Where’s the fun? Where’s the imagination? Where’s Zendaya?
I was left with questions, as well as reasons to dislike “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” after watching the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The MCU has been built in phases, with multiple movies in each, and Spidey’s movie is meant to be the last one in Phase 3, which seems unfair following the brilliance of “Avengers: Endgame” — which felt like an ending.
There are dates reserved for Marvel movies in May and November 2020, but not even the titles have been revealed, so this movie has to tide fans over for the next 10 months.
Unfortunately, this is far from Marvel’s best. Here are 10 takeaways from “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
1. We get off to a good start
A creative opening lets us know that we are living in a post-“Endgame” world. It acknowledges the losses suffered there, and it provides some interesting information about “the blip,” as it refers to the time period in which half the population of Earth vanished and then reappeared between the last two “Avengers” movies. A fun high school intro, a Whitney Houston classic played over it, and we’re off to a promising start.
2. Tom Holland works as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Tom Holland is a talent. He’s 23, but he passes easily for a teen. He can pull off gravitas, and he can pull off comedy. So the idea that he’s a 16-year-old overwhelmed by losing his mentor and who just wants to be a Brooklyn teen and kiss a girl and go to Europe with his school group feels fresh.
3. What kind of movie is this?
The trouble is that he can’t get away from his superhero responsibilities, and as the film takes our “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” out of the neighborhood, he’s pulled in different directions. With Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) directing him, it feels less like a true “Spider-Man” movie and more like a post-“Avengers” closure movie. But it’s also meant to be a stepping stone to a next phase. It even gets a bit political. It’s all over the place.
4. More focus needed than an ensemble
More of Peter Parker in the suit would be good, but the ensemble cast is so large that it negates that. Jacob Batalon returns as Peter’s best bud, Ned, and he’s providing more comedy, as well as gaining a “vacation girlfriend” who it feels like gets more screen-time than MJ (Zendaya as Peter’s hoped-for girlfriend) until the final 30 minutes. Also amusing is a curious relationship between Peter’s aunt (Marisa Tomei) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau as the Tony Stark “closure connection character”). Martin Starr is hilarious as a teacher attempting to corral the school group through Venice, Prague and London despite attacks in these cities by “Elementals” (monsters made of water and fire, for example). There’s still more plot. Too much. It’s as if the writers came up with too many ideas and threw none of them out.
5. Then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as Mysterio, who is sold to us as a hero from an alternate Earth universe fighting the Elementals but who becomes a big part of the plot and a gaping plot hole at the same time. A plot hole dressed in garb that looks like he’s from Thor’s world but with a crystal ball full of cloudy smoke as a head. He’s ready for Halloween but not this movie.
6. Where are the other Avengers?
I know, I know, but I can’t help it: When these terrible forces threaten the planet, why is Nick Fury battling them across a continent with only Mr. Alternate-universe and a teen boy?
7. The movie’s villain is “fake news”
A focus of the movie’s theme is that of identity, which makes sense in the idea that this teen must take on more responsibility whether he’s ready or not. But even more of a focus is deception, with Spider-Man ultimately fighting against those who see the public as dopes “who will believe anything,” so the villains employ technology to use those beliefs against them and against our hero.
8. And then it really drags
The story being pulled in different directions makes for a fits-and-starts first hour leading up to an unsatisfying fake-out reveal, after which the movie slows for a long time with too little adventure or character development or comedy. It’s a slog until an exciting final 20 minutes.
9. Let Spider-Man use his brain
Peter Parker is pulled by his friends, by his aunt, by Nick Fury, by bad guys and battles. But he’s also one of the smartest teens you’ll ever meet, especially in science, and he barely gets to show that off here. But when he does, it’s a reminder of how many of the best Marvel movies have that science-is-cool concept that this movie lacks.
10. End credits: The film is most clever when it’s over
When the credits start rolling, keep your seats. There is a mid-credits scene (important to the next Spider-Man movie) and there is an end-credits scene (important to the MCU), and what they mean for the future is more interesting than the two-hour-plus movie.
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