erik lundegaard

Tuesday July 16, 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)


Marvel Studios isn’t wasting time, is it? Two months ago, “Avengers: Endgame” ended the saga that began with “Iron Man” in 2008, and now they’re already positioning the new Iron Man, the spectacular Spider-Man, (Tom Holland), while suggesting the beginning of a new saga. Time is money, after all, and poor Marvel/Disney only has all of it.

Not only is much of “Spider-Man: Far from Home” about the dilemma of replacing Tony Stark on the world or cinematic stage, but the mid-credits sequence is a callback to the ending of the original “Iron Man,” with its shocking rock ‘n’ roll line: “I am Iron Man.” This one ends with, whoa!, the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, now bald, and broadcasting to the world that “Spider-Man is .... [static] ... [more static] .... Peter Parker!”

Yes, a little different. Instead of tooting his own horn, which is the Tony Stark way, Peter is shamefully outed, which is the Peter Parker way. But the effect on us is the same. Just as we’re winding down, the movie gooses us. Wow! What happens NEXT? We suddenly anticipate the sequel. We may even watch this one again to sate ourselves in the meantime. Which is entirely the point.

As for the end-credits sequence? Not a fan.

Not smart?
Overall, I liked “Far from Home” well enough. Not as much as “Homecoming” but enough.

OK, it could’ve been better.

It’s the opposite of “Homecoming.” There, Peter did everything he could to prove himself worthy of being an Avenger. Here, he runs from the role. There, he wanted to be Spider-Man; here, he just wants to be Peter. I guess being dead five years might do that to a soul.

Hey, I just realized it’s also a little similar to Tobey’s second Spidey. Pete runs from being Spider-Man in order to enjoy life as Peter Parker with friends and MJ (Zendaya); then he has to return to being Spider-Man in order to protect his friends and MJ; then MJ discovers who he is. The details are different; but if you pull back, it’s similar.

JJJ aside, the world probably would’ve found out sooner or later that Pete was Spidey simply because he’s not doing a very good job of hiding it. I get “face time” for actors but good god he’s unmasked a lot here: on the rooftops of Venice, in a tavern in Prague, on a bridge in London—which all eyes and cameras in the world are on because of the destruction Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) has caused. Not to mention at the beginning of the film, backstage at a fundraising gig hosted by ... who? Oh, right, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Really, Pete? No distance there? Plus right before the JJJ reveal, he takes MJ for a spin around NYC as Spidey. What happened to keeping loved ones at a distance because Spidey will always have enemies? Not smart.

That’s actually a question the movie unintentionally raises: Is Peter Parker ... not smart? Constantly unmasking is just part of it. He also trusts Mysterio with the most powerful weapon mankind has created—Tony Stark’s glasses—which Tony, RIP, entrusted to him. First, yeah, stupid move, Tony. Second, Pete, buddy, I get that you want to give MJ the dahlia pendant on the top of the Eiffel Tower, and don’t have time to save the world, which includes you, MJ, the dahlia pendant and the Eiffel Tower. But to just give it up to a guy you met like the day before? Give it to Happy (Jon Favreau). Give it to Nick (Samuel L. Jackson). It’s even more infuriating for Spidey fans because we know Mysterio is the villain. And yet there you are, like a doofus, unmasked in front of him and all customers in this pub in Prague, and handing him the one thing your mentor and idol left you after he saved half the universe.

That pub scene may have bugged me the most. After Mysterio and Spidey (as Night Monkey, but obviously Spidey) “defeat” the fire monster, they have a drink together in a Prague tavern—sans masks. And no one stops to congratulate them? Slap them on the back? Buy them a beer? 

Pete: I’m 16, I’m not allowed to drink.
Prague dude: Maybe in America. But here all 16-year-olds drink, particularly ones who save our city!
Everyone: Yay!

Plus there’s a dude in like lederhoesen or some shit? I thought that whole scene seemed off before it was revealed to be a Mysterio illusion. And Spidey senses none of it? Not even with his Spidey sense? For something he finally uses to defeat Mysterio—and jokingly referred to as the “Peter tingle” here—it’s on vacation for most of the movie. It’s always a little frustrating dealing with a superhero who doesn’t want to be a superhero until it’s almost too late. Cf., “Superman II,” “Spider-Man 2,” Superman in “Batman v. Superman.” It’s a theme of second movies. Look for Spidey to “turn evil” in the next one.

Mysterio is handled well. I don’t remember the raison d’etre of the original, or if he had one, but here, the 2.0 version, he’s a Stark underling who felt he never got the credit he deserved; so he uses some combo of tech and drones to create elemental disasters he “saves” people from. Essentially Marvel Studios turns him into a kind of Silicon Valley CEO, barking orders at tech underlings to keep the illusion going. By the end, you despise him. You also understand his power. Illusion is a tough thing to overcome. Just look at all the fools listening to JJJ/FOX News.

In the end, Spidey gets it all back—glasses, respect, etc.. He also gets MJ, who knows Pete is Spidey but likes him for being Pete. Awww. That said, I don’t sense much chemistry between the two actors—Zendaya and Holland—who supposedly like each other in non-camera life. Maybe it’s a generational thing. This MJ has too hard a shell for me. Love is about vulnerability, and between the two Pete has 95% of it.

Gyllenhaal is excellent—at first, charming, then super annoying—while Martin Starr (“Silicon Valley”) has fun as a hapless teacher buffetted by events.

But the end-credits reveal left me cold. Both Nick Fury and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) are Skrulls? Let me ask the Ira Gershwin question: How long has this been going on? We see him hanging on a simulated beach on a Skrull spaceship, then reluctantly going back to work. One theory has Fury being played by a Skrull before even “Avengers: Infinity War,” which means he was dipping toes while Thanos snapped out half the universe? Nice work ethic, asshole. And, hey, where’s the real Maria Hill anyway? We just see the real Nick. If we’re talking face time, good god, give me Smulders.

Anyway, not a fan of all that, but I am excited for the return of JJJ and his fake news. The MCU could make it a great commentary on Fox and Rush and Sinclair and all that bullshit. With its billions, Disney certainly has the power to do it. It probably won’t, which is a shame. I read somewhere that with great power comes great responsibility; but that was written a long time ago, in a Marvel far, far away.

Posted at 07:45 AM on Tuesday July 16, 2019 in category Movie Reviews - 2019  
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