Jon Watts’ ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ — A Review

Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Marvel have done a good job with Tom Holland. I guess given the age of most of the actors they work with (and the fact that many have been in the stable for approaching ten years) their characters tend to feel like uncles, even when they’re not sharing scenes with kids. You’ve got sarcastic uncle, and earnest uncle, and science uncle, and goofball uncle — the original Avengers. Don Cheadle’s prime uncle material, and Paul Rudd feels like the one who’s never quite got his shit together.

With Tom Holland they’ve finally found someone who can make a superhero feel like a son; and not just any, the ultimate precious soft boy who you just wanna clutch to your chest and reassure that everything’s going to be okay.

It’s why these films spend so much time beating on him. When superheroes are wounded in Marvel films they usually grit their teeth and grimly charge ahead, blood and dirt plastered across their face in a way that only seems to further accentuate their nobility. Not so with Spider-Man, they shoot him to look small and battered and broken. He’s usually on the brink of tears too.

They’ve basically had a big moment like that at least once in every movie he’s appeared in. The only hero currently being sold on the concept that they need protection as much as they’re able to provide it. It works so well, I think they realised a while ago that they don’t actually really need to give him that a character. I kinda hate that I fall for it as hard as I do.

Like, he’s got a crush on Zendaya which, come on, we all do, hardly original. But the way that this movie drags him outta the high school ecosystem and on a summer field trip with literally just his close circle of friends exposes the fact that there’s not all that much running underneath. We expect teenage shit to be full of petty drama, and that’s excusable, but outside the pressure cooker that motivates it none of it feels significant.

That comes expected in the wake of Endgame, I guess, though I’m feeling less and less charitable toward that movie as time goes on too. It didn’t really properly reckon with the impact of what I guess they’re now calling ‘the blip’, so who would expect this one to? It’s mostly explained away in an early school news report gag, and then nobody does any reckoning with the reality of the cosmic horror they were involved in.

All the main cast stay the same age, they were all removed from existence apparently, and they’re joined by a kid (Remy Hii)who aged up into their class while they were all dead. I don’t wanna be too morbid, but he shows no signs of the psychological damage you’d expect. It’s a weird choice when the entire film claims to be about how Peter is unable to cope with the death of his surrogate father figure.

Like, it’s explained early on that his heightened senses are starting to fail him, and I think it’s supposed to be a grief metaphor but the film doesn’t do any of the work to have it make sense or reflect in any meaningful way the complex condition of mourning.

It’s not that I wish the movie dived deep specifically into that (though sad and dark is a personal preference). I just wish it actually committed to anything it tries. It’s a bit about grief sure, but it’s also a bit about love (tracking three separate relationships over the running time), and also like this idea of superheroism as an act of performance and the implications of that.

Mysterio has arrived on Earth, a traveller from a parallel dimension in which the planet was destroyed by the unexplained manifestation of warring elemental creatures. He’s teamed up with Nick Fury to fight them and well, like he’s Mysterio and you’re kinda invited to suspect that something might be up. Jake Gyllenhaal coming to it with his own brand of slightly off kilter energy which, again, given how lightly sketched the character feels goes a long way toward making it watchable.

It’s not very well formed, but all these larger than life characters are sorta half-not-quite who they’re presenting themselves to be. And now, at a press type event Peter is being hounded by reporters as to whether he’s ready to take up Tony Stark’s mantle, and Stark gave him access to a fucking insane Earth satellite defence type program, and it’s like how in the world is he going to live authentically with all this craziness surrounding him.

I guess it just like starts on a path toward all of these things but gives up halfway through and never reaches a conclusion. The action’s mostly fairly rote, though there’s a couple stand out sequences, and considering this was shot on location around Europe, it makes very little use of what it has at its disposal. Claustrophobic feeling in a way that it shouldn’t be.

I guess Marvel are saying that this, not Endgame is the finale to their current phase of programming, and sure, it feels like a suitably underwhelming end to a year and a half of uneven output we’ll say. It’s unmoored, doesn’t feel like it really came from a specific place, doesn’t really feel like it’s leading anywhere. Does it just exist because Sony wanted something on their release schedule? Anybody know how much specific detail they had on the events of Endgame when they entered production?

I’ve probably been harder on this than I should, it’s fine, but as a definitive statement it just kinda feels like a shrug. It’s really not easy to summon up more passion for this film than that.

Spider-Man far from home is currently screening in UK cinemas.

Image courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment 


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