It also has a clever villain with some really great ties to past movies in the MCU. On top of all that, there’s a terrific storyline about the students traveling through Europe on a class trip, that takes a page from If Looks Could Kill. The things that don’t work are pretty minor. The action is fun, but it could have been better. And the world building doesn’t deliver the same way it did in the previous movie, Homecoming. But other than those two things, the movie is pretty great.
Spider-Man Far From Home is a pretty worthy follow-up to the first MCU Spider-Man film in the series, Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie has a whole lot going for it, including tons of references to past Marvel films, characters, and events. It has a pretty entertaining storyline with a cool villain, (who ties back to other films in the MCU nicely.) And it also does a great job telling a teenage, class trip through Europe, coming of age kind of story. Think of it as Eurotrip meets If Looks Could Kill, only instead of the spy story, we’re replacing it with superhero material. And all of this works. What doesn’t work is the way the movie refuses to do almost any world building, like Homecoming did. In that movie, we got references to or appearances by The Prowler, Miles Morales, Shocker, Scorpion, and Vulture. We had setups for three of the six characters that could have made up the Sinister Six (a well-known team of Spider-Man villains.) And in this movie, every one of those threads is just dropped. We’re not just talking about post-credits Easter eggs here. Throughout Homecoming, the references to other characters that might appear in future Spider Man films felt really nice. Just knowing that there was a bigger world that they were building up to, meant a lot. And here, all of that is thrown right out the window. The movie is still good, but there is definitely something missing with the utter lack of attempts at world building.
Maybe this is because instead of looking forward like that first movie did, and setting things up for future films, this sequel is all about looking back. It literally has references, music, and even clips from the very first Iron Man movie. Talk about being nostalgic. And there’s a reason for that…this is the last movie in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, if this was the last movie in either of the previous two phases, it might not mean much of anything. But consider that as of now, for the first time since all of this began, back in 2008, (over a decade ago,) we really don’t know what movies are even coming next. We have no blueprint for where the MCU will be heading. And since there are no Marvel movies even in production yet, it’s going to be a long time since we really see anything of a continuation (maybe a year or so.) Add to that the fact that the movie that came before this one was Avengers: Endgame, which had a situation known as the dusting, (called The Blip, here in Spiderman: Far From Home,) and featured half of the population disappearing for exactly five years. That Avengers movie showed us the characters coming back, but it’s this movie that really shows us how their disappearance and then reappearance are dealt with in the real world. And so Spider-Man Far From Home addresses it. If Avengers:Endgame was the conclusion to the first three phases, then this Spider-Man movie is the epilogue.
The movie actually begins with addressing previous events from the MCU. It opens with an “In Memoriam” Video that shows heroes we lost, such as Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, (Captain America and Iron Man, respectively.) From there, we get a high school video, co-anchored by two high school students (just like in the first Spider-Man movie,) explaining the blip. They talk about how students were gone for five years and now have suddenly returned. They show a high school basketball game where the students disappeared from the game, and then five years later, turned up again on the court. And they talk about how their teachers are making the students in the school all start the school year over again, from the very beginning, even though half of them already took the midterms. What is not really addressed enough is the idea that they are with all new classmates now, (if someone was five years younger than you before the blip, and you disappeared while they didn’t, then you are now in the same grade.) Think about how this might affect siblings. You might go from being the older sibling to suddenly being the younger one, just like that. None of this is really addressed. The movie wants to mention the blip, reference it, and then move past it, without giving it any serious thought. Notice that Peter Parker, Ned (his best friend,) MJ (the girl he likes,) and even Flash, (the bully,) all blipped, so that they are now still all the same age. It would have been nice to see one student character from the first movie who was now five years older, just to give the blip situation a little more weight and context.
But getting past the blip, (the same way the movie does,) we go from this quick video right into a charity event with Aunt May (Marissa Tomei,) receiving a massive check from Happy Hogan, who represents Stark Industries. And Spider-Man is on hand to present the check to May. From there, we get a scene with Happy and Parker talking about how Nick Fury is trying to reach him. Happy wants Parker to take the call. Parker says he will… when he gets back from Europe. Talk about moving fast… this opening goes from speeding past the blip to a charity event (where the whole point is to establish the relationship between May and Happy, and to show that Fury is trying to call Parker,) to a trip to Europe. Parker wants to take the trip to get away. He wants to feel like a kid again, going on a high school trip with his classmates. Tony Stark’s death hit him pretty hard and he wants to take a break from the superhero life and dealing with aliens and creatures from other worlds.
Parker’s goal for the Europe trip is to win MJ (played by Zendaya,) over. He spells this out to Ned, elaborating on a plan of exactly how he’s going to do it. And Ned tells him not to do any of it. Parker leaves his Spider-Man suit behind, (or tries to,) until he finds out that Aunt May ended up packing it in his suitcase. He finds this out when he opens his luggage in front of security. And the funny thing is the security doesn’t even care. They must think it’s just a Halloween costume, because they are more concerned about the banana he is trying to bring in, then about the Spider-Man suit. And so we get the plane ride scene, with Parker trying to get Ned to help him with an elaborate plan to switch seats so that he can sit next to MJ. The plan backfires and Parker ends up sitting next to the teacher, (played by Martin Starr, who is back again from the first movie.) This time, there are two teachers, and the second one, (played by JB Smoove,) is just as funny. The plane ride scenes are terrific. Not only is there the seat changing situation, but also a bathroom scene where Parker uses the lavatory, opens the door, sees MJ standing there, and goes back in to fix everything up. This includes doing his hair and making sure the counter is wiped down. So perfectly teenage and comedic.
When they get to Europe, the first destination is Venice, and the group checks into a dingy hotel with water seeping through the floor. Ned has found a girlfriend already, hooking up with a girl on the plane, by holding her hand during turbulence. And now it’s just Parker, who has his mission of winning over MJ in mind, and has competition, in the form of a bigger kid who seems to know Parker’s agenda. But it isn’t long before the high school Europe trip story folds into the superhero story, as a water monster attacks the people of Venice. It shows up, slowly moving through the water, and then bursts out as giant waves which send Ned’s gondola through the doors of a building. Parker doesn’t get to do much to help before a mysterious flying character with a fish bowl helmet for a head, named Mysterio shows up and starts blasting the creature with green lasers. This Mysterio character ends up saving the day, but not before the creature can do tons of damage all over the city.
And that’s when Nick Fury shows up to knock out Ned with a tranquilizer dart and recruit Parker to come in and help. He brings Parker to a secret lair, where Maria Hill (Colbie Smolders,) is on hand, and so is Quentin Beck, (Jake Gyllenhaal,) the man who is Mysterio. Beck tells them he’s from another world and that he’s been chasing down these creatures, called The Elementals, that have come through to this version of earth with him. Considering how much both we, (the audience,) and the characters on screen have been through over the past few years, (aliens, the blip, even shape-shifting skrulls,) it’s easy to believe just about anything. And so nobody really questions Beck. Especially since he’s the only one that was really able to stop this water creature. Beck tells them he’s defeated three of the four of these Elementals already, (A cyclone creature and a sand creature, as well,) and the only one left is a fire creature. But this one is the biggest and the baddest, and is responsible for killing all of Beck’s family, back on his version of earth.
And so we get to the fight against the fire creature. It takes place in Prague, where Fury has secretly upgraded the class trip to go as their next destination. But before we get there, Parker discovers a new pair of glasses left to him by Tony Stark and accidentally uses it to call forth a drone attack on one of his fellow students. This kind of thing is right out of If Looks Could Kill, but it’s still pretty funny. So is the subplot that leads to this, where that other student (the guy who is Parker’s competition for M.J.,) catches Parker doing something with his pants down, that seems pretty shady and snaps a photo of it. And so we get a quick drone attack scene on the way to Prague and then the fire monster attack in Prage that ends with Mysterio sacrificing himself for the greater good, and nearly dying in the process. That’s when Parker turns over the glasses to Beck, thinking that this guy really can be the next Iron Man.
And this takes us to about the halfway point of the film. This is when we suddenly get a big twist, (although anyone who knows the comics or the characters can see it coming a mile away,) that changes everything. I won’t give it away here, but the way that the twist incorporates past Marvel movies is pretty cool. And now, for the rest of the film, it’s Spider Man facing off against one, single villain. How he figures out who this villain is, also turns out to be pretty cool. And the action that follows is all great too. There are times when it goes a little off the rails, (like a hallucinatory sequence that leaves us just as confused as Parker, as to what’s real and what isn’t.) But the more they explain to us and try to reason out, the more interesting all of this is.
Spider-Man Far From Home works as far as the teenage romance story, and it also works as far the villain. The way it incorporates past Marvel characters and events is terrific. In terms of the human story, this director, John Watts, (who made the great movie Cop Car before being given the reigns to Spider-Man,) really knows what he’s doing. In terms of the action, he’s just okay. Nothing about the action in this movie feels real, (how can it, when the villains are mainly giant element monsters that look like creatures made of clouds?) But, excuses aside, the action here does leave some things to be desired. And the world building here is pretty much non-existent until the two post-credits scenes. Even then, it’s very limited. So there are a couple of areas where this thing could have been improved, but for the most part, it’s a pretty good film.