SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice
Directors: Jon Watts
Runtime: 129 minutes
Release Date: 2nd July 2019
Jo S: It's impossible, and will be impossible for some time yet, to talk about any movie in the MCU without at some point making comparisons and connections with Avengers: Endgame but in Far From Home, perhaps even more than anywhere else, the shadow of that epic record-smashing towering triumph of a movie is unavoidable, not least because the scenery is peppered throughout with imagery reminding us continually of the final loss of that story. Iron Man and Tony Stark are everywhere: from the huge mural a building high, to his parting handwritten message to Peter Parker. We can't continue to hold all films to the Endgame benchmark though - we would likely live in perma-disappointment and it would be an injustice if this film were not to receive its due accolades as an outcome of its cinematic parent's overshadowing.
Set after the 'Blip', the movie takes up Peter Parker's story after the funeral, as those returned from Thanos' temporary annihilation - unchanged and effectively five years younger than the world they were missing from - are settling back into their lives, dealing with the peculiarities of having been time-shifted. It's great to see Peter's friends take a larger role here: as with Spider-Man: Enter The Spider-Verse, this does a fine job of emphasising how much Spidey is really just a kid, an awkward, hormonal, stressed out teenager who just wants to get the girl and be happy and not have to save the Earth again today, thank you.
The Midtown High School science trip to Europe appears to begin innocuously enough but it quickly becomes clear that strange things are afoot in the cities of Europe, and Peter is dragged, very much against his will, into a maelstrom of rescues, battles, panic and avoiding recognition, while all the other players, who should have his best interests at heart seem to want to subvert his choices to their own ends at every turn.
There's a vivid theme throughout about fake news, about spinning folks the story they think they want to hear rather than the uncomfortable truth, and about deciding where to place one's trust. The Captain Marvel movie played a neat trick on us recently, playing on our perhaps innate tendency to trust those who look like us over those who are different, and a similar subterfuge plays out eloquently here, with Peter falling for a story hook, line and sinker: to me this shouts of how desperately he needs the guidance that Stark gave him previously, but which neither Nick Fury nor Happy Hogan are able to fully replace.
Tom Holland is quite simply astonishing in this movie. He has the range of an actor with decades of experience, truly able to embody the webslinger in all his smart, nerdy, awkward, emotional, anxious, glorious action hero modes. His red-eyed, charged emotion when Peter is under stress is so intense I almost felt it physically but he turns his hand to phenomenal action sequences and whip-crack comedy pacing with just as much ease: he really is MY Spider-Man. His supporting cast are ace too, Happy Hogan and Aunt May, both loving and both mourning; Angourie Rice and Jacob Batalon as school friends Betty and Ned, and the marvelous Zendaya as rapier-sharp but socially awkward MJ, the ideal foil for Peter: all provide a steady platform for Holland to bounce off, and bounce, fly, zip and THWIP he does.
The action scenes and effects are flawless: whilst I love seeing Spider-Man in the suit Stark designed for him, it was a treat to see him intent while designing his own version, but equally fun to see him in a black ops style stealth costume, and even jumping from post to post over a Venice canal in his normal-teenager's normal day-wear, fighting to keep masonry from crushing bystanders whilst wearing sneakers like an ordinary guy.
My only notable criticism was that an element of the story was revealed in the main trailer, and this affected how I viewed a particular plotline as I watched; without further spoilers though, I wondered if even this was done deliberately in a bait-and-switch type move; whilst I was waiting for one thing to happen, I missed another misdirection occurring - well played, Jon Watts, if that's what you were going for!
I'll need a further watch of this to pick up a few more Easter eggs, but fan service was definitely well-attended to, both in terms of those little blink-and-you'll-miss-'em details such as license plates referencing key Spider-Man comics, and in terms of careful tying in with characters from other MCU movies.
I feel a need to remove Infinity War and Endgame from the scale. They weigh too heavy; they change the calibration of the rating of movies such as this. This isn't Endgame - and why should it be? Comparison with Endgame is an impossible responsibility to lay on the shoulders of a film about a teenager trying to tell a girl he likes her whilst not letting the world be destroyed by mindless elemental monsters. So let's give Spidey a break here: this is a great movie; it's pacey, it's fun, it's full of action and emotion and, by Thor, Tom Holland is an absolute treasure. 8/10.