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What's the big deal?
Spider-Man: Far From Home is an action comedy superhero film released in 2019 and is based on the Marvel comics character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is the twenty-third film comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and follows Peter Parker on a European school-trip when he is once again pressed into service by Nick Fury to battle a strange and otherworldly foe. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Cobie Smulders, Jacob Batalon and Marisa Tomei and was directed by Jon Watts. The film serves as a sequel to the earlier Spider-Man: Homecoming but deals directly with events depicted in Avengers: Endgame. Released to a positive response from critics, the film was the first Spider-Man movie to earn more than a billion dollars and is currently the third highest grossing film in the world in 2019. After a contract dispute between Marvel and Sony over the rights to the character was settled, work has begun on producing a third film due for release in 2021.
What's it about?
After the sudden disappearance of half the life-forms in the universe and their subsequent return five years later, life has returned to some sort of normality after what has been termed "the blip". For New York college student Peter Parker, this means juggling his studies and unrequited attraction to fellow student MJ with protecting his neighbourhood as web-slinging superhero Spider-Man. With the end of the academic year behind them, Parker is looking forward to enjoying a school trip around Europe when he plans to announce his feelings to MJ and definitely not spend it battling the forces of evil.
Unfortunately, the forces of evil have other plans after monstrous creatures called Elementals begin wrecking havoc across the world. As Nick Fury and Agent Maria Hill are powerless to stop them, they enlist the help of a previously unknown individual dubbed Mysterio who is actually Quentin Beck, a super-powered hero from an alternate Earth sent to battle the Elementals before they consume the world as we know it. As Fury eventually tracks down and coerces Parker into assisting, he quickly discovers that not everything is as it seems.
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Samuel L Jackson
Quentin Beck / Mysterio
Harold "Happy" Hogan
Aunt May Parker
Agent Maria Hill
Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers*
Release Date (UK)
2nd July, 2019
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
Say what you want about the film but Far From Home makes a welcome change in pace and tone from the overly dramatic storytelling seen in recent Marvel movies. The film is much lighter in tone thanks to an influx of jokes and banter between Holland, Batalon, Favreau and even Gyllenhaal while the pairing of comedians Smoove and Starr as the bickering teachers gradually losing control of events is given more room to flourish. Holland once again demonstrates his natural affinity for playing Spider-Man and reminds us that of all the actors to tackle the role, his performance is probably the best out of all of them. He looks and feels right in the role, certainly more so than the unfortunate Andrew Garfield.
One aspect of many Marvel films that is often overlooked is the quality of the special effects. We've become used to seeing fantastical spectacles - whether it's the Guardians Of The Galaxy visiting some colourful and far-flung corner of the universe, the inspired and beautiful world of Asgard as seen in Thor or the heavy-hitting gunfire and weaponry of Iron Man. And yet, Far From Home features some of the best I've seen so far. The film's use of effects include some almighty monsters swirling into view from both watery and fiery sources, classic examples of Spidey swinging through the streets of New York and Mysterio himself floating on a cloud of green gas. My favourite segment is a mind-bending trip through illusion upon illusion, the sort of mind-bending effects that haven't been seen since the likes of Inception. It shows that despite the number of films featuring the Wall Crawler, there are still some imaginative villains and stories worthy bringing to the big screen.
- Mysterio was intended to be the villain in the cancelled fourth Spider-Man film by Sam Raimi. The role was to be played by Bruce Campbell who had cameos in the three previous Spider-Man films featuring Tobey Maguire.
- Not only does this film mark the third consecutive outing of Jackson as Nick Fury (Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and this film) but it also marks the first time a single MCU character has appeared in three films in a calendar year.
- When Beck first meets Parker, he tells him that this version of Earth is Earth-616 while he is from Earth-833. However, while Earth-616 is the dimension where the majority of Marvel stories are based, the dimension containing the MCU is actually Earth-199999. And if this makes sense to you, you should get out more.
What's not to like?
Unfortunately, this does feel a little undercooked compared to other MCU films and not just because of the lack of other Avengers. The story feels rather weak and the twist is plainly obvious to anyone with even the slightest exposure to Spider-Man's comic origins. I appreciate the film's acknowledgement of the events of Avengers: Endgame but I feel it would have had a greater impact on the lives of characters in the film than depicted here. Gyllenhaal does what he can with the character of Beck and does a decent job but he's underwritten and underdeveloped. You never fully buy into the character as a mentor-figure for Parker because you can already see what's coming. To be honest, we've already seen such twists before.
The way I see it, the film has two big issues that it's simply unable to escape from. Firstly, we had had eleven films featuring Spider-Man as a character since 2002 and I worry that with so much exposure, the character runs the risk of feeling generic. Which leads to my second point - fans have become used to MCU films feeling special, almost spectacular but Far From Home feels ordinary and run-of-the-mill. It's perfectly serviceable superhero fare but it is easily shaded by recent MCU films like those already mentioned. And I don't understand why Marvel insist on this policy of releasing average films to close out their Phases - I was similarly disappointed with Ant-Man after the bombastic Avengers: Age Of Ultron as it seemed more logical to close out these chapters with the bigger pictures rather than an ordinary superhero film. This film doesn't do anything memorable or noteworthy and fans are used to MCU films being memorable and noteworthy.
Should I watch it?
While it isn't the worst film produced by Marvel Studios, Far From Home does feel a little bit of a misfire. As good as Holland is as Parker, the film lacks the punch we've gotten used to from Marvel films and doesn't do enough to stand out from an increasing and ever-expanding superhero genre. MCU fans won't care too much and will wonder where the films will go next after the always crucial mid-and-end-credit bonus scenes. But it's worrying that the films appear to be becoming more formulaic and less innovative than we've seen previously although you'd be foolish to count Marvel out just yet.
Great For: Spider-Man fans, London residents, Czech viewers, family viewings
Not So Great For: jaded MCU fans, Martin Scorsese, anyone hoping for something spectacular
What else should I watch?
Of all the Spider-Man films released, few have matched the near-universal praise earned by the animated film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse which brought together numerous versions of the character into one almighty adventure. The first non-Disney/Pixar film to win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar since 2011, the film has proved so popular that a sequel and a spin-off are planned for the future so anyone fed up of Spider-Man will have to work harder to avoid him at the cinema. In terms of live-action outings, I still maintain that Spider-Man 2 is probably the most complete outing for the character - Maguire does well as Parker, Molina is a baddie for the ages as Doctor Octopus, Kirsten Dunst feels much more like MJ than Zendaya does and who doesn't enjoy JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson? I know I do - I can think of few actors who fit a part so well.
It might be easy to say that I'm being unfair comparing Far From Home to the Avengers movies but Marvel themselves invite comparisons with their relentless release schedule. Without doubt, the Avengers movies are perfect pictures for fans of comic heroes as each one feels like a greatest hits album, getting bigger with each release. With the exception of Age Of Ultron, I would recommend any of the Avengers films in a heartbeat. As for individual superhero films, I thoroughly enjoyed the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie as well as the first two Captain America films, The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox