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[SPOILERS] Review: Spider-Man: From Home (2019)

July 5, 2019

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME AND SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME]

Title: Spider-Man: Far From Home

 

Genre: Superhero/Action/Teen Comedy

 

Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhall, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cobie Smulders

 

Director: Jon Watts

 

Bias: I generally find the MCU movies to have a consistently high quality, and I've grown up reading Marvel comics

 

Grade: B+

 

In a Nutshell: In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker just wants to go on his class trip to Europe, declare his love for MJ, and adjust to the changes that have occurred in his life. When a series of attacks by creatures called the Elementals disrupt those plans, Peter is recruited by Nick Fury to team up with a hero from another Earth, Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio.

 

The Critique: [SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT - SEE ABOVE]

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While I gave the first MCU/Sony Spider-Man film an A-, there's barely any daylight between the two, in terms of overall quality. This film goes a bit bigger, and feels even more centered in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe than the last, but as result it feels a bit more disjointed when jumping between the teen/romance/comedy of Peter, MJ, Ned, and Betty and the superhero/spy/world-saving briefings with Spidey, Mysterio, Fury, and Hill. And then there's also the implications of Endgame - specifically, Tony Stark's death, the five-year time jump during that film, and the result of 50% of the planet's population disappearing one day, and suddenly reappearing half a decade later. It's to the credit of Jon Watts's direction, and the screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Lego Batman Movie) that they make it work as well as they do, but it's still not quite as effortless and light as Homecoming managed to be.

Credit also goes to the cast, even beyond Tom Holland (who, for my money, has made the role of a high-school-aged Peter Parker/Spider-Man his own), including Zendaya, Batalon, Angourie Rice as Betty, and Revolori as Flash Thompson holding up the teen comedy end of things, and Jackson (in his third MCU appearance this year) seeming to have all kinds of fun as a Nick Fury who can barely tolerate Spider-Man's nonsense.

 

My biggest criticism of the film, which is probably somewhat unavoidable, is that the "twist" with Mysterio is obvious to anyone relatively familiar with the character. Because of that, it's difficult to fully invest in the character for the first half of the film, and they don't do quite enough to develop him as a villain at the same level of Michael Keaton's Vulture in Homecoming. I'm not sure if simply letting the audience in on the secret right up front or giving him a stronger motivation once it's revealed (which is pretty much the motivation of Jim Carrey's Riddler in Batman Forever (which makes this the second Spider-Man film (each, the second in their series) to seemingly draw from the same well) might have helped those issues. Despite that, the more traditional Mysterio sequences are brilliantly realized, including some fake-outs that I didn't see coming. And I do like that they use Peter's mentor/mentee relationship with Tony Stark as the through-line that explain his choices (including the desire to trust someone who is essentially a stranger) and Gyllenhall and Holland are both excellent in those scenes.

 

What really makes the film work for me, though, is the Peter/MJ relationship. Making this "MJ" Michelle, rather than Mary Jane Watson, makes it feel just enough like a new take, while Zendaya's forceful awkwardness and Holland's resulting charming befuddlement makes for excellent chemistry between the two.

Ultimately, I think that's the key for this series of Spider-Man movies, overloaded as they can be with the weight of the larger MCU. They're engaging teen comedies with likable characters, and they capture the spirit of the original comics - being a teenager who has to juggle a superhero life, real world responsibilities, along with your own tumultuous emotions and immature impulses.

 

Shout-Out: The mid-credit scene is, without question, the best in the MCU. Just outstanding.

 

To Go, To Rent, or Stream: Absolutely worth checking out in theaters. I didn't do the 3D/IMAX, but I'm definitely considering it for my second viewing.

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