‘Far From Home’ is a WTF Entry from the MCU
Spider-Man: Far from Home is far from good. MCU completists will dutifully nod in appreciation. Casual viewers will cock their head and lift a WTF eyebrow in web-wrapped confusion.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal
Running time: 129min
The movie is pleasant enough, breezy and fun, although it’s also strangely glib about death and destruction. Its characters’ almost blasé attitude towards the Thanos snap, here called “The Blip,” is normalized to the point of being a playful running gag. Maybe that’s a good thing, since it takes the piss out of the Marvel franchise’s self-serious melodrama. But viewers still weepy over Avengers: Endgame may suffer some serious emotional whiplash.
A lo-fi high-school video tribute to the dead Avengers, set to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” kicks off the opening and captures this oddball tone. It’s earnest, yet so hilariously maladroit and stiff. Imagine a teenager tasked with making an In Memorium montage to a distant deceased relative: awkwardly respectful, while also being completely inappropriate. For icons of 21st-century cinema, it’s borderline heresy. For comic book characters, it’s actually kind of perfect.
And as a snarky coda to dearly departed Tony Stark, it’s also pretty apt. Far From Home is all about Stark, the looming void that haunts Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and fuels his great-powers/great-responsibility onus about being Spider-Man. Problem is, Stark also haunts a slew of bitter ex-employees who form the crowd-sourced villainy at the core of the film. Hell hath no fury like an IT-geek scorned.
The film’s clear and present danger are the Elementals, earth/air/fire/water titans who wreak havoc on the planet earth. More importantly, they’re also spoiling Parker’s class trip to Europe. He wants to pack away Spider-Man for a few weeks, so he ghosts Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and suppresses his Spidey-sense. Or, in the words of sexy Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his “Peter tingle.” And hearing sexy Aunt May say that, by the way, is more than enough to give any pubescent male Marvel fan a serious peter tingle.
Thankfully, help comes in the form of Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a caped crusader wearing a fish-bowl helmet full of green mist. Italian news reports call him a man of mystery, so people dub him Mysterio. Quentin adopts it, too, since Beck-Man is a pretty lame moniker.
Mysterio helps Nick Fury face the Elementals, with an assist from Spider-Man and his new black-ops outfit. The new monochrome threads also earn him the name Night Monkey, which is hilarious. Forget Venom. More Night Monkey!
Anyway, complication follows complication, and suddenly the film morphs into some kind of pop-art treatise on Fake News. “They’ll see what I want them to see,” says the bad guy. “It’s not real!” one character yells. “Explain real to me,” retorts another. MJ even quotes George Orwell’s thoughts on the waning of objective truth. No one told me we’d be studying mid-century British journalists! Oh, well. This is high school, after all.
Cue the hologram projectors, illusion tech, and a Stark bereavement gift in the form of billion-dollar glasses called Edith that control killer drones. VR takes a front-and-center role in creating a shape-shifting reality that doesn’t require a fancy headset and works on millions of people. Which is preposterous and dumb. To paraphrase The Princess Bride: I don’t think that term means what you think it means.
But that’s okay, because Happy (Jon Favreau) is on hand to help Spider-Man and woo sexy Aunt May. Tony Stark may be dead but he clearly lives on. As does Spider-Man, at least until Tom Holland outgrows the role. Hang in there, Spidey fans. Stay sticky.