SPIDEY’S EUROPEAN VACATION
Spider-Man: Homecoming was definitely a fun and entertaining way for the comic book character of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) to star in his own standalone feature film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Spider-Man (played by actor Tom Holland) graced the screen as he debuted back in Captain America: Civil War, acting as a large cameo appearance, which was met with much fanfare anticipation than any superhero to appear in the MCU. Naturally, all eyes were on seeing Holland’s Peter Parker in his solo adventure, finding Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was directed by Jon Watts, to be a spectacular cinematic installment for the character, with many praising the feature for its light tone, it’s character development, and the performance by both Holland and actor Michael Keaton. Now, after appearing in the Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios and director Jon Watts get ready for Spider-Man to swing back into his own movie Spider-Man: Far from Home. Does this second cinematic swing high with superhero thrills or does it falter within its sophomore adventure?
Taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the world is recovering from “The Blip”, which finds those lost to “The Snap (caused by Thanos) returning to life as usual, even though those returning are the same age as they were five years ago (of which when they disappeared). One such person is the character of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), quickly returning to his normal day of a high school teenager as well as his superhero alter-ego of Spider-Man, with the void of Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) passing weighing heavily on the youth. In a way to escape that feeling, Peter looks forward to a two-week summer vacation in Europe, with fellow “Blip” classmates, including Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya). While there, Peter plans to express his true feelings to MJ, only she’s being pursed by Brad (Remy Hii), a handsome rival classmate of his. Unfortunately, Peter doesn’t have time for sightseeing and romantic persuasions as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appears, sweeping the young superhero into a new threat, which involves extradimensional beasts known as “Elementals” from wreaking havoc in Europe and potential destroying the planet. With Fury pushing the young Spider-Man into battle, Peter, along with the aid of Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) aka Mysterio, a new multiverse superhero being from another Earth, juggles the protection of his classmates and major European cities as he tries to figure out his future role in the Avengers. However, as things progress, Peter learns that this task will push him towards his future…. for better or worse.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
The character of Peter Parker / Spider-Man has been an iconic superhero character in the Marvel superhero catalogue. The past iterations (in a cinematic feature film context endeavor) have been a mixed bag of sorts, with the debating ranging on which portrayal (i.e. actors Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield), but the success of actor Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character has definitely been a fan-favorite amongst many, including myself. His introduction in Captain America: Civil War and his involvement in Avengers: Infinity War provided that the Holland’s iteration of the famous webslinger superhero could definitely stand alongside other superhero characters in the MCU (as well as the actors / actresses that portray them), but Homecoming certainly demonstrated on this newest iteration of Spider-Man would ultimately play out in his own movie. Personally, I loved Homecoming and Holland’s performance of Peter Parker was great. Yes, I agree that the film was, more or less, a side step adventure in the MCU’s main narrative arc, but it’s “small time” adventure was definitely entertaining (proving that not every superhero movie has to be about world ending doom and massive destruction) with Holland’s making for a compelling version of Spider-Man. It’s no wonder that Spider-Man: Homecoming grossed over $880 million at the box office worldwide and has a strong approval rating; proving that MCU’s Spider-Man is a resounding win.
Naturally, this brings me back to talking about Spider-Man: Far from Home, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and the final feature film in Marvel’s Phase III entries. Of course, when Homecoming was deemed a success by critics, moviegoers, and box office results, Marvel (after some time) announced that a second Spider-Man movie would be released in 2019….after Avengers: Endgame’s release. Marvel even went to say that the movie would take place after the events of Endgame, which (in turn) meant that the character of Peter Parker would somehow return from “The Snap” event from Infinity War. Of course, the film’s marketing campaign and movie trailers promos confirmed that theory, showcasing that this movie would be featuring Peter Parker in the aftermath of Endgame and dealing with a new threat. Thus, my expectations for this movie (especially after seeing Endgame) was very high and I was quite eager to see how Far from Home would turn out to be. So, what did I think of it? While I still believe that Homecoming is slightly better, Spider-Man: Far from Home delivers a fun and satisfying sequel that shines in a Spider-Man adventures as well as closing out the MCU’s Phase III. While it may not be a heavy hitter like Avengers: Endgame was, but Spider-Man: Far from Home is still another solid (and quite enjoyable) win for Marvel.
Spider-Man: Far from Home is directed by Jon Watts, who previous directed Spider-Man: Homecoming as well other films like Cop Car and Clown. Given his prior knowledge of directing the last Spider-Man movie (and the success that the film received), Watts seems like the most logical choice for helming Far from Home. The result of him returning to the director’s chair speaks for itself within the movie’s presentation and execution of it all; making this second chapter in the MCU’s Spider-Man films to be just as charismatic fun and exhilarating entertaining as Homecoming. In that regard, Far from Home succeeds with Watts keeping everything the “status quo” in what made Homecoming satisfying and takes the idea with this new adventure. Of course, the storyline is different between the two films, but Watts definitely utilizes his Homecoming approach when choregraphing Far from Home’s direction, which is heavy emphasized on the well-balancing of superhero action and lighthearted tones comedy; a mixture recipe that works and is a “bread and butter” for both Homecoming and in Far from Home. In short, Watts returns to the director’s chair for another Spider-Man installment and really does succeed in bringing a lot of spectacle and fun nuances to the film’s proceedings.
The film’s script, which was penned by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (both worked on the script for Homecoming) also aids in Far from Home’s likeability by keeping Spider-Man “adventures in Europe” to be quite fun and cinematically entertainment throughout the movie. At the heart of the story is an interesting emotional piece of what the character Peter Parker has to do and what he must ultimately become. He’s definitely not a normal teenager, but (sometimes) that’s all he wants to be. However, his gifted abilities as a superhero are pulling him in another direction, with Far from Home showcasing the titular moment where he must “step up” in being a superhero. This is especially noticeable with absent of his mentor / father figure of Tony Stark (Iron Man), who is no longer there to support the young hero with guidance. Additionally, the movie’s story also makes clear references to what happen in both Infinity War and Endgame, with the latter playing an important role in Spider-Man’s character growth in this movie. As a side-note, lets not forget the hilarious new name that Far from Home makes with Peter’s “Spider Sense” ability.
The overall technical presentation of Far from Home does certainly keep up the standards of the MCU blockbuster endeavor, which is highlight positive win in that particular category. Of course, the visual representation of a lot of the feature’s action and in the depictions of the four elemental creatures (as well as other fantastic elements) are definitely showcased in the correct amount of visual and spectacle, which it feels appealing to the eye. Though the effects don’t challenge those that were featured in past entries (i.e. Infinity War and Endgame), but do “keep up appearance” and do prove to be better than most summer blockbuster movies with large emphasis on CGI visuals. Another big highlight in Far from Home is in its location setting, with the film’s narrative taking place in several European cities, which were all filmed on the actual location. Thus, it’s kind of fun to see various European locales (i.e. London, Prague, Venice, etc.) being utilized in the movie’s backdrop setting and definitely is something different from the more standard superhero feature endeavor, which usually takes place somewhere in US. Additionally, the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Claude Pare (production designs), Tina Jones (set decorations), and Matthew J. Lloyd (cinematography) deliver quality work in their respective areas on this project, which certainly shows in the film’s final product. In addition, while the film’s score, which was composed by Michael Giacchino, is really good and definitely feels (melodically speaking) like a Spider-Man movie with its various tunes and signature melodies, Far from Home does boast a nice music song selection from various artists of the past, which definitely had a certain type of flavor to it all.
There are a few parts where Far from Home doesn’t quite “stick its landing” properly and comes up at bit short / wonky; making Homecoming (at least in my opinion) the better of the two MCU Spider-Man installments. Perhaps the biggest complaint I have (and I’m sure that might more people like me in this regard) is the “twist” that the Far from Home has in its narrative. While I won’t say what it is (as that would spoil the story / plot of the movie), but the actual twist itself seems vaguely familiar to what happened in another MCU movie, which was a big letdown in that particular film. Of course, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Far from Home is completely ruined by this twist in the narrative, but rather a somewhat letdown of sorts, especially since (if you can read between the lines of what I’m saying) was heavily promoted in the film’s marketing pre-release campaign. Thus, after watching Far from Home, I just can’t help but wonder (if this “twist” never occurred) what the movie would’ve been like. It certainly would’ve been something different and unconventional, but Marvel just seems to play it safe in that regard by sticking to a familiar plot device motive / aspect to work with.
Another problem I had with the film was the movie’s pacing. With so much hyped and beloved fandom over the character of Spider-Man, I was expecting a lot from this movie, but the feature’s overall pacing / progression movements was a bit slow…. most notably in the first act of the movie. Yes, I do understand a narrative has to take time to ultimately come together in a natural way, but the first half, despite the reintroducing of its characters and a new setting for the story (i.e. Europe), feels slow and a bit sluggish in certain points. More to the point…. the movie actually could’ve been expanded upon on certain things (i.e. storytelling, character moments, etc.). Thus, I felt that Watts (and by extension McKenna and Sommers) could’ve tightened the feature’s pacing to make it more energetic and snappier. Additionally, speaking of the film’s script, there are a couple of moments where Far from Home has some plot holes and / or some WTF moments, which aren’t fully explained or dissected enough. Thus, in a way to sum up these flaws, is that the Far from Home’s script could’ve been reworked / retooled in a better way than what was presented.
Much like Homecoming, the cast in Far from Home is great and certainly do make the film quite enjoyable, with almost every actor and actress adding a certain charm (in their own regard) to the superhero proceedings. Naturally, who certainly leads the charge of Far from Home, is none other than actor Tom Holland in the film’s main protagonist superhero character of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. While starring in other films like The Impossible, The Current War, and In the Heart of the Sea, Holland has certainly made a name for himself as Spider-Man within the MCU installments (or rather the MCU iteration of Peter Parker). I mentioned in the script, the character of Peter Parker is definitely well-portrayed once again, with Far from Home given a perfect platform story for the character to grow and evolve in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame’s outcome. The narrative works well in the film and does act as a wholesome endeavor for both the character and in entertainment value. This is aided by Holland’s performance, who definitely carries the movie on his shoulders, and certainly is capable of doing so; selling the awkward teenager angst and youthful personality that blends with the superhero nuances and the character’s ultimately vulnerability. Holland has a certain charm about him, which definitely has made his iteration of Peter Parker (and to his Spider-Man alter ego) a fan-favorite of the portrayals of the superhero characters. Here’s to hoping that Holland continues to play the character in the MCU for a long time, which is more than likely….and I love it.
Co-starring alongside Holland’s Parker is actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the character of Quentin Beck as the mysterious masked superhero named Mysterio. Known for his roles in Southpaw, Brokeback Mountain, and Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal acts as the MCU traditional “seasoned / veteran” to appear in these superhero cinematic installments and he certainly does a good job in the role as the “man of mystery” Quentin Beck. others, Gyllenhaal gives Far from Home a sense of theatrical acting gravitas and does add layer of intrigue within his characters. I can’t really divulge more into the character of Beck (as that would spoil the film), but the casting choice of Gyllenhaal in the movie is perfect and kind of fun to see him in a role like this. Plus, it’s kind of fun to see the character of Mysterio (costume and all) on the big-screen and in the MCU.
Behind Beck, the character of MJ, Peter Parker’s isolated / awkward classmate and future love interest, takes more of a prominent role in Far from Home than in Homecoming. Played by actress Zendaya (The Greatest Showman and Smallfoot), the character of MJ definitely plays an important part in all variations of Spider-Man and I was kind of waiting to see the relationship between her and Parker would to appear in the MCU portrayals of the character. Thankfully, the relationship definitely works in both as the classic romantic comic book couple as well as the MCU iterations of the respective characters; finding Zendaya’s dry humor to work perfectly well. Plus, Zendaya and Holland have good chemistry with each other and it definitely shows in Far from Home. Then there is the character Ned Leeds, who is Peter Parker’s best friend, who adds a certain type of comical levity in the film, with actor Jacob Batalon (Every Day and Blood Fest) reprising the role once again with a certain type of loveable charm with the character. Both of these characters (as expected) aid in Holland’s Parkers likeability and his character build; finding Zendaya and Batalon up to the task in their respective roles in the movie and adding fun nuances to the feature’s story.
The characters of Nick Fury and Maria Hill, who are played by Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight and Pulp Fiction) and actress Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) serve as secondary roles in Far from Home’s story; brining a sense of MCU continuity to the proceedings with their involvement. Of course, Jackson and Smulders have played these characters before (in the same capacity) and certainly easily slide back into these particular roles in the movie. wise, actress Marisa Tomei (The Big Short and My Cousin Vinny) and actor / director Jon Favreau (Couples Retreat and Chef) as Peter Parker’s aunt May and Tony Stark’s former driver / assistant Happy Hogan respectfully and certainly do had a certain fun and entertainment in their continuity involvement in the feature.
Rounding out the cast are several minor characters, including actress Angourice Rice (Every Day and The Nice Guys) as Betty Brant, actor Remy Hii (Crazy Rich Asians and Marco Polo) as Brad Davis, actor Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope) as Flash Thompson, actor Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks and Party Down) as Mr. Harrington, and actor J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm and Almost Christmas) as Mr. Dell. All of these characters make up the Parker’s student and facility members that accompany him, Ned, and MJ on their trip across Europe and, while fully developed into wholesome characters on their own, they do provide enough nuances to Far from Home’s story and narrative progression.
Lastly, as to be expected, Far from Home does have two post credit Easter egg scenes, with one being a mid-credit scene and the other at the very end. Without spoiling it, both scenes are quite good and definitely “tease” an interesting setup for both the character of Peter Parker and for the next phase saga of the MCU.
Spider-Man is back and on vacation in Europe; finding awkward teen love and battling elemental creatures in the movie Spider-Man: Far from Home. Director Jon Watts’s film sees the return of the MCU’s Peter Parker in his second standalone feature film; taking the already established character and familiar story to European vacation of sightseeing and fighting superhero baddies. While the movie’s twist is a bit of a letdown and the pacing is a bit off (at times), the overall presentation of the feature provides enough satisfying moments and nuances to mostly overlook those criticisms, especially in Watt’s direction, the backdrop setting, and the members of the cast (most notably from Holland and Gyllenhaal. Personally, I liked the movie. To me, the movie doesn’t beat out Homecoming, which I think is the better of the two, but only slightly. Still, looking past that, Far from Home delivers a fun and satisfying sequel to Homecoming that definitely fits the overall tone of the MCU portrayal of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. Thus, my recommendation for the movie would “highly recommended” as it’s a crowd-pleaser superhero feature that works (and works well) and cultivates another solid endeavor win for Marvel. The ending of Far from Home leaves the story of Peter Parker (and Spider-Man) in an interesting place and setting up future events for the MCU’s Phase IV saga that definitely will be intriguing to see play out in their the next chapter in Spider-Man, which will most likely happen in the Phase IV, as well as the future of Avengers superhero team-up entries. In the end, Spider-Man: Far from Home crafts a fun and great adventure from everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: July 2nd, 2019
Reviewed On: July 6th, 2019
Spider-Man: Far from Home is 129 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive content