Review by Tim Robins
The Story: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever…
The Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home is not so much a roller coaster of a movie as an entire amusement park complete with shoot-the-Chutes, a Ferris wheel, and a hall of mirrors; the film even includes the coach to get you there.
As unruly, stumbling and over excited as an actual school trip, Spider-Man: Far From Home see Pete and the Parker pals travel to Europe, in a series of picaresque adventures. They’re spurred on by Nick Fury and Quentin Beck aka Mysterio aka the Master of Illusions, who are battling the Elementals, multi-verse monsters threatening the Earth. But don’t be fooled. All is not as it seems, even in the trailers which have featured scenes that never made it to the final cut, and maybe were never intended to: a pity, because I rather liked the scene where Tom Holland rushes up to a post office counter and asks, “Peter Parker to pick-up a passport, please?”
Another illusion has been created by on-line commentary and reaction to preview screenings. True, the film is an exciting, intermittently funny adventure, but only for the young children in your family. And that’s certainly the target audience; it was hard to tell who were making most use of their smart phones, the on-screen characters or the youngsters in the audience who could barely tear themselves away from the eerie glow of their on-line lives, before, after and, occasionally, during the film.
I can’t call Spider-Man: Far From Home a feel good movie because the movie just made me feel old. To some extent, the Marvel cinematic Universe has traded on the memories of old people. There is still the thrill of seeing characters that I recall from comic-books being brought to life in a bright, breezy way that’s far removed from the lumbering attempts of earlier decades.
The trade-off is that the new film is an MCU movie first and a Spider-Man movie second. Sam Rami’s Spider Trilogy is flawlesd, but it remains the best big-screen Spider-Man. The most heartfelt cheer from Far From Home’s the audience, in fact the only cheer, comes from JK Simmons reprising his role as J Jonah Jameson and proving that the newspaper proprietor of The Daily Bugle remains Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis.
Appropriately for a super-hero European vacation, Spider-Man: Far From Home is all over the place. Right from the get-go, I was struggling to grasp its tone. Eventually, I gave up and listened to the pop music to cue me in to whether or not, at that any given moment, I was expected to feel sad, happy, ironic, or smug. The director and cast also seemed to be struggling with the film’s tone too, not least J.B. (Curb Your Enthusiasm) Smoove, who plays one of the school teachers. At times, the comedian looks as if he wants to break loose and follow in the footsteps of Richard Pryor (Superman III) and Chris Rock (The Fifth Element), instead he gets to reprise ancient racist characters of African-Americans in Hollywood cinema –the teacher’s research interest in the history of witchcraft is a particularly terrible misstep.
There are those who think the MCU is meticulously planned, but a lot just seems made up as it goes along. Spider-Man: Far From Home was to be the start of ‘Phase Four’. Instead, it tries to tie-up loose ends from Avengers: Endgame. This means that half of Peter’s classmates have aged five years, while those who were returned to life have not aged at all. Unfortunately, Jacob Batalon (Peter’s pal Ned Leeds) looks considerably older than his 23 years. As for the rest, all the speculations about universe shaking revelations about the future of the MCU are entirely unfounded, although Peter Parker’s private life may never be the same again.
The trailer also lead me to expect a story-arc in which Spider-Man was given the role of the Avengers’ new Iron Man, rejects it and frees himself to become his own man. That doesn’t happen. As for the rest of the Avengers’ back story, I’ve had enough of Sgt Fury (Samuel Jackson) being dragged on screen whenever audience interest looks like flagging.
I did manage to squeeze some pleasure out of the film: we get a new battle cry, “Stay Sticky!”, an alternate spider identity – Night-Monkey” – born of Spider-Man’s hopeless attempts to disguise his identity and an excellent sequence that has Spider-Man battling multiple copies of himself.
I spent an inordinate amount of worrying that Spider-Man: Far From Home would be to Spider-Man: Homecoming what Moonraker was to The Spy Who Loved Me or, worse, that I would end up watching the superhero equivalent of those terrible British movies in which sitcom casts were bussed off on holiday in the name of big screen entertainment. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Far From Home never plumbs those depths. There’s no question what is being served up for the start of Summer entertainment- an MCU European Vacation for twelve year olds and like-minded adults.
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide.
His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip. He reviewed comics and films in posts and podcasts for The Mindless Ones until he became a net diva and forgot to name check the rest of the team at a San Diego Comic Con panel. The Mindless Ones gave him the nickname ‘Tymbus’
Warning: One brings back a fan favourite, the second offers a lesson in delegation – definite spoilers here!
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