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Review: Spider-Man Far From Home

*Warning! Due to the nature of the film, this review will contain spoilers: you have been warned*

Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, and directed by Jon Watts, “Spider-Man: far from home” is the second iteration of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first film to follow up the two part culmination of Marvel’s Infinity Saga. As such the film had to juggle several major obstacles. In-between dovetailing the final film of phase three including the world’s reaction to the death of Tony Stark and retirement of Captain America, and expanding on the social dramas of Parker’s high school friends, AND giving us a satisfying and comics-accurate version of the fan favorite villain Mysterio- this film had many a hurdle to leap. Masterfully, all this and more is accomplished with style, wit, and heart.

So, the film hits the ground running with Nick Fury and Maria Hill investigating a natural disaster in Mexico with more than a few hints of curiosity surrounding it. As soon as a giant monster forms from the rubble around them, another new factor emerges- the mysterious Quentin Beck garbed in a cape with a cloudy fish bowl atop his head. Later in Europe we discover that this unheard of hero is working with the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. to stop these Elementals from destroying the Earth- just as they had done on his own Earth from another parallel universe… or so he tells us. Okay, here’s where anyone who knows anything about the character of Quentin Beck knows that he’s lying. That is, IF, Marvel Studios kept in line with the traditional aspects of the villain Mysterio. Which to my delight- they absolutely did. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in this film as Beck was pitch perfect for the character and his backstory of disgruntled Stark Tech creative slid wonderfully into the background of the MCU as if he had been there all along. Mysterio’s illusions throughout the film were excellently rendered, but there’s one scene in particular where the film blurs the line between mediums of film and comic-book in what I like to call, The Nightmare Sequence, in which Beck thrusts Spidey into illusion after illusion after which he gets so shook up he starts to question reality. Over all, this was an excellent example of a fantastic villain used correctly, while being comic-book accurate, and molded to fit this medium and existing story structure.

As for our hero, Peter Parker may not have been in his traditional setting, but this was a story well in line with the familiar tropes of our favorite webslinger. Throughout the film Peter is under constant pressure, from Nick Fury, from his potential rival for MJ’s affection, from Beck, but primarily, and poignantly, from the expectations laid upon him after the death of Tony Stark. Stark wasn’t just Iron Man to Peter, he quickly formed into the parental figure where other films utilized the reliable but familiar role Uncle Ben played in Peter’s life. He may not have said that singular advice that so motivated Peter in various other stories and mediums, but the advice that the tin man did give Peter was essentially similar, and from a place of personal experience for our late armored Avenger. Pull all of those story strings with the right amount of tension and you put Spider-Man where is meant to be in most of his stories, his greatest growth always comes from his moments of greatest peril. This film has that crucial aspect for the character, and the film crew behind these two Spider-Man films have utilized that well.

I wanted to quickly highlight a few of the things that I thought elevated this film a little further than it might have otherwise been without them. Zendaya’s MJ had a lot more to do this time around and her character was expanded upon in a thoughtful and charming manner. Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his girlfriend for the summer Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) were a fun aspect of the trip and reminiscent of how fleeting teenage romances can be. Fortunately though, they never crossed over into the void of being overly cringey. The few scenes and jokes we got with Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) were entertaining and there’s even a quick moment where we get a peek into Flash’s personal life (it is very fleeting, but still appreciated). Oh, and how could we forget Happy Hogan? It must have been pretty amazing to be Jon Favreau on the set of this film, still keeping watchful eye on the film series he helped to craft into existence more than a decade ago now. I’m glad his character still has purpose and still matters in this cinematic universe, we should be so lucky to have him around! I can’t think of much else to add at this point, I highly enjoyed this film at the theater, and I’m very much looking forward to the next Spider-Man film starring Tom Holland and company!

Final Score: Hundreds of killer drones!

*Oh, and for the love of god: Stay through the credits for the best reveal in Marvel Cinematic history.

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Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

Like many other comic-book and film fans, Spider-Man is among my favorite superhero characters of all time. So when the character is represented on the silver screen we all deeply care about how the character is rendered for films. It’s no surprise as to why the wall crawler has such a passionate base, he’s easily the most relatable character among the pantheon of capes and tights. We are Spider-Man after all. So when word came of a surprise merger of major film studios to work together creatively to bring us a new Spider-Man, many wondered what the final product would look like. Would we recognize this version of Peter Parker slinging through a vastly more populated version of New York City? Would the story be bogged down with the franchise building woes of an ever increasing Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe? However, most importantly, would the story be any good?

Rest assured true believers for the “House of Ideas” has a sure hit on their hands with “Spider-Man Homecoming”. Wisely foregoing the well known origin story Marvel effectively meshes this Spider-Man neatly into the folds of their ever expanding world. With the heavy marketing of Iron Man as a presence in this film even I wondered if this would be too much for the initial Spider-Man movie going forward, but Iron Man is never over utilized here and the film truly benefits from him being there. In fact Tony Stark’s presence along with the common knowledge that the Avengers exist outside of Spider-Man’s periphery help to guide his motivations throughout the film. What we do get of Iron Man is never a tongue-in-cheek cameo, he exists here to move the plot forward and is pertinent to the story at hand, especially when it comes to the motivations of the villain of the film, Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture played with brilliant menace by Michael Keaton.

Lately Marvel Studios has been handling their villains with far more care than the phases of the past. Adrian Toomes was the perfect character to rise up from the ashes of the battle of New York and remind us that these superhero antics have consequences. It seems to be the common theme of Marvel’s phase three films so far, and it’s a gold mine of character development possibilities. They literally utilize the character much like a vulture would behave, scavenging the remains from these climactic events for his own gains. That’s another aspect I loved about this film, it wasn’t a story about world ending threats, it was a contained story about a kid from Queens with superpowers.

Speaking of that kid, he’s really great as Peter Parker, and even better as Spider-Man. Tom Holland has become another perfect casting decision from Marvel Studios. This kid has clearly worked hard and done his homework because this is probably the funniest Spider-Man film to date, and it really is genuinely superb. Holland sets his Spider-Man apart from past performances by his sheer enthusiasm at the thought of being a superhero. Garfield’s Parker was mired in self doubt and emotional darkness in attempts to make the character seem almost grislier like that of Nolan’s Batman while Maguire’s Parker was more of a direct adaption from the 1960’s comics and that was just fine, but even he struggled to straddle the weight of the hero’s conflicted nature. Homecoming has strands of those elements in play but they’re likely to weigh more on this version of Parker in later films once our hero has grown into the role. This film also handled the supporting cast incredibly well. Peter’s friend Ned was an earnest and funny addition that helped Peter have someone to bounce dialogue off of, he quickly earned his place in the story. In this version, Flash Thompson is a bully of a different kind, but he fits into the world effectively as more of a millennial agitator than the traditional sports jock bully. The high-school scenes are light and fun- feeling very much as the story was pitched, like a John Hughes flick-but with super-heroics.

Written by Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers and directed by Jon Watts, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was a joy to watch and a confirmation that studios can work together to produce a truly great movie, if they just put their minds to it. I had a smile on my face from the opening scene to the post-credits button at the end, and I bet you will too!

Final Score: ASM #240