Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" (2019) Review





"SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" (2019) Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally ended its third phase with the release of its second Spider-man movie called "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME". Released after the franchise's mega hit, "THE AVENGERS: ENDGAME", this second Spider-man movie is regarded as a follow-up to the previous film.

Set in June 2024, eight months after "ENDGAME", former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nicholas Fury and his top aide, Maria Hill, investigate an unnatural sandstorm and discover it was created by a creature known as an Earth Elemental. A super-powered man from an alternate universe named Quentin Beck arrives to help them fight the creature. In New York City, those students who had been killed by Thanos' Snap and revived by the Hulk's "Blip" prepare to finish out the school year they had been forced to repeat. Among them are Peter Parker aka Spider-man and his fellow members of the school's academic decathlon team, who the school rewards with a two-week European vacation. Still grieving over the death of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, Peter anticipates enjoying the trip and using it as an opportunity to confess his growing feelings for fellow classmate, Michelle "MJ" Jones. However, while the Midtown students are in Venice, Italy; Peter is contacted by Fury, who delivers a pair of glasses equipped with an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) called E.D.I.T.H. that had been given to him via Stark's will. E.D.I.T.H. was an augmented reality security, defense and artificial tactical intelligence system. Fury also asks Peter to help him, Hill and Beck to deal with a new threat to Earth, the Elementals. Longing to spend time with MJ, Peter rejects Fury's request. But when a Water Elemental threatens to overwhelm Venice, Peter dons a new Spider-man suit given to him by Fury and Hill and helps Beck deal with this new threat.

I might as well be frank. I was not a fan of 2017's "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING". I simply thought it was a badly written film with very little imagination. I also consider it to be one of the worst films within the MCU franchise. I never had a problem with Tom Holland as Peter Parker aka Spider-man. But with Jon Watts back as director, I had doubts that my feelings for "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" would be the same . . . or similar. I did not think that this sequel to "HOMECOMING" would be a vast improvement over the 2017 movie. And this is why a family member literally had to drag my ass . . . wait a minute. I should be more honest. I had every intention to see "FAR FROM HOME". It was the only major film that was being released around the Fourth of July holiday and I needed something to do. So, was the movie worth a trip to the theaters?

One of the joys I had managed to derive from "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" were its European locations. I have not been that impressed by the photography featured in many of the MCU films. But I could not help but be impressed by cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd's work in this film. I found it unusually sharp and colorful for this franchise. And it did help that he had utilized his talent for scenes shot in Venice, Prague and London. I also felt that Leigh Folsom Boyd and Dan Lebental's special effects had enhanced Lloyd's work. Another aspect of "FAR FROM HOME" that impressed me were the special effects created for the Elementals.

Another aspect of the film that I enjoyed were the performances. Tom Holland gave his usual excellent performance as Peter Parker aka Spider-man. Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of Nick Fury proved to be a bit more skillful than usual, deliberately conveying the idea that Fury seemed to be a bit off in this story. This was due to the fact that his old Skrull friend from "CAPTAIN MARVEL", Talos, was impersonating him. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal gave the best performance as the costumed vigilante Quentin Beck aka Mysterio, whose sincere and warm manner hid a possibly sinister agenda. I was pleasantly surprised by Zendaya, who gave a more nuanced performance as Peter's new love interest Michelle "M.J." Jones than she did in "HOMECOMING". However, I remained unimpressed by her screen chemistry with Holland. There was another screen pair that proved to be surprisingly impressive was Jacob Batalon and Angourie Rice, who portrayed Ned Leeds and Betty Brandt, Peter's roommates. Thanks to their performances, I really enjoyed Ned and Betty's summer romance that took everyone by surprise. The movie also featured funny performances from Tony Revolori, J.B. Smoove, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau and a surprising cameo from J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. The only real disappointing performance came from Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill. She seemed to be used as background, instead of a supporting character. I blame the writers.

Thanks to the European locations, Matthew J. Lloyd's cinematography and the cast's performances, I can honestly say that I enjoyed "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" . . . more than I did 2017's "HOMECOMING". But despite the above, I was still disappointed with the film. There was simply too much about this movie that rubbed me the wrong way. And I find this sad, considering that Spider-man has always been my favorite Marvel Comics character for years.

The main aspect about this movie that irritated me was the main villain's goal. The Disney/Marvel publicity machine had hinted for months that "FAR FROM HOME" would explore the aspects of an alternate universe. In fact, the Mysterio character was supposed to be from an alternate universe who had arrived in this one to defend Earth against the Elementals. Instead, this all proved to be cheap plot twist that originated from revenge. The main villain, Quentin Beck, was a former Stark Interprises employee, who had been fired by the late Tony Stark for his unstable personality. Stark had also stolen Beck's holographic technology for his own private use, embittering the latter even further. With Tony dead, Beck settled with deceiving Peter Parker into handing over E.D.I.T.H. to him. I could not believe what this story had been reduced to . . . another Spider-man movie in which the main villain had a grudge against Tony Stark.

Then again, I should have known better. For some reason, the movie's narrative seemed unwilling to touch upon or explore any grief that Peter may have experience over Tony's death. I take that back. The movie featured one scene in which Peter and Tony's former security chief, Happy Hogan, did discuss the dead Avenger. But there were no other scenes in which Peter dealt with the emotional consequences of Tony's death. Instead, he spent most of the movie being torn between plotting to win M.J.'s love and "helping" Beck and Fury deal with the Elementals. Which would have been fine with me, considering my dislike of Tony Stark. But instead of allowing Peter to face the emotional consequences of Tony's death, the movie included scenes of Robert Downey Jr.'s mug being plastered on a wall or a billboard or in a dream. After I saw Downey Jr.'s face for the fourth time, I had to fight the urge to throw something at the movie screen. It was sooooo fucking annoying. What I found even more annoying is that for the second time, the main antagonist's villainy sprung from some past action of Tony Stark's. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to make two of Spider-man's well-known villains more about Iron Man, instead of him.

I still find it ridiculous that the MCU seems hellbent upon making Spider-man's villains more about Iron Man, instead of Spider-man. And then there was the matter of E.D.I.T.H. Why on earth would any responsible adult will a dangerous piece of technology like E.D.I.T.H. to an adolescent? Why? Why did the screenwriters treat this dangerous and irresponsible action on Tony's part as a source of comedy? Come to think of it . . . when did Tony make this decision to bequeath the glasses to Peter? During the last five years of his life, Peter had been dead, thanks to Thanos' snap in "THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR". He had been resurrected at less than two hours before Tony's death. So, when did Tony decide to bequeath E.D.I.T.H. to Peter? Had he included this legacy in his will before the events of "INFINITY WAR"? If so, why did he fail to change his will following Peter's death? Especially, since he and Pepper Potts managed to get marry and conceive a daughter? Or did he create a new will, while building a time machine (MASSIVE EYE ROLL) for the Avengers? I have never heard of anything so stupid in my life . . . even for a comic book movie. One more thing - how did Quentin Beck and his co-conspirators discover that Tony had bequeathed E.D.I.T.H. to Peter? Was Tony stupid enough to post his will electronically? And why in God's name would the MCU allow Tony to create something so dangerous and not treat it so seriously? What was the franchise thinking?

I had assumed that "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" would explore the aftereffects of both Thanos' snap and the Blip that had resurrected Peter and others who had been killed by the former. It barely did. The movie revealed that Peter and his aunt, May Parker, were helping other resurrected victims of the Snap in Queens, New York; who had had returned to life to find themselves homeless by staging some kind of fundraiser with Spider-man. I had learned via the MCU Wiki page that May Parker had also been killed by the Snap. I find this odd, considering that the same website had made it clear that she had survived the Snap back in 2018. And if both Peter and May had been killed by the Snap, why did they NOT end up homeless after being resurrected? How did May resume her profession (whatever it is) after five years? How did she get her money back? Did her bank refund her money following her resurrection? The more I think about Peter and May's situation regarding the Snap and the Blip, the more I find myself disgusted with the MCU's handling of its overall narrative. Audiences never saw May deal with the discovery that her nephew was Spider-man. Audiences never saw Peter and May struggle after their resurrection. It seemed as if the screenwriters of this movie had become emotional cowards. Or perhaps I should simply label Kevin Feige as an emotional coward?

I have noticed that in past movies, he has never allowed the franchise to deal with the aftermath of serious events. At least not in the movies. "AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D." had to deal with the aftermath of the agency's fall back in 2014. The series had to deal with the rise of Inhumans - something that the movies never touched upon since the topic first came up back in 2014/2015. And now, it seemed apparent that the MCU seems unwilling to deal the aftermath of both the Snap and the Blip. Looking back, "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" was the wrong movie to follow "THE AVENGERS: ENDGAME". It was willing to be some ham-fisted ode to Tony Stark, but it was obviously unwilling to explore how people like Peter and May Parker dealt with their deaths and their resurrections.

Speaking of the Snap . . . guess who else got killed? All of Peter's friends from his school's Academic Decathalon Team. ALL OF THEM - Michelle M.J. Jones, Ned Leeds, "Flash" Thompson and Betty Brandt. All of them. All of them had been killed by Thanos' Snap and resurrected by the Blip. All of them. You cannot imagine how much I found this incredibly contrived. According to the movie's narrative, those students who had been killed and resurrected were given a two-week trip to Europe during the summer. So . . . Peter, his four remaining companions from the last film, and a handful of other students were the only ones from Midtown School of Science and Technology who had undergone the Snap and the Blip? Just them? How convieeeennent. By the way, this was a shoddily planned trip. The movie never featured them visiting any place of academic interest. No one discussed or brought up the possible trauma of being killed and resurrected. No one.

And when did Peter become interested in Michelle "M.J." Jones? Audiences last saw her casually conversing with Peter at the end of "HOMECOMING", while he was mourning the end of his relationship with Liz, Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture's daughter. Sometime between the 2017 movie and this one, he became attracted to M.J. My God, how frustrating! It almost reminds me of the rushed development of Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo's relationship in the STAR WARS Original Trilogy. At least in that franchise, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE" revealed hints of Han finding Leia attractive. I saw no such hints in Peter's feelings for M.J. by the end of "HOMECOMING". So . . . when did he fall for her?

I was also surprised about how Nick Fury aka Talos managed to change the group's itinerary at short notice in order to get Peter to continue with the so-called "Elemental threat". How did he achieve this without alerting the school board or the travel agency? This made no sense to me. Speaking of the fake Nick Fury and Maria Hill . . . why? Why on earth would Fury allow two aliens (even if they were friendly) to impersonate him and Hill? Why? If he was on vacation, he should have immediately cancelled it when the so-called "Elemental threat" first appeared. But he did not. Why? This is not how someone as paranoid as Fury would behave. Was he really on vacation? This whole scenario regarding his identity was simply a joke to me. After the joke about his eye in "CAPTAIN MARVEL", it seems as if the MCU is hell bent upon making him the franchise's punch line. Has Kevin Feige recently developed a grudge against Samuel L. Jackson or something? It was worse for Hill/Soren since she/he barely said a fucking word. By the way, what has Fury been doing since the breakup of the Avengers? Which government agency was he working for when the Snap happened? Or was he operating his own security firm? How did the Snap and Blip affect his livelihood? I get the feeling that the MCU will never explain anything.

I would discuss the movie's ending, which featured Peter's identity as Spider-man being exposed by Beck or one of his colleagues. But I was too disgusted with the film to overall care. I am certain - or I hope - that this issue will be addressed in what I HOPE will be the final MCU Spider-man movie. Granted, I enjoyed the film's photography and the European locations. I enjoyed the performances of the cast led by Tom Holland. I especially enjoyed Jake Gyllenhaal's performance. And I enjoyed the romance between the Ned Leeds and Betty Brant characters (they eventually got married in Marvel Comics).

Unfortunately, the sloppiness and laziness of the film's writing, the narrative's unwillingness to address issues from the last two Avengers films, the heavy-handed ode to Tony Stark and Jon Watts' mediocre direction has led me to regard "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME" as a complete bust. This is the second time that a MCU Spider-man movie has completely disappointed me. I really wish that Sony Pictures would resume producing Spider-man movies without any output from the MCU. I really do.


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