Peter Parker is beset by dopey jokes and stupid, contrived situations in a story with no emotional weight in 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home. It’s far from great but there are a couple funny moments.
It’s time for a class trip to Europe and all Peter (Tom Holland) wants to do is take a break from being Spider-Man. He doesn’t even pack his suit—Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) sneaks it into one of his suitcases. Turns out, he doesn’t need it anyway. When trouble goes down in Prague, to avoid the risk of Spider-Man being connected with Peter Parker, he dons a black outfit. Amusingly, this earns him the name of “Night Monkey”.
He has to take action because giant, elemental cgi monsters are attacking European cities and the only other super-being around is the mysterious Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
The special effects in these movies have gotten really bad. I’d heard about the cost-cutting measures being employed for cgi lately but this movie makes it seem like there was absolutely no effort to make anything look photorealistic. It’s most noticeable when Peter’s hopping around Venice in his civilian clothes. Sometimes he looks like Rubber Man, sometimes he’s clearly Tom Holland or a stuntman carried on erased strings.
All he wanted was to be a real boy.
Soon he’s contacted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the famous leader of something-or-other. I guess they’re still in this awkward position of not confirming or denying the canonicity of events in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I guess that time is finally almost at an end, though, now that the terms of whatever arcane contract Disney made with the Whedon brothers has reached the end of seven years and the network show written by the illustrious Jed Whedon is finally wrapping up.
Samuel L. Jackson seems really fatigued in this movie. Of all the awkward lines he has to deliver, somehow the awkwardest is a simple, “Bitch, please.” Something you’d think would sound very natural coming from Jackson.
The screenplay was written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers who’d previously worked on the Lego Batman movie. They also co-wrote the screenplay on Spider-Man: Homecoming along with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, and Christopher Ford. Normally I’d say that many writers is a bad sign but the fact is Spider-Man: Homecoming is a much stronger film than its sequel. McKenna and Sommers are good at little quips and comedic ideas—I like how the movie incorporates the “blip”, the period in the last Avengers movie where half the population were “dead”. But mostly they’re really only good at being silly and there are a series of bits that completely dissolve the film’s tension and the integrity of character development. Moments like when Peter “hilariously” orders a drone strike on his classmate on accident. Or when one of Peter’s classmates catches him with his pants down in a dark room with a strange woman.
There are multiple layers of stupid in this particular sequence so I thought I’d break them down and demonstrate what I mean about the movie generally.
1. Peter tells Nick Fury that he doesn’t want to leave the vacation with his classmates just to help save the world. Fury shrugs, says okay, and seems to leave it at that. Then Peter’s teacher happily accepts an “upgrade” from the tourism company and thinks nothing of ushering his students into an unmarked black van with tinted windows and a grim faced Russian driver who stares back silently when asked a question. Hilarious.
2. Upon arriving at the hotel, the Russian directs Peter to enter a room with a tall, attractive blonde woman who orders Peter to undress in front of her because she’s brought him a new costume. You can see the idea here—Tom Holland’s cute and he’s even cuter when flustered. Okay. But why wouldn’t he simply go to the next room to change? Why wouldn’t he question any of this? This is an example of a joke that would work fine in a parody, like Lego Batman, but is deadly for a film that wants to be taken seriously on any level.
3. Peter’s classmate unexpectedly enters the room and takes a picture. Why wouldn’t the S.H.I.E.L.D.-ish agent have made sure the room was secure? Why would she let the kid go away with a picture of her on his phone, let alone a picture of her with Peter Parker?
This would be bad enough if it were one or two scenes. But it’s constant. Along with the bad cgi, it becomes consistently impossible to get invested in the story.
An unsuccessful attempt is made to make Mysterio slightly sympathetic like the Vulture in the previous film and there’s a smart idea about people trying to engineer things for people to believe in to fill the spiritual void in this modern world. Mysterio thinks appearances are all people need—a good counterargument from Spider-Man might have been to say that people need more than an illusion, they need a superhero who actually embodies worthwhile ideals. But the film only goes halfway thinking out this concept, spending too much time on Peter’s cringe-worthy awkward gags as he tries to woo Mary Jane like the protagonist of a bad sitcom. Zendaya, stepping up as the central love interest now that Gwen Stacy is out of the way, is dull and has no chemistry with Tom Holland. Their kiss at the end is so formal it’s like it was arranged by diplomats. Remember how sexy Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire were? To quote the lyrics by “Weird Al” Yankovic;
Now Harry the rich kid’s a friend of his
Who horns in on Mary Jane
But to his great surprise it seems she prefers guys
Who can kiss upside down in the rain
What song could anyone write about Far From Home? Something about forgettable quips and cartoonish effects, I guess.
Twitter Sonnet #1384
A stack of shells contends with pipes of lead.
The silver letter tipped behind the hill.
A trail of squares bedecked the narrow bed.
Arrays of runes adorned the lengthy bill.
Important parts combine to make the brain.
For chompers dull the chewing time was rare.
A list of gums contract the ancient plane.
The group of homes construct a roomy dare.
The door was walking south on wooden legs.
The ceiling feel between the Christmas minds.
The walls resound with pasted paper eggs.
The windows crash to suit the shuttered kinds.
The paper clip presents a tactic pinch.
Elastic string provides a handy cinch.