“Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019)
Running time: 129 minutes
Written by: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed by: Jon Watts
Featuring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal
Nick Fury: “We have a job to do, and you’re coming with us.”
Peter Parker: “There’s gotta be someone else you can use. What about Thor?”
Nick Fury: “Off-world.”
Peter Parker: “Captain Marvel.”
Maria Hill: “Unavailable.”
Peter Parker: “I’m just your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.”
Nick Fury: “Bitch, please! You’ve been to space.”
It may be difficult to believe but the year is only just past the halfway mark and audiences are staring down the barrel of the third MCU movie released this year after the middling but box office hit “Captain Marvel” (2019), the global blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) which also acted as a full stop on the previous twenty MCU movies as well as a send-off for a few beloved characters, directly illustrating what is possible when a vision is enacted as well as followed through on in what must be the biggest franchise in movie history. Now the second Tom Holland ‘Spider-Man’ movie as well as the second Jon Watts directed entry is released with “Spider-Man: Far from Home” (2019) which also acts as an epilogue to the events in a post ‘Iron Man’ world with a definite eye on the future with the guarantee that Spider-Man will remain a firm fixture in the MCU no matter the plans property owner Sony has for the supporting characters such as ‘Venom’ and the forthcoming “Morbius, the living Vampire” (2020) movie. “Spider-Man: Far from Home” also pushes the overall narrative of the character further in one movie than the previous Andrew Garfield efforts was able to do with some great character moments interspersed with the action that as you would expect in a MCU movie is massive. Of course, this is far from a perfect movie with a villain that seems a little underserved even though actor Jake Gyllenhaal gives it his best with a performance that illustrates how gifted he is with a broad canvas to paint on. The other major criticism is that like the previous movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) it sometimes feels that the titular character is a guest star in his own movie, however with some of the third act revelations it appears now that the next movie will definitely be completely ‘spider-centric’.
After the previous iterations comes the newly crowned Spider-Man in the form of young English actor Tom Holland who is probably the closest in age to Peter Parker than either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield ever were, as well as being fresher of face and quite an original choice. After the two failed “Amazing Spider-movies” both critically and ultimately financially, it seemed rights owners Sony had dug themselves into a bit of a hole – with that desperation Kevin Feige pounced (him the overlord of the MCU at Disney) was able to strike a deal that allowed Disney to use the character in (introducing Tom Holland) “Captain America” Civil War” (2016), then steering the direction of this new Spider-Man movie into a much better proposition – one that people will actually like as well as making money at the box-office – it would seem they have succeeded in both. I have to say here that is not only a great Spider-Man movie but an exceptional comic book movie, something Warners could still take a lesson from after the last half hour of “Wonder Woman” (2017).
This movie begins in In New York City, at the Midtown School of Science and Technology which restarts its academic year to accommodate the students who were among those resurrected by Bruce Banner eight months earlier. The school organizes a two-week summer field trip to Europe. From this point there is much to unpack in terms of plot as well as setting up a story that unfolds quickly with a movie playing respect to what has gone before in the wider MCU Universe as well as paying off some of the leftover parts of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. We see real relationships forming as well as new characters introduced that will pave the way for the future, in this way it is a little like a lot of setup with threads left dangling, something it has in common with many superhero movies. This is not a negative at all but it is the world we live in with many superhero movies taking a page out of their comic book counterparts in segmenting a larger narrative.
I do have to admit that when the original creative team was announced I was not looking forward to the result, the director Jon Watts, was yet another independent film maker, as well as the writing team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. With this new movie that director has returned as he should as with that original effort Watts does a great job of managing the action, the narrative as well as the plot which is layered and it has to set up quite a bit for the coming sequels as well the wider MCU which it does especially with the two post credit stings which have become de rigueur as well as expected in this day and age. The screenwriters have been replaced in the form of Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers who are already a part of the MCU in that they penned “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018). In terms of the plot and overall narrative there is not much to separate it from other MCU movies, however where “Spider-Man: Far from Home” excels is in the character moments especially with Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei who all are dealing with very different issues as well as the aftermath of the death of Tony Stark. However where the movie does slip is the writing of the main villain as well as all the associated parts that are tied to this narrative strand which seems a little rushed as well as not completely thought out, this could be due to a rushed production schedule as well as reducing this to a straight genre movie, in turn this could be a reflection of super hero fatigue as well as the experience of the main screenwriters.
As with all Marvel films (the Disney ones anyway) the casting is perfect, with Tom Holland in the title role who gives as much of his performance as Peter as he does as Spider-man. If you have seen Holland in his breakthrough performance in “The Impossible” (2012) you will know he is a young man with an incredible talent that will only grow in time – the only question is can he be the lead in a major motion picture, that question is answered about half way through the movie as you can see he is relishing this worldwide stage to give one of the more fun and personal performances yet in the MCU. It is so much fun to see Spider-man being played and enjoyed, much like Tobey Maguire did in “Spider-Man 2” (2004), just an actor having a great time with one of the more original characters created by Stan Lee. The rest of the cast lend some great moments as I have already mentioned, however it is great to see the younger actors take centre stage as well with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon illustrating their comedic chops, this movie would not be the same without them. I also loved seeing stalwarts J B Smoove and Martin Starr in supporting roles not quite fully-fledged characters but again being superb in smaller roles.
One of the great aspects of the movie is that no one or nothing out shines Tom Holland as the centre piece of this movie – it may have been tempting to give others the emotion thereby protecting the young actor, but this is not the case and he shines under his own steam, this is to his merit for such a young man – Holland like this new Spider-Man is the real star and revelation in this true Summer blockbuster.
Of course the real story here is how this new film fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as well as how fans have been wanting a combined story with all the Marvel characters – if this is a success (there is no doubt people will love this movie) maybe we will see the Fox Universe, with all its X-Men make an appearance, so far the word is no, but really this film was not on the cards just a few years ago. The great thing is that Tom Holland will be making appearances in upcoming Marvel movies which is an injection of youth these films required to stay current as well as attracting new audiences – it also gives Sony its third platform to launch some more Spider-verse characters – let’s hope they don’t stuff that up – their track record has not been great.
This new movie offers much in the way of story, as well as some twists on some previous storylines, we also see the return of some MCU characters that maybe we though were done with – I found those to be a welcome return. What this film does is give a nice first outing while re-setting some of the older Spider-Man characters, as well as introducing old favourites directly from the pages of the comics as well as hinting at some future characters that will make a splash in the inevitable sequel. What this movie does not so, and I am thankful for that, is to keep us guessing or clumsily setting up a sequel – the people behind this were not counting their chickens, which is something the MCU learnt from “Iron Man 2” (2010).
All in all this is a fantastic film, one that will stay with you after it is over, you may even want to revisit it in the cinemas – I know I will be. All in all, this is far superior to the two Andrew Garfield outings, is ahead of “Spider-Man 3” (2007), but just lacks something to put it ahead of “Spider-Man” (2002) – of course the benchmark is the great “Spider-Man 2” (2004) which remains one of the finest comic book films ever made.