Wednesday, July 3, 2019


Spider-Man: Far From Home is a Marvel Cinematic Universe product. It’s a testament to their quality control that the designation alone tells you exactly what you’re going to get. They all have charming casts, light tones, quipping dialogue, and hammering CG lightshows for action sequences. It’s all very hectic and bouncy, and even when all hope is lost, it’s never really gone. Even Endgame, which maybe broke the timeline bending over backwards to pretend these things have genuine emotional consequences, couldn’t keep Infinity War’s poker face for more than twenty minutes or so. All this is to say: the latest Spidey has lower highs and higher lows than its non-MCU predecessors. (For better or worse, we'll not soon have a Spider-Man as pure and strong as Raimi's, or as angular and messy as Webb's.) Tom Holland remains a spunky, boyish Peter Parker, this time abroad with his classmates on a European field trip. The ensemble of teens is an agreeable bunch, especially Zendaya whose low-key cool affect and compelling screen presence is the least showy and yet acts circles around the rest. (I suppose it says more about my level of maturity than the film’s that I found their teachers — capably, earnestly frazzled comedic relief from Martin Starr and JB Smoove — the most sympathetic characters and my rooting interest.) Predictably, superhero dilemmas follow the trip at every stop as the mysterious new character, aptly named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal, having fun, for what that’s worth), is fighting monsters and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson cashing that check) thinks Spidey should help. It sets up the usual conflict between Peter’s normal teen life (where he just wants to finally kiss his crush) and the demands of a Spider-Man’s responsibilities. (And what a nightmare for those poor teachers! I can't even imagine...) It’s all in the unfortunate shadow of Iron Man, who looms large in the space Uncle Ben should have. But at least returning director Jon Watts and his script team dispatch with Endgame’s implications with all the seriousness they deserve — a hand wave and a wink. Because by now we know the MCU is a franchise of frivolous nothings. Sometimes they’re huge fun; sometimes they’re dull time-wasters. And by now you know if you’re into it or not. This one is neither the best nor the worst. It simply is good enough to not regret it in the moment, though quiz me on it in a month and I’m sure I’ll draw some blanks.

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