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Guest post: Movie Review: Spider-man Far From Home

July 12, 2019 Jay Kim 11 min read No Comments

The opening scene for Far From Home doesn’t feature Spidey fighting a bad guy. We don’t see shenanigans with Peter and Ned returning. Instead, we are greeted with a tribute to Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, and a humorous montage of what happened when half of the population was wiped out and brought back 5 years later(known as the blip). We understand that in Spider-man Far From home, the characters aren’t ignoring the consequences of Thanos, but they will definitely lighten the mood.

It’s hard for me to discuss the movie without delving into spoilers, so before I go and ruin the movie for everyone here are some quick takes.

The movie is good, and I recommend watching it. The choreography for the movie is phenomenal, particularly during the climactic battle where Spider-man uses his web to do more than bind enemies and swing.

We really get a deeper sense of Peter Parker in Spider-man Far From Home. While Peter doesn’t have as many quips as we are used to seeing (in Civil War someone comments “You know most people don’t talk this much during a fight”), the movie exceeds at capturing his boy genius (“never apologize for being the smartest in the room”) and awkward nerd (when Peter reveals his convoluted plan to ask out Michelle/MJ).

Jake Gyllenhaal (Beck/Mysterio) played the part of a fish out of water incredibly well. However, MJ, Ned, Fury, Flash, Brad Davis, and the rest of the supporting cast all seem to fall flat, relying on tropes more than actual characterization. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, as it gives space for Parker to really grow into a person.

It’s a bit of a shame that the movie doesn’t explore Parker and Ned’s relationship more, but it does develop a lot with Beck, MJ, and even Happy. Plus, you have to love the awkward tension between Parker and MJ as he tries to maneuver between being friends and dating.

While the first act does a spectacular job of setting up characters and plot hooks, the second act feels rushed. (Don’t worry, we are still in a no spoil zone.) It’s like the movie tries to take every plot hook from the first act and resolve it so that it can establish more hooks to resolve in the second act. But this means that a lot of the nuanced characters fall into stereotypes.

I would have enjoyed the movie more if it had a longer running time, or if the first act was shorter to let the second act develop. As it stands, the first act lasts almost an hour of the two hour run time, and the second act only lasts about 30 minutes. While there aren’t Dark Knight Rises amounts of speeches, there are a good amount of exposition dumps in short bursts.

Before going into spoilers, this movie features a lot of “I can’t” attitude from Peter Parker, a far cry from every other appearance of Spider-man. But, you know what? It doesn’t feel out of place. After seeing what he had to go through, from Civil War to End Game, it is understandable that Peter would shift from “I can drop out of school to be an Avenger” to “Why not get any of the other Avengers to help”.

With that being said, I heavily recommend the movie. It’s a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are lots of cool gadgets that expand from Homecoming, fun characters, pretty settings, and great action.

Spider-man has had a lot of cool suits over the years. In a lot of ways, his costume helps define his character, and the producers behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe know this. So why, WHY, do they not let Spider-man have nice things? I know I’m being tedious, but let’s just break down MCU Spider-man for a quick minute.

Civil War: FINALLY, Spider-man is introduced to the MCU. Iconic suit. A grand entrance. Lots of excitement

Homecoming: Him in his normal suit from Civil War. Has a little bit of technology, but nothing fancy. However, we learn that the suit can do a lot more when the “training wheel” protocol is turned off. 500+ different types of web shooters? Including taser and exploding? Recon mode? An AI he can talk too? A drone? Kill-freaking-mode?

In Homecoming there is this great scene where Tony Stark tells Peter, “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” Peter realizes that he is ALWAYS Spider-man, not just when he puts on his costume.

Infinity War: Enter – Iron Spidey. When the suit flys off into space, attaches itself to a passed out Parker, and AUTOMATICALLY ATTACHES ITSELF with that iconic red-blue color scheme, I squealed. Then the spider legs appeared. We learn the suit is intuitive. We see the nano helmet retract the same way Iron Man’s does. And…we have to share the movie with 3 other plot lines.

That’s fine. I understand. It’s an Avengers movie, not Spider-man. But we barely see him use the fancy suit. He uses Iron Spidey exactly twice and then he gets snapped. So we are forced to wait. Maybe we’ll see the full power of the suit in…

End Game: This is the FIRST TIME we see what the suit can do, and the most we get is “Engaging Kill mode.” We see him with the gauntlet for all of two minutes to pass it off to someone else? No grand entrance. No 30 second clip of him showing off what the suit can do—a suit that we have been teased with since the end of Homecoming. You know what? Fine. Fine, I get it. Far From Home will come out soon. End Game is an ode to the original Avengers. We’ll see what he can do in Far From Home, right?

Far From Home:There he is in his Iron Spidey Suit. Just…standing there…Is this a self-help group? It is!” No heroics. He doesn’t fight crime. He’s packing to go on vacation. Why does he ignore his nano-suit? Why is his regular suit in his suit case? In Europe he gets a new suit. (Sweet!) Does it turn him invisible like Miles Morales? It’s black so will it pay homage to the symbiote suit? Wait…it’s just a regular suit? Apparently it’s considered “stealth” because he doesn’t look like the red-and-blue Spider-man…

Later in the film he designs a new suit. We hear parts of what he mutters, and the suit sounds like it’ll be cool. We see him use the taser once, and the wings (which we saw in Homecoming)…

Why did MCU take the whole “If you’re nothing without the suit…” thing so literally?

Yes, it was important for his growth, but he’s grown. Let him play with his new toys! Let him use the cool suit! Why introduce the Iron Spidey suit if he only wears it for a combined 30 minutes across all of his movies (and even less with it in action?). It’s hilarious. Even when Peter fights Mysterio, he’s not in the Iron Spidey suit. Beck never learns that the Iron Spidey exists!

This is a problem with every iteration of Spider-man. I JUST WANT TO SEE SPIDER-MAN BE COOL WITH ALL HIS GADGETS!

Ok, now that I’m off the costume train, let’s talk about Beck/Mysterio. As a fish out of water, his character was great. I love that he fills the void that Stark left in Peter’s life, and he did it like a loving father. We see hints of this also in Homecoming, when Adrian (Vulture) interacts with Peter after learning his true identity. Both Beck and Adrian were better at being fathers than Stark was, and Far From Home plays off of that. Subtly, Peter looks for a father figure in Happy, who he can’t truly connect with, Fury, who will always have a relationship based around the Avengers, and then Beck.

Beck offers everything Peter needs, someone who understands the dichotomy of living a normal life and a hero life, and more importantly, identity. To Fury, he is Spider-man. To Ned, he’s Peter. To Beck, he’s both. Something about Beck makes him very relatable and charismatic. But…

It’s too obvious that Mysterio is a bad guy. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in Spider-man knows that Mysterio is a villain. He’s a prolific villain in the Spidey-verse (and fun trivia, was also going to be played by Bruce Campbell in Spider-man 4, before Amazing Spider-man happened). While you could have some head canon to explain how he’s not actually a bad guy, at the back of your head, you know he is. I get that the twist is there because Mysterio is all about illusions. And I assume that a good chunk of people wouldn’t know who Mysterio was. My complaint isn’t about that twist. My complaint is twofold. One, Beck turns into an objectively more boring character after the reveal, and two, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU MAKE THE SET UP TO THE TWIST THAT LONG? The turn comes in after about an hour of the movie—I repeat, they tried to do too much in the first act.

1. Beck as an inter-dimensional hero: To do this they have to establish Beck and the elementalists. The elementalist characters are introduced incredibly well. All three of the elementalists serve a very specific purpose. The first one hints at their existence. The second introduces Beck as a hero. And the third solidifies Beck. The thing is, by going all in on this, they have to make both elementalist fights long. The fights have to feel like Peter and Beck may lose, because if they don’t give it stakes, then it becomes too obvious that Beck is a bad guy. They could have condensed the elementalist portion of the movie, and make the twist hit less, to make it a more coherent movie.

Yes, this means that Beck wouldn’t be as charismatic as he is presented. Yes, it means that the twist isn’t as M. Night Shyamalan-ian because it would be more heavily fore-shadowed. But it also means we can spend more time with Beck, instead of a character who, spoiler alert, doesn’t even exist.

2. Brad Davis as a love antagonist: Step 1: Establish Peter’s interest in MJ. Boom, done in 30 seconds. Step 2: Establish Brad as the antagonist. The airplane scene was a little heavy-handed, given the exposition dump of how every girl wants Brad, the mirroring of what Brad does and what Peter’s plan was, then the Italy montage of Brad with MJ, culminating in the picture scene. At this point, this subplot finally goes somewhere. Except…it doesn’t. By the time we get to the opera scene, it is painfully clear that MJ is into Peter and not Brad.

Which means the airplane scene? Pointless. The Italy montage? Pointless. Both of those scenes served as red herrings to show that Peter has competition. And if the movie was supposed to revolve around this dichotomy, then those scenes would have been perfect. But it is a subplot, that, in the end, serves to just show how hard it is for Peter to want to live a normal life and a hero life. All Brad does is make it so that there is a sense of conflict when Peter has to choose between hero and school. But that same pressure is still there with or without Brad.

One could make the argument that the attempt at Brad’s life was a way to exemplify Peter’s immaturity (Fury does bring it up, after all). But it actually highlights his incompetency at being concise, since he never had the intention of killing Brad. That scene needed to serve one purpose: Peter deletes the picture off of Brad’s phone, and the scene is then played with a lot of slapsticks for laughs.

You could argue that it was foreshadowing the doctored footage at the end, but I’m not sure that is something that needs to be foreshadowed anyway. It’s not like this was the only example of Peter fumbling with words. Brad’s entire character should have been downplayed A BUNCH. He just needed to exist for there to be a sense of urgency for Peter. He didn’t need to be a fully fleshed out character.

3. Peter Parker as the new Iron-Man/Peter’s confidence issue: This concept is shoved down our throats the ENTIRE first act. The first time we see Spider-man he is screening calls from Fury because he doesn’t want to deal with what Fury has to say. Then in that same scene, he is overwhelmed at an interview. Then the very next scene shows Aunt May telling him to pack his suit, which he refuses. He even stares at the Iron Spidey suit, which, as mentioned above, feels like a slap in the face.

While all of this is happening, everywhere he goes, there’s picture of Iron Man. He tells Fury multiple times that he doesn’t want to be an Avenger, just a friendly neighborhood Spider-man. If there is one takeaway from this movie, it’s that Peter has zero confidence in himself. While this development is important for Peter and future Avenger movies, the MCU hammered this idea in too much, too soon.

Because of how long the first act is, the second act has the monumental job of taking these threads and quickly turning them into a coherent movie. Which means, quick exposition dump as Beck devolves from likable, fairly complex character to angry-yelling for the rest of the movie (seriously, it was like an evil twin killed the original Beck).

It also heavily downplays Brad’s role, where he goes from this charming (and manipulative) guy, to Peter-obsessed and the butt of jokes.

Peter’s confidence issue persists throughout the second act, and is actually the only thing that they play off of well, especially with the hallucination scene (when he is in front of Iron Man’s grave, and Beck says “If you were a little stronger, maybe he’d still be alive” was met with “Oh that’s messed up” throughout the theater). I don’t mind that it’s a Dark Knight speech that he gets from Happy that finally gives him confidence. But it does feel rushed.

Which brings us to the theme. On the surface, the movie seems to focus on how Peter is always Spider-man and always Peter. Peter constantly has to choose between enjoying his vacation or saving the world. But on a deeper level, the movie tries to prepare us for Peter to be the new Stark, the new leader of the Avengers. Which makes the other theme of the movie, ultimately, pointless.

My comments on Spider-man Far From Home are nit-picky, for sure, but at the end of the day, the movie was cool.

Two scenes in particular really stand out. One is at the last fight scene, where he is creating webs to capture the drones and really utilize his strategic mind. And the other is the scene right before it, when he’s in the plane creating his suit. Like I mentioned, the choreography is really cool, and it’s awesome watching Beck fight the elementalists. The hallucination scene is done really well. There are lots of little nods (each elementalist is accompanied by numbers somewhere in the background which denotes the issue that the monster’s inspiration came from.)

I hope that the next Spider-man movie will have more depth. I want to explore more of this Peter’s past. Aunt May is a strong character, unlike the May’s in the previous two iterations, and we know nothing about Uncle Ben except he owned a suitcase that Peter uses. The hallucination scene, and the last fight between him and Mysterio hints at a more mature Spider-man in the near future. And the mid-credit scene shoves Peter into a high-stress situation.

The progression of Ned and Betty’s relationship feels like a fitting metaphor for this movie: a nice summer fling, that ultimately, led nowhere. Hopefully, the next time we see Spider-man, the movie will be both entertaining, and meaningful.

Report Card: Spider-man Far From Home
Characters: B+
Animation/Acting: A
Plot: C
Overall Score: B+

Meet the author
Jay Kim
Software Engineer

Jay is an avid board-game collector, gamer, and musician. Drums, guitar, piano, and ukulele are just a few of the instruments he plays. He loves to be outdoors and likes to rock climb, listen to music, and test out his cooking skills on a grill. His dream vacation would be a road trip with someone special.

Favorite band: Neutral Milk hotel
Favorite book: Tuesdays With Morrie
Favorite quote: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." Martin Luther King, Jr.


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