Claude’s Column: Masked Menace Wins Over Clarion Critic

(Credit: aggro / Flickr)

How on earth does a studio top the phenomenon that was “Endgame?” The answer is, they don’t. But just because something isn’t as gigantic as “Avengers: Endgame” doesn’t mean it can’t still amount to a great standalone film. 

Such is the case for the third attempt at a second Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Famed film director Jon Watts returned to helm this sequel to the previous film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Returning to don the iconic Spidey mask is Tom Holland, along with Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau. 

(Sony Pictures Entertainment / YouTube)

Unfortunately there is no appearance by Michael Keaton (The Vulture) in this movie despite his promising post-credits scene in “Homecoming.” 

I was somewhat disappointed by his absence seeing how he was the best part of the last film. Hopefully, his story will be completed in Spidey’s next cinematic outing. And upon viewing the post-credit scenes, this could easily be the case.

But rather than focus on who didn’t appear in the 23rd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, let’s take a (mostly) spoiler-free gander at MCU’s equivalent of “Spider-Man 2.”

This film picks up after the events of Endgame. (Which if you haven’t seen “Endgame” why are you even reading this?) Despite the global impact of what the world has come to call the Blip (Thanos’ snap), life has seemingly returned to normalcy for Peter Parker (Holland) and his friends. 

While the death of his mentor (let’s just say it’s not Uncle Ben) looming over him literally and figuratively, Peter remains relatively positive as he and his class prepare to embark on a school trip to Europe. 

On the trip, Peter plans on confessing his feelings of affection to MJ (Zendaya) as he explains to his best friend Ned (Balaton). He also decides to leave his Spidey suit behind, desiring a vacation from the responsibilities of being a superhero. 

The trip plays out relatively normal outside of a few embarrassing and almost fatal incidents. This all changes in Venice when an enormous monster of water known as an elemental emerges and wreaks havoc upon the city. 

Samuel L. Jackson appears once again as Nick Fury. (Sony Pictures Entertainment / YouTube)

Without his suit and seeing his friends in mortal danger, Peter is forced back into action with only a party mask to protect his identity. All seems grim until a mysterious caped crusader (not Batman) flies into action and seemingly vanquishes the beast. 

Later that evening, Peter is confronted in his hotel room by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Fury takes him to see a man named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is also known as Mysterio. Beck claims he is from an alternate universe and that the creature that terrorized Venice destroyed his world. He says that he managed to take down 3 out of 4 of the Elementals, yet one still remains that could threaten all of earth. 

Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. (Screen Rant / YouTube)

So it is up to Spider-Man to put an end to the threat of the elementals and save his friends, all while trying to spend time with and confess his feelings to MJ. This, however, is easier said than done as Peter soon discovers not everything is as it may seem.

So right off the bat, “Far From Home” is far above “Homecoming” in terms of action, suspense and drama. This was the first time for Spidey in the MCU where it felt as if much more was at stake than simply stopping the bad guy. 

To explain my point, allow me to briefly discuss my biggest criticism of the Web-slinger’s previous outing in the MCU.

Now as much as I enjoyed “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” it lacked the weight and angst required to properly portray one of the greatest superheroes of all time. 

The legend of Spider-Man is the tale of an ordinary man gifted with extraordinary powers, with which come extraordinary responsibilities. Every day, he struggles to balance the responsibilities of the city’s protector with the equally challenging responsibilities of Peter Parker. And any failure or lapse of judgment more often than not will result in his loved ones paying the price.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” took a much more light-hearted approach to the character, which worked for what they were shooting for. And while the MCU’s teen-comedy take on Spider-Man isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not what I think Spider-Man should be. 

The first official still shot from “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” (AntMan3001 / Flickr)

He’s a larger than life icon that should be treated like a larger than life icon, not just another marvel character. The other Spider-Man movies, for all their flaws, were big movies with big stakes.

Homecoming showed a lot of promise in the last third with a brilliant character moment between Tony Stark and Peter, a genuinely frightening scene with the surprise reveal of the Vulture’s identity, which segued into a relatively exciting finale. But it still didn’t really feel like much was at stake outside of Peter ditching his date who we really never knew anything about. 

Rather than stopping a train full of passengers or rescuing the love of his life from the clutches of evil, Peter instead stopped the vulture from stealing weapons. In the end, it resulted in a fun yet underwhelming Spider-Man movie, at least compared to the likes of “Spider-Man 2” or “Into the Spider-Verse.”

 “Spider-Man: Far From Home” on the other hand finally felt much closer to the classic character I know, being driven by the death of a loved one to take on a bizarre double-life of a superhero. And as his friendship with MJ grows stronger, his job as Spider-Man becomes all the more difficult. 

I believe this film handled the struggle of choosing between the one you love and the duties of a hero very well, arguably as well as “Spider-Man 2.”

But it’s not all just melodrama, the teen-comedy aspect of the movie still works well too. While mostly condensed to the first act of the movie, the comedy of this movie is hilarious and is more competently blended with the action and drama of the larger story. 

This perfect mix of drama and humor is most evident in the mid-credits scene which plays out in a rather serious manner, yet led to the greatest cameo in Marvel history which left me squealing with delight in the theater. 

My only real criticisms of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” would be the pacing of the first act, which can drag a little bit from time to time, and the reveal of the main villain which I think was a little botched. 

I won’t spoil anything (even though it’s pretty obvious) but the scene in which the villain reveals his plans is very ham-fisted and surprisingly over-the-top. He just shouts about how he was shunned by his former employer and how he plans to seek fame and fortune via diabolical illusions.

(Entertainment Access / YouTube)

The film basically comes to a standstill as he lets the audience in on what he’s going to do by just announcing it to other characters. 

In the film world, we call this exposition and unfortunately, what should have been a rather intimidating moment is reduced to over-acted expository dialog. 

Fortunately these issues, while distracting, aren’t too distracting. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is still an excellent addition to the MCU that might not be as bold or ambitious as “Endgame” yet still stands out as one of the better Marvel movies in recent memory. 

The official trailer for “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment / YouTube)

With its frivolous pacing, outstanding action and greater understanding of its source material, “Far From Home” is a welcome return to form for the franchise. One that left me intrigued and excited for Spidey’s next web-slinging adventure.

Rating: 9/10

Samuel J. Claude
Associate Editor

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