Wednesday 3 July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Eight months after the defeat of Thanos, the world is still getting used to the idea that half of the human race, presumed dead for five years, has now returned. The Midtown School of Science and Technology has restarted its academic year to account for those students who disappeared, including Peter Parker and his friends MJ, Ned, Flash and Betty. Parker is overwhelmed by grief for those who perished in the battle against Thanos and looking forward to a school trip to Europe, which he plans to treat as a vacation. When powerful monsters arise, targeting cities across Europe, and Nick Fury and a new superhero named Mysterio join the fight, Parker has to decided whether to reprise his role as Spider-Man or give it up to have a normal life.

Far From Home is the (count 'em!) eighth Spider-Man solo movie this century, the eleventh in which the character appears at all, and the third to be released in the last two years, after 2017's Homecoming and 2018's Into the Spider-Verse. It's also the twenty-third movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the fifth to feature Tom Holland as the MCU's version of Spider-Man. It's also the first MCU movie released since the explosive Avengers: Endgame and partially deals with the fallout of the epic events of that film. It's a movie that's wearing an awful lot of hats and, unfortunately, isn't as adept at swapping between them as may be wished.

The first part of the movie is dedicated to picking up the pieces after Endgame. The heroes who fell against Thanos are being mourned and Parker is trying to work out if he is ready to step up as part of the next generation. Nick Fury and Mariah Hill are also back in the fight, but are off-balance since they are five years out of date on the latest intel. The arrival of new hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) bolsters the ranks of the fallen heroes and gives Parker the opportunity to retire Spider-Man. There's a lot of emotional depth riding on this story, but it has to be said that the "Spider-Man struggling with the responsibility of being Spider-Man" trope is so worn that it's effectively no longer usable, and seeing Peter Parker agonising over his choices of being a normal young guy or a superhero is so rote that the experienced superhero viewer's eyes may glaze over. We've been here so many times before that it's gotten stale.

One Parker works out his confidence issues, the movie stops being a (rather ineffective, it has to be said) epilogue to Endgame and instead it relaxes and starts having fun, so does the audience. A bunch of monsters are causing havoc and Spider-Man has to stop them. The trick is that Parker's friends will catch on instantly that he is Spider-Man if Spider-Man shows up all the time to save them on the wrong side of the Atlantic, forcing him to go undercover as European knock-off hero "Night Monkey" instead. We get several major battles in European cities, namely Venice, Prague and London, and again it's laudable to see a lot of time being spent on evacuating and protecting civilians, and trying not to destroy major landmarks. There's a lot of fun stunts and explosions and reasonably well-judged use of CGI.

This is all fine, and Far From Home (***½) never really rises above being fine. The performances are all pretty solid, the tie-ins with the rest of the MCU are intriguing and there's some setup work for future movies here which makes them potentially very interesting indeed. But Far From Home itself never really rises above being okay, watchable and possibly a bit forgettable in the long run. It does feel a little too ordinary after Homecoming gave us a terrific battle of wills between Holland's Spider-Man and Michael Keaton's Vulture, and Into the Spider-Verse's dazzling descent through the multiverse. It's a fun two hours with lots of spectacle and some good performances, but ultimately does not rise above that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found the movie to have the same overall quality as the vast majority of the Marvel franchise. It was fun, nothing terrible bad about it, but also very forgettable. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of Raimi's Spider-Man 1 & 2.

I think a lot of the issues are around lack of tension. It never felt like Peter was in danger, or the Elementals particularly dangerous, or Mysterio all that evil. More importantly, it never felt like Peter was ever not going to get MJ by the end. Part of what made Raimi's version so good was Peter having to choose between her and being a hero.

More successful was Peter feeling the emptiness of not having Tony there as help and not being able to live up to his legacy. I was hoping maybe for some sort of aftereffect of having gone up against Thanos. Also needed some legitimate discussion around "The Blip", but as per usual for Marvel any chance for legitimate change in the franchise is quickly "resolved" via a few quips and nothing else.