My very first official movie review for this blog was Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, so it seems oddly fitting that halfway through my first year I am sharing my thoughts on Spider-Man: Far From Home. Why is one hyphenated and the other not? I have no idea, but I am sure there is some expert out there that could give a sound reason for it. All I know is gone is the rather corny Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy of the early 2000s, and the depressing Marc Webb (I did not make that up) duo of 2012 and 2014. The last of this set of five movies, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, had the hilariously bad villain Electro (Jamie Foxx) among a whole host of moments I would rather forget. And so would Marvel, apparently. I have no clue how Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse fits into all this, and again apparently neither does Marvel.
Where Spider-Man: Far From Home shines is that it takes the seriousness of recent events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is distastefully shortened to MCU for those who like acronyms, unlike myself) and the light-heartedness of being a teenager like Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and strikes just the right balance between the two. All other iterations of the franchise failed to achieve this feat. If ever there was a heart to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
To watch Spider-Man: Far From Home, it helps if you have seen Avengers: Endgame. In fact, the trailer above comes with the caveat that it should only be seen if you have seen the latest Avengers film. I have already documented how I find the practice of relying on a previous film in order for your current one to make sense. But I will sum it up here in one word: lazy. Still, I found myself enjoying the newest installment of the web-slinger’s adventures because, again, unlike the older wall-crawler tales, it does not take itself too seriously, except when it has to do so. Never mind the fantastical idea of a human being imbued with the powers of a spider (and thank God they skip over the long origin story involved therein), there are some real struggles concomitant with giving a sixteen year-old kid the power the ability to toss an automobile like a rag-doll that the film handles beautifully. How does someone maintain being just a teenager when he has the power to help save the world? Not well.
The true heart of Spider-Man: Far From Home, however, comes from Parker’s search for a new father figure. With the passing of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Avengers: Endgame, Parker does not have that voice (sometimes literally) in his ear or at his side to help him figure out the best and most judicious way to apply his talents. In a sense, Iron Man’s death leads to Parker putting his former mentor on a god-like pedestal, and in a show of maturity decides he is not ready to accept that lofty mantle. Of course, there is what becomes (spoiler alert) the boneheaded move of handing control of Stark’s technology to Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Mysterio senses Parker’s desire for that role-model, thus getting our hero to drop his guard.
In the end, Spider-Man completes his arc by being reminded by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark’s former valet, of how their mutual friend truly felt about Parker. And once more I come back to the age-old notion, as I explained in my review of Yesterday, of our innate, God-given need for love. Stark did not want Parker to be the next Iron Man, just like our God does not want us to be Him. In both cases, trying to do so is impossible. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Stark summed it up best when he admonished Parker, “Don’t do anything I would do, but don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little gray area there. That’s where you operate.” When seen from a father-son/God-His people perspective, that “gray area” is you-being-you, and the rest is about love and honor. The beautiful part of Spider-Man: Far From Home is that it does not try to hit you over the head with this message.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is not without flaws, but they are minor plot points that go by the board in the face of the solid character of this film. Why would Mysterio pick Prague, Venice, and the middle-of-nowhere Mexico to start creating a global panic that would make him into an empty-suited hero and be a vehicle for his revenge on Stark? Beats me. But it is still worth seeing.
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