Saturday, July 6, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home


I think Far From Home is supposed to be the last MCU movie of the current phase, but after Endgame, it feels like starting the cycle all over again. All Endgame changed was the change implemented by Infinity War, and now we're back to our regularly scheduled MCU programming. Here come the Marvel jokes, the wasted potential, the overused CGI, and worst of all, the obligation to make the sequel "bigger."

5 years later, and still waiting on a movie worthy of this guy.

So, we get an enhanced rehash of the first movie that lacks the grounding that the Queens neighborhood provided before. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) goes international when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) hijacks Peter's class trip to Europe so he can help Jake Gyllenhaal fight elemental monsters from an alternate universe. With a little doing from the writers, Peter's class country-hops along with him, getting into danger with every fight so he has something real to worry about. That, and whether he's ever going to find a moment to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her. 

Though the last movie's romance was much more integrated in the story, at least we get to be invested in Peter's crush on MJ because she comes with the promise of a future built in. Tom and Zendaya are a great paring. Very cute; lots of chemistry. I would've happily watched a whole movie about them. But no such luck. The movie does what all MCU movies do and gives us the bare minimum of relationship progress and just enough cute moments to keep people like me from rioting. MJ shares the "sidekick" slot with Jacob Batalon's Ned, and they both play second fiddle to Mysterio and Nick (and even Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan) and the threat that's at hand.

Instead of Peter having to figure out how to superhero during the tour, the tour is catered to his superheroing.

The threat is handled well with only a few corners cut, which is nice since it takes so much precedence. There was one scene of blatantly unnecessary exposition that, as far as I was concerned, didn't do a good enough job conveying motivation to justify the length and detail it goes into. Props to the writers for trying to think so deeply, but it wasn't worth all the trouble. Then the monsters are ho-hum; merely functional as things to fight. There are also some Mysterio-style psychedelic moments that are cool, if overly CGI. One was exactly like the title sequence of a Daniel Craig James Bond movie. As far as classic Spidey-style fight choreography, not much to speak of. The scene where Peter fights in his street clothes was probably the best.

As objectively fine as all this big, expanding stuff is, I couldn't help but miss the down-to-earth quality that Homecoming strove hard to maintain while the franchise breathed down its neck. Now the franchise has taken over, and even threatens to make Pete the next "Iron Man" -- having him use Stark tech for all his superhero needs, and even imitate Tony's style of interacting with the smart computer. At one point he gets stranded, but Happy and a Stark plane is only a phone call away. I missed the moments where he has to work out the problem on his own, without anyone to call or tell him what to do. Because that's what's compelling about Spider-Man.

(They trashed Karen without a word of explanation, but even she is preferable to humans trying to dictate his every move.)

Those are the times you see how smart, capable, and determined he can be, even though he's just a scared teen. Sans those moments, this Spidey is dumber than ever, and hardly seems capable of doing anything that isn't either a giant mistake or cringe-worthy. And in one unnecessary sequence that made me want to die, he does both. He also runs out of webbing for no reason so that the final battle would be an even match. The real-life stunts are severely lacking, the CGI'd suit more distracting than ever, and Tony Stark's name is defamed for the sake of plot; the whole movie is just a mess. Homecoming was a mess too, yes, but smaller and more personalized. 

Far From Home is exactly what you'd expect a more-of-the-same sequel to Homecoming to be, except in one important aspect: Because Homecoming won me over by making his fight personal, and making him face the villain alone and downgraded. There was no such winning hero-moment in this. They rehashed everything but failed to recreate the magic of that film's third act. This one's third act is good; fine. The MCU formula assures that. But it lacks grounding, personality; heart. The movie is bigger, and the winning moments are smaller. They're contained to fleeting moments and occasional one-on-one, CGI-free scenes of dialogue. Peter and MJ. Peter and Happy. Peter and Mysterio. 

Of course it breezes by all the moments that I wanted to linger.

The Peter/Mysterio scenes are quite good. I forgot to mention but Jake Gyllenhaal is dynamic and compelling and an extremely welcome presence here. A little more romance, a little more overall focus, and just one more moment for a little heart, and I may have been won over instead of frustrated. If it seems a small thing; yes. That's exactly my point. Far From Home is too big, too formulated, and too distracted from what matters; missing too many of the small, little, lovable pieces that make Spider-Man great.

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