100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Two matters have persisted in my mind during the past several months leading up to Spider-Man: Far From Home.  The first, obviously, is "How the heck does any Marvel movie follow up on the heels of Avengers: Endgame?"  Those three hours were a staggering symphony of cinema, made all the more magnificent in that they wrapped up eleven years and twenty-some movies of what had come before.  Did Disney and Sony and Marvel seriously believe that a Spider-Man movie could raise the bar on that?!

But for me, the bigger issue was this: "When the heck do we finally see Spider-Man's little world explored and fleshed out on this canvas?"

Because Far From Home represents Tom Holland's fifth outing as the web-slinger.  And still by the time of this latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe chronology we have yet to see Peter Parker's unique and classic sphere of influence explored to any great extent.  Oh yes, there has been Aunt May (absent Uncle Ben and that life-altering event in Peter's life) and the Vulture (played with unexpected dimension by Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming).  But what about the weight of responsibility that Peter wrestles with?  How is he going to make money of his own without the Daily Bugle to snap photos for (and a J. Jonah Jameson calling him to the carpet at least once a week)?  How is he going to acquire his own rogues gallery when the world is unarguably now fixated on cosmic-level villains?  And where are those clones?!

(Okay, forget the clones.  In fact, let's just forget that "Clone Saga" mess ever happened...)

Peter's own world has its own feel and tone, and Sam Raimi captured and conveyed that perfectly for the big screen in 2002's Spider-Man.  And then two years later Spider-Man 2 upped the ante and became one of the very few sequels deemed better than the original.  Even Spider-Man 3, for all the things wrong with it, had some resonation with the source comic material.  Everything about Raimi's series was spot-on or dang close to it.  And rather disappointingly the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation has barely attempted that level of inspiration.

Which brings us to Spider-Man: Far From Home.

It's now months after what the world is calling "The Blip": when everyone ashed-away by Thanos' snap in Avengers: Infinity War has been returned to the universe, albeit five years later.  Far From Home is our first real look at the in-saga ramifications of Hulk's counter-snap, and as can be expected confusion is rife now that half the cosmos' population is back in existence after half a decade of oblivion.  Far From Home addresses "The Blip" rather nicely, exploiting the humor that often comes with such a disturbance.  Life is getting back to normal (more or less) and Peter Parker, weary of saving the world alongside all of those other heroes, is looking forward to a trip to Europe with his high school colleagues.  Including his best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon, who becomes more fun to watch in the role with each outing) and that elusive relationship with M.J. (again hard-to-get and aloof and played by Zendaya).  And maybe he'll be able to shake off the loss of Tony Stark: his father figure and role model.  Iron Man's sacrifice has turned into a global memorial... but the absence is felt nowhere worse than the gaping hole in the heart of Peter Parker.

Unfortunately it seems that Nick Fury (isn't it time that Samuel L. Jackson gets his own standalone movie in the MCU?) and S.H.I.E.L.D. are determined to draft Peter and his Spider-Man persona.  Seems that a hero named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) from the Earth of an alternate universe - blamed on "The Snap" punching a hole in reality - is trying to stop four malevolent forces of nature from destroying our own world just as they destroyed his.  Mysterio has determined that the "four elementals" are going to attack Europe next and lo and behold, the track of their storm corresponds with the Midtown School's trip iternerary.  Fury catches up with Parker in Venice, lays it all out and... well, chaos ensues as usually happens in this kind of Marvel movie.

If you've been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe all along, this final chapter in the arc that's been building since 2008 serves as a wonderful coda.  If Avengers: Endgame was a grand feast, then Spider-Man: Far From Home is the much-needed and pleasurable palate cleanser.  It gives the fans a "cool-down" period, time to breathe... and there is already the tantalizing tingle that the next volume of this epic is coming sooner than later.  2008's Iron Man marked the start of this sprawling mythology, and in many ways Far From Home serves as the perfect bookend: for the films themselves and for us as the viewing audience.

How does Spider-Man: Far From Home cap off all that has come previous?  It doesn't even really try to.  It knew it couldn't.  And it still works beautifully.

As for that other matter: I still don't think that Spider-Man: Far From Home brought us fully into Peter Parker's unique corner of the Marvel saga.  But it's coming.  By the end of this film he has become his own person, and though the legacy of Tony Stark will not be forgot, Peter has indeed become the man who Stark believed he could be.  That world is coming... and especially with that mid-credits scene, with a cameo that will either blow the Marvel Cinematic universe wide-open or prove that some casting is simply indisputable.

I'll give Spider-Man: Far From Home four and a half webs out of five.  Still not in Sam Raimi-ish terms of quality but it's getting there.  And I believe it will land squarely on that turf in the next movie.  Maybe then we'll get the MCU's treatment of the Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus.  Maybe the next Spider-Man movie will be called Spider-Man: Home Sweet Clone...

I'll stop while I'm ahead.


Anonymous said...

Terrific review! I'm taking my little boy to see Spider-Man this afternoon. Brian