Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home lowers the bar for the MCU.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the first film after Avengers: Endgame, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and the final film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a gamechanger when it came to the world of the web-slinger so needless to say, Spider-Man: Far From Home had some very big shoes to fill. There is no hiding the fact that I was incredibly disappointed by Spider-Man: Homecoming. I found the film to be more of an Iron Man sequel than a Spider-Man movie. In addition, the film was filled with lazy John Hughes references and lame jokes that just fell flat. I warmed up to Tom Holland as Spider-Man thanks to his appearance in Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War because I felt like within those films he really made the character come to life. I was hoping with Far From Home it would be a Spider-Man movie that would focus on Spider-Man but sadly once again, that isn’t the case.
Spider-Man: Far From Home picks up soon after the events of Avengers: Endgame where Peter Parker has returned to high school and is trying to get back to his life as a normal teenager. He makes it a priority to put his superhero responsibilities on hold for the summer as he embarks on a European field trip with Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), and several other classmates. Peter still has a major crush on MJ and hopes to win over her heart while they are together in Europe. Unfortunately, soon after arriving, an Elemental attacks Venice. Thinking that he is the only one who can protect his friends from danger, Peter springs into action to stop the Elemental from destroying the city. However, this time around, Peter isn’t alone as a new superhero named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows up and saves the day (and the spotlight).
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has raised the bar when it comes to superhero movies. You honestly cannot talk about any superhero movie nowadays without hearing about how the MCU has redefined the comic book movie and set the bar for the genre. This is part of the reason why it is so upsetting to see something like Spider-Man: Far From Home. The story, direction, acting, humor, and visual effects are nowhere near as good as any of the recent string of MCU films. In fact, Spider-Man: Far from Home is such a massive step down for the MCU that I found it to be even worse than Spider-Man: Homecoming which is quite the achievement because I thought that Spider-Man: Homecoming was on par with Spider-Man 3 as the worst Spider-Man film to date.
After tweeting my initial reaction after the screening, I received a slew of emails, texts, and facebook messages asking me “what do you have against Spider-Man?” The answer is nothing. I like the character of Spider-Man, always have. I remember watching Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in theaters back in 2002. I saw it several times and loved it. The same can be said about the sequel. However, Spider-Man 3 left a bad taste in my mouth because I didn’t like the whole EMO Peter Parker storyline and thought that Venom was completely wasted. This isn’t anything new and I believe most would agree with me on this.
Then a few years later, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came along. I really enjoyed these films even though I knew that they were incredibly flawed but Andrew Garfield’s take on the web-slinger was the best yet. He fit the role and I loved his whole approach to playing the character. The Amazing Spider-Man films felt like the campy comic book films from the 90s and made me feel like a kid again. Those films were often criticized because the writers tried to cram way too much into two films as a way to set up all these spin-off films which never saw the light of day.
When it was revealed that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was never going to happen and Andrew Garfield stepped away from the character, I was sad. I wanted them to close out the trilogy but alas that never happened. They talked about rebooting the franchise and this is when Tom Holland became involved. Holland looks the part and fits the role. He was a great choice to play this iconic character. I don’t have a problem with Holland and feel like he really brings a level of authenticity to the character. My biggest problem is with the studio and how they have not yet let Holland have his own Spider-Man movie. Homecoming and now, Far From Home feel like extensions of other films in the MCU and don’t work as standalone films. They rely on characters from these other films to carry the film. Spider-Man had multiple films before the MCU where he was the title character and the focus was on him, why can’t we give Holland his own Spider-Man adventure without having to bring in characters like Happy and Tony Stark?
What is more upsetting is that this is all part of the story and the plot. This film opens with an in-memoriam of the lives lost in Endgame. I would have been fine with this scene if the joke stopped there but instead, the film constantly reminds the audience of it. Like there are photos of Tony Stark everywhere and several characters even ask about other characters in the MCU randomly. I don’t know why the writers couldn’t just use the first few minutes of Far from Home to address some of the lingering Endgame questions and move on, but sure enough, it feels like the studio doesn’t believe in the character enough for him to hold his own movie.
Just like with Homecoming, Tony Stark, although never appearing in the actual film, plays a pivotal role in the story. A big part of the plot revolves around a pair of glasses that Tony Stark leaves for Peter. These glasses contain a new type of AI called EDITH and are only to be used by Peter or a person that he deems worthy of using them. When are we going to see a Spider-Man film where he doesn’t have to use a piece of Stark technology? Why is it that characters from Iron Man can’t seem to stay out of these films? Happy turns out to have a rather significant role in this entry as does Nick Fury. It would have been nice to see Peter Parker find his footing without having to rely on all these Stark plot devices and characters to move the story forward.
I would also like to point out that the film as a whole is incredibly uneven and inconsistent. The first half of Far from Home is pretty much a comedy with a slew of unfunny jokes that feel like they are all ripped out of various movies from the 80s and 90s. The second half is overly bloated because there is barely anything that happens in the first half matters in the second half. The second part of the film is where most of the action occurs and where the writers bring up some good ideas that just don’t get to be explored as much as they should have.
Another thing that absolutely annoyed me about Far from Home is that the film thinks it’s just so damn clever. I constantly felt like the screenwriters, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, were winking at the audience. It sort of felt like someone was sitting next to me during the entire film and banging their elbow into my side saying “do you get it? do you get it?” I don’t think this would have been as annoying if the jokes and the humor weren’t so infantile. Seriously, the type of humor found within this film feels like something you would find in a Nickelodeon movie. There is this whole bit on the airplane where Peter wants to change seats in order to sit next to MJ. He goes out of his way to make up a story that he has a perfume allergy which results in his teacher Mr. Harrington getting involved even though there is a seat open right next to MJ the entire time.
Speaking of the teachers, one of the run on gags in the film is that Mr. Harrington didn’t do any research before planning this trip to Europe. When they first arrive in Venice, they get to their hotel that is practically underwater. There are other scenes where Harrington plans on going to a museum and it is closed until the fall for renovations. Are we as audience members really suppose to buy into this level of stupidity? Are we supposed to believe that the two teachers who planned an entire European vacation for a bunch of their students didn’t bother to take the time to research hotels and know what is open? Give me a freaking break.
While we are on the topic of the teachers, why is it that Mr. Bell and Mr. Harrington don’t seem to notice that Peter keeps running off? Like all of the students notice it as they travel all around Europe and there are barely any situations or group activities where Peter is there to participate. Also, why are the teachers portrayed as bumbling idiots? Mr. Bell keeps saying the same lines over and over again while Mr. Harrington keeps dropping things and talking about how he got upgrades. I just don’t get who read this script and said: “now, that’s funny.”
This leads me to Jake Gyllenhaal, who is one of my all-time favorite actors, and the best thing about this film. I have been a fan of Gyllenhaal since October Sky and have no problem admitting that Bubble Boy is one of my favorite comedies of all-time. Jake Gyllenhaal just like Michael Keaton in Homecoming is the best part of the film. While Vulture’s backstory in Homecoming was better crafted than that of Mysterio, it is hard to deny that Mysterio is the cooler character and one that is a lot more interesting. Gyllenhaal did what he could with the role given the source material. I would have liked to see him be a bit more menacing and maniacal but there is just too much going on that I felt like the script lacked the focus of any character, not just Mysterio. It would have been nice to see this character fleshed out a bit more as the screenplay doesn’t necessarily do a great job of building and developing Mysterio’s backstory. Instead, it felt thrown together and just shoehorned in without enough detail.
The Sony/Marvel Studios collaborations are lacking in the visual effects department when compared to the Disney/Marvel Studios projects. I don’t know why this is per se but Homecoming and Far From Home featured several sequences that just looks so incredibly dated. It was like the CGI technology being used on these films is nowhere near as high of quality as the ones being used for something like Endgame or Doctor Strange. I do think the special effects in the second half of the film were better than the first half but they still weren’t as impressive considering the budget.
I went into Spider-Man: Far From Home hoping to have a good time and walked out very angry. My friend asked me what I thought of the movie as soon as it ended and I responded, “it was fucking atrocious.” The reason I had that reaction is that when you see a studio like Marvel raises the bar, not only for their films but Blockbusters in general, I find it insulting when they try to release something so mediocre and flawed. Marvel Studios has built such a loyal and dedicated fanbase that people seem to praise everything they do even when the quality of filmmaking, storytelling, visuals, and everything is below the bar that they themselves initially set. Even critics who see the flaws tend to go easy on them or look past them.
My question is how can anyone who has seen and praised Into the Spider-Verse watch this film and say “oh yeah, this is just as good?” I know the quality of filmmaking varies and everyone has their own opinion but sometimes we have to take off our fandom glasses and hold these studios accountable for less than average products. If we keep overlooking the flaws of these big films which make most of the money, then we are supporting and allowing cinema and storytelling to decline. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy Spider-Man: Far From Home if it speaks to you but I am solely asking you to be aware of how its quality and the level of praise sets the bar for what is next to come. As a film lover and critic, I believe that the audience deserves more than this and that is why I cannot support or recommend this film despite being a big fan of the studio and a lot of these actors.