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Roundtable: Spider-man: Far From Home

It's the 23rd movie in the Marvel Saga (though that's only if you don't go back to Howard the Duck, and what monster would do that?). It made $185 million in its loooooooong launch weekend, instantly vaulting to No. 5 on this year's box office and... No. 163 in all-time worldwide box office. Or something. 

But was it good? The CultureGeeks are here to help you out! At least those that saw the movie opening weekend. (It's not like we have lives.)

Note: This review has spoilers for Avengers: Endgame! If you are among the 0.00005 percent of the moviegoing population that hasn't seen it yet.... what in the name of Thanos are you waiting for? It's out on Blu-ray in a month!

 

David Tyler

Spider-Man: Far From Home is an entry unlike any other in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Since early in what Marvel calls Phase 1 we have had movies that, while servicing the heroes they they are ostensibly about, have also had the task of increasing the MCU's interconnection and moving the overarching story (i.e. Thanos and the Infinity Stones) forward. 

Far From Home, however, has a different assignment: mop-up duty.  You may be forgiven for thinking a movie named Endgame would be the last entry in the Phase 3 story arc, but officially it is Far From Home that wraps up the current MCU storyline. 

Spider-Man, for all his cultural relevance and comic history, is ultimately low-stakes amid the cosmic gravitas of MCU entries Spider-mansuch as Captain Marvel, Thor, or Guardians of the Galaxy.  This low-wattage power level makes Spidey the perfect vehicle for exploring the aftermath of Thanos's snap, or the "Blip" as the people of Earth have apparently begun calling the five-year disappearance of half the world's population. 

As we follow Peter Parker and friends (nearly all of which were conveniently "blipped" away and brought back) through their European science trip we get to see the evidence of Endgame's consequences, from broken-down neighborhoods to the near-universal mourning of Tony Stark.  It is Peter's relationship with Stark, and trying to live up to Stark's legacy, which drives the plot of Far From Home, and also gives it emotional heft.

Of course, this is an MCU movie, so the usual action set pieces abound, all of which are just as amazing as we have come to expect from Marvel.  The cast does their usual outstanding job. Tom Holland continues to be the best Spider-man shown on screen, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is always enjoyable, the rest of the kids on Peter's trip are all interesting, and so on. 

Jake Gyllenhaal is a welcome addition as new hero(?) Mysterio, but the clear MVP of Far From Home is Zendaya as MJ, Peter's erstwile love interest and sarcastic ninja. Zendaya is absolutely magnetic on screen and steals every scene she is in. Honestly, there are times when when Far From Home feels like a MJ movie, and everyone else should just be happy to be along for the ride.

So, is Spider-Man: Far From Home the best Marvel movie yet?  No, that is still far and away Captain America: The Winter Soldier. You can easily make the case, however, that it is the best Spider-Man movie ever, which is no small praise.  Moving forward, the MCU will undoubtedly find stories that are galaxy-spanning in scope, but for now, Spider-Man: Far From Home stands as a fitting, Earthbound coda to the story we have all been following for the past decade.

 

Jason Tippitt

At last, I managed to see a Marvel movie unspoiled. Spider-Man: Far From Home kinda spoils the audience, though, in a different way: the “spoiling the grandchildren” sense of the verb because after Captain Marvel and Endgame, Marvel could have coasted to the end of Phase III. Instead, we get this delightful European pastry of a movie.

Tom Holland and Zendaya light up the screen any time they’re together, the first cinematic Spider-pairing to really make me think “iconic screen duo.” I kinda want to see them age into doing Thin Man movies together, or playing Rob and Laura Petrie, with other stops on the way to doing On Golden Pond together a few decades after I’m gone. The various layers of this movie’s plot are full of humor and heart, from best friend Ned’s work to preserve Peter’s secret identity to the teen romances on the class trip to Europe, from Aunt May and Happy Hogan’s charity work together to the new odd couple pairing of Peter Parker and Nicholas J. Fury.

The movie’s heavy topic of legacy in the wake of Iron Man’s death in Endgame is a factor the trailers may have overemphasized. The complex special effects magic in some of the second-half fight scenes were too good — stunning, fast-paced, of “this is how it looked in my mind when I read the comics but I just didn’t know that” quality — to put in the trailers and I’m glad The Powers That Be at Sony kept them close to their vest.

The tag scenes at the end of the movie don’t just open windows to new possibilities — they knock down the entire wall between us and them. Marvel’s keeping very quiet about whether there’s even a Phase 4 as such developing, and anything could happen. “Anything can happen” is a feeling I used to have when reading comic books. But the same people kept dying and coming back, turning evil and then reforming or vice versa, and the four-colored pages lost some charm. How odd that the corporate world of film — forced to contend with actors and actresses who age and start wanting to do other things — would be the place where I’d rediscover that thrill as this franchise starts doing unexpected things because it’s way too soon to think about recasting any roles that have been vacated.

The streak won’t last forever. They never do. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still an exciting place to be, and Spider-Man and company make it seem like a lot of fun when you’re not blinking out of existence for years at a time.

P.S. Peter’s classmate Betty (Angourie Rice) should do amateur video news recaps for every Marvel movie from now on.

 

Jim Gillentine

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can!

How does Marvel Studios follow up Avengers: Endgame? One of best, if not the best comic-book movies in the MCU? They follow it up with the fun and witty Spider-Man: Far From Home, which has some very big shoes to fill after Endgame.

Far From Home picks up not long after the ending of Endgame, and centers around Peter Parker trying to deal with the fact that his hero Tony Stark is dead. Peter feels that it’s his job to somehow become the next Ironman. Meanwhile, he is trying to have fun on a European trip with his classmates and leave the hero stuff behind in New York. But Nick Fury and the strange new hero in town called Mysterio are determined to get him to help them stop a new threat.

As my wife is fond of saying, wackiness ensues.

As much as I enjoyed Endgame, I have to say that I really had a lot more fun watching Far From Home. I guess because Far From Home is a fun, upbeat movie, whereas Endgame finished with a serious and incredibly sad but hopeful ending.

Tom Holland has done a wonderful job capturing the spirt of a young Peter Parker trying to fit in a larger world beyond being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and the burden it can place on someone so young. Zendaya is wonderful as MJ with her snark and comebacks. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as Mysterio, and you can tell he was enjoying the part.

But my favorite character is always Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Although he provides some of the best laughs in the film, he also has the best scene in the movie, as he and Peter Parker are talking about Tony Stark and Peter’s place in his legacy.

The effects of Infinity War and Endgame's snap are part of the story and it shows the impact it has had on the world, but I wish more time could have been given to that plot point.

My main gripe about the film is that there is a lot of footage in the trailers that did not make the movie. The scene with Iron-Spider fighting the crooks and joking with the cops isn’t there, nor the scenes of Peter getting his passport. I know this happens all the time, but when it looks like a cool scene, I look forward to seeing it in the film and it is a little bit of a letdown when it’s not there.

Still, go check out this movie, you won’t be disappointed and I’m sure you will have a fun time.

 

Elizabeth Donald

It's hardly an easy task to top the operatic tragedy that was Endgame, and fortunately Far From Home doesn't try. It's a lighthearted entry comparatively speaking, and frankly, we needed a little teen silliness to breathe after the relentless trauma of Endgame.

Far From Home gets a lot of things right. I'm not going to pretend to be anything like the comics aficionado that my fellow CultureGeeks are, so I'm not going to weigh in on the battle of the Spideys or whether Tom Holland is the best to capture both Peter Parker and Spider-man so far. I will agree with the insightful author Keith DeCandido in his take, in that the new Spidey movies capture teenagers as they really act, not as middle-aged screenwriters think they act. (What, you can't read the link? You should subscribe to Keith's Patreon and get his awesome reviews all the time!)

The kids are all right. How about the adults? Well... I have complaints. (Don't I always?) One of my major complaints is completely wiped out by the end credits scene. so stay to the end. What's that you say - you're well-trained by Marvel and you know to stay to the end? Apparently some people still haven't gotten the memo after more than 20 freaking movies, because I see them filing out of the theater and I just want to tackle them shouting, "Don't you know there's MORE?" But I'd like to be allowed to return to my cineplex, so I restrain myself with muttering.

Another of my complaints has been addressed by my fellow reviewers: At least two-thirds of the teaser isn't in the movie. That speaks of some serious re-editing, and while I don't care about watching Peter pack for his trip, I feel cheated by not seeing his battle with the bandits and joshing with the cops. And as for his interaction with Flash, let's just say that if the trailer is funnier than the actual moment, your movie might have issues.

SadpeterThose issues are few, however. It's fun, and loud, and there are action scenes and CGI wackiness and it's predictable as hell, but you knew that coming in. There's a good bit of angst over the passing of Tony Stark, though I agree with some of the complaints that Captain America was just as much of a major name as Iron Man. It makes little sense that Tony's being mourned worldwide, especially since he seems to have hung up the Iron suit for five years before dying, and no one is mourning Cap's apparent demise. (Apparently the others who bit the dust in Endgame were too lacking-her-own-bloody-movie to merit a billboard.)

But we need Peter to mourn, and Tony was his uncle. Oops! I mean, his mentor! See, Holland did a fantastic job playing Peter's grief in Endgame and he matches that performance here. But the writer in me believed that Peter's grief was exacerbated by the loss of Uncle Ben, which is pretty much the gold standard for Motivational Origin Trauma. I mean, Uncle Ben is lying there right next to Bruce Wayne's parents. Now, I've seen written just about everywhere that nobody wants origin stories anymore. So I will sit on my sad, lonely mountain rewatching my origin stories, because I love the different takes on the stories we know. 

So fine, we don't need to actually see Ben die a third (fourth? fifth?) time. But can we acknowledge he exists? Can someone - Aunt May, Peter, anybody - recognize that this is the third quasi-orphaning for Peter, after losing his birth parents and Uncle Ben and now Tony, so he's either going to have serious father figure issues... or desperately search for a replacement father to take their place? (Ahem. No spoilers.) All we got of Ben were his initials on a suitcase, and frankly, I didn't feel that was sufficient. I am, however, used to being alone on my mountain. 

In all, Far From Home was more entertaining than a boxful of puppies, nodded its head to the endless internet yammering over the real-life implications of the Snap ("blip"? really?) and reminded us that these movies are supposed to be fun. Oh, and that technology can do anything the plot wants it to do. 

Stay to the end, kids.

-----

Elizabeth Donald is a freelance journalist, editor, author, photographer, grad student and instructor, as well as the editor of CultureGeek. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Find out more at donaldmedia.com.

David Tyler is a lifelong aficionado of all things geeky, ranging from Star Trek to chess. He carries his Infinity Stones everywhere he goes. 

Jason Tippitt is a recovering seminarian and mostly recovered former journalist living a few miles beyond that place you stop to use the restroom off Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis.

Jim D. Gillentine is an author and self-professed comics geek, having immersed himself in four-color prose since the 1970s, and is the biggest Godzilla fan in the western hemisphere. He is currently completing his bachelor's degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Website.

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