Boy Keeps Swinging
Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman takes a look at Spider-man: Far From Home, out now in cinemas in the UK and the US. Warning: spoilers ahead…
Spider-man: Far From Home
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya
There’s an air of aftermath in this latest Spidey installment, coming as it does on the heels of the monumental exercise of twee existentialism that was Avengers: Endgame. The film makes a brief effort to provide continuity with that behemoth, although as this is a teen comedy with CGI, the globally catastrophic effects of losing every other person to the ether is casually glossed over with predictable pseudoscience and a bit of light slapstick. There’s a plot to get on with, and to hell with causality and Armageddon.
As is the case with all 22 previous MCU entries, there’s existentialism afoot for this reviewer – just how many more times am I going to have critique the same film? Granted, this is Archie with steroids, the supporting cast a bunch of trite no-marks that bear no connection to the Lee / Ditko / Romita originals – admittedly, that won’t be an issue for anyone who isn’t an old fogey like me. In a way I admire the fact that the director has asked all of the cast to act in an underwhelmed, unimpressed, flaky and half-asleep manner with every conflagration – it’s only a bit of amusing fluff after all, that does require you to switch your brain off. Again. And of course I’m still beguiled that people who would’ve shunned these properties when I was in my twenties as worthless, childish trash for nerds are now far more animated about them than I ever was.
Not that Spider-Man’s European Vacation is a stinker – it’s all as you were, but it’s also a pleasantly kinetic stroll through Peter Parker’s life as he dodges flak and masonry across some very scenic locations, done with considerable panache and wizard effects. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) heads off to Europe with his classmates, followed by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) who is desperate to make contact with him. While in Venice (you wonder how the school could have afforded such a trip) he encounters a water elemental that reaps havoc and destruction before he and a man called Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) save the day. Nick Fury appears, sequesters Spider-Man, and after Beck spins a tale about being from another dimension, Parker is then handed special, computerized glasses designed by his mentor, Tony Stark. Fury redirects the school trip to Prague, where Spidey and Beck (now called Mysterio) defeat another towering grotesque. In a moment of weakness Parker hands the glasses to Mysterio, who as it turns out is a disgruntled former Stark employee hell-bent on revenge, power and destruction. As if Earth hasn’t had enough of that already. And then off to London (well, Tower Bridge, as you’d expect) for the mandatory showdown with the big bad.
It’s an enjoyably slick bit of entertainment, with all the money on the screen. There are several moments that genuinely capture the spirit of the 1960s / 1970s Spider-Man, such as when Mysterio takes young Parker on a psychedelic trip into inner space and then masquerades as Fury, or when J Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, back from an earlier trilogy) turns up halfway through the credits to echo what the four colour version of the character always did – frame him for things he didn’t do. However there are no memorable lines in the movie, and after a while the dopey supporting ensemble do get on your nerves – Betty Brant and Ned Leeds are especially grating, and Flash Thompson (not exactly the alpha male of yore) barely gets a look-in. Were these characters meant to be comic relief? Zendaya’s MJ is the antithesis of the feisty Lee and Romita version, while Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is competent enough but also far too impassive. He’s neither Ditko’s bespectacled science geek nor Romita’s wisecracking matinee idol who rides a motorcycle. His reaction to Mysterio’s bag of knavish tricks (to be fair Gyllenhaal excelled in this role, but then he does look the part anyway) doesn’t really have any emotional dimension, which was kind of the point. Granted (yes, there’s always a granted) the relationship between the naive Parker and the late Tony Stark is presentably touched upon and does provide some form of context, and those computerized glasses do make for some amusing moments. Plus Jackson’s Fury is as magnetic as ever – when will he get his own movie?
I took my 13 year old daughter with me to see the flick (me and my cohort Joel were not provided with a press screening) and she remarked that fun though it was, it was mostly cheese punctuated by some expertly handled action sequences. A chip off the old block there. It’s a film that leaves you the moment you exit the cinema – no effort is made to layer the entertainment for more than one demographic, as is the case with the best of pop culture. Despite the MCU’s longevity (the franchise has nearly caught up with Eon’s James Bond monolith in terms of releases) there’s plenty more to come of such lightweight hijinks, especially as Parker and his chums are still only juniors in high school and this episode has made bucketloads. Deadpool 3 anyone?
Spider-man: Far From Home is in UK and US cinemas now. Here’s the film’s trailer