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Spider-Man: Far From Home Review

July 3, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Spider-Man: Far From Home
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Spider-Man: Far From Home Review  

Directed By: Jon Watts
Written By: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers; Based on the Marvel comics and characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Runtime: 129 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Tom Holland – Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Jake Gyllenhaal – Quentin Beck/Mysterio
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Marisa Tomei – Aunt May
Zendaya – Michelle “MJ” Jones
Jacob Batalon – Ned Leeds
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Cobie Smulders – Maria Hill
Martin Starr – Mr. Harrington
J.B. Smoove – Mr. Dell
Tony Revolori – Flash Thompson
Angourie Rice – Betty Brant
Remy Hii – Brad Davis
Numan Acar – Dimitri

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was rocked to its very core by the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Heroes made the ultimate sacrifice to restore the lives that were taken by Thanos. Spider-Man: Far From Home continues in the aftermath, as the students of Midtown School of Science and Technology, who were snapped out of existence by Thanos, have been brought back. Now, they have to finish out the school year, including one Peter Parker (Holland), aka the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Conveniently, both he and his Aunt May (Tomei) were evaporated out of existence five years prior in an event that’s now called “The Blip.” They are back to the living side, but Peter has to resume his life as a superhero without his mentor, Tony Stark/Iron Man.

Thankfully, Peter is ready to have a nice, relaxing summer trip in Europe, where he can confess his feelings to Michelle (Zendaya), with the hopes that they might become boyfriend and girlfriend. Unfortunately, Peter’s summer plans for a superhero-free summer vacation are waylaid by the arrival of malevolent, destructive monsters called Elementals. Apparently, the Avengers are MIA, so Nick Fury (Jackson) is in town to recruit the reluctant Spider-Man into the fray to assist the new *ahem* “inter-dimensional hero,” Quentin Beck (Gyllenhaal). What’s that? Yes, Mysterio is “definitely” a superhero in this continuity.

Tom Holland is exceptionally cast in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He’s got the look and attitude of a younger Peter Parker. The film covers his intellectual side, his teenage angst, as well as that good ‘ole “Typical Parker Luck” that fans from the comics know all too well. Watts handles those elements skillfully, especially when danger forces Peter to run off and abandon his self-interests. When Far From Home hits those moments, it feels like a strong Spider-Man story.

Far From Home fails to find its footing in the first half. Jokes and humor have generally been the bread and butter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or worse. Far From Home leans way too much with comedy throughout its first half. A sizable chunk of those jokes and gags are forced and awkward. At times, it was almost like watching the weird, dorky humor found in a Michael Bay Transformers film. This is not an indictment of jokes or comedy in a superhero movie.

The best Spider-Man movie ever is still Spider-Man 2. That film also had copious jokes and comedy. Similarly, the beloved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was not devoid of comedic elements. The point here is that the jokes in those films work in their timing and placement. In Spider-Man: Far From Home there’s just a bit too much forced levity. This is not the first Marvel film to suffer such issues. Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World had some of these problems as well. The first half of Far From Home really needed less comedy and a bit more of Spider-Man being Spider-Man.

For example, quite a bit of screen time is dedicated to Peter’s bumbling, incompetent teachers and chaperones, Mr. Harrington (Starr, who returns from the first film) and Mr. Dell (Smoove). In Homecoming, less was definitely more with Mr. Harrington. Their roles as goofy comic relief should have been trimmed down. Additionally, Far From Home features scenes involving some new underlings for Nick Fury that are too silly; even for a Marvel film.

Far From Home is not a bad film. Once the truth unfolds, the narrative starts finding its footing and moves in a much more satisfying manner. Gyllenhaal is displays a great showmanship as Mysterio. The tweaks to the character make sense and work for a modern take.

There’s nothing especially exciting about Zendaya as Michelle. She is not Mary Jane Watson, although she is nicknamed MJ. The MJ issue is problematic because she never pulls off the MJ character. Zendaya’s Michelle is more of an introverted, snarky girl with a bit of a dark streak. Michelle is given a bigger role and more to do in this film as Peter’s love interest. She does fine with the material she’s given. It’s not as melodramatic and frustrating as the romance in The Amazing Spider-Man films, but Zendaya would have been better off playing a different character only because the new films need an MJ, who isn’t even Mary Jane.

One of the major issues and criticisms of Homecoming was Peter’s over-reliance on Tony Stark. In the MCU continuity, Tony Stark is basically this Peter’s Uncle Ben, while the actual Uncle Ben is pretty much a non-factor. Obviously, the Uncle Ben story was recounted in the previous Spider-Man film series, and producer Kevin Feige didn’t want to retread old ground. The issue here is that Tony Stark continues to completely replace any and all influence Uncle Ben had on Peter. It’s possible to still make Uncle Ben an important figure to Peter without constantly rehashing Spider-Man’s origin story. Once again, it is disappointing that no attempt is even made to reference Uncle Ben.

The Tony Stark factor is still an issue. In much of the film, Peter is not really given a chance to be an independent entity and work on his own; and he’s not really stepping out of the shadow of Tony Stark. There’s a moment in the film that acknowledges this, yet it is only followed by a sequence of Peter acting more like Tony Stark than Spider-Man.

The movie ramps up in the second half, and the action definitely gets a lot better. There is one great sequence in particular that fits perfectly for a classic Spider-Man character and really shows the height of that character’s abilities. However, with the final act’s barrage of action, Watts really could have improved the experience by spreading that action more generously throughout the film. This could have balanced out the experience.

That said, there are moments when Watts allows Peter to spread his wings and act more like a traditional, classic and iconic Spider-Man. These are the moments when Far From Home really shines, especially in the final act, with the “Peter Tingle” in action. Hopefully, if there are sequels and future MCU installments featuring Holland’s version of Spidey, the focus can stay where it belongs.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Spider-Man: Far From Home suffers from having a rather rough first half. It's shaky, lacks action and lays it on too thick with forced, awkward comedy. Once the film pulls back the curtain, the plot gets going and plays more into a classic, iconic Spider-Man style. A few rewrites and re-edits could have really balanced out this film. Where Tom Holland's Peter Parker will go from here is still a question mark, but Far From Home does manage to get to a place where it should be: Peter, his relationships, his inner-conflicts and his Rogues Gallery. If the next film is Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six, this could really be the big-screen Spider-Man film fans that have been waiting for.