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Spider-Man: Far From Home Review (Spoiler Warning)

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

(NOTE: Massive spoilers ahead, so if you’re planning on watching th movie, we recommend you to not read this right now)

Spider-Man is a character that is very important in my life. I’m quite sure that the 90’s animated series was my first contact with the world of superheroes, just like the Sam Raimi films were my first contact with live adaptations. Since then, I have watched pretty much every single adaptation of the character and fell in love with his story in the comics, especially the David Michelinie years. While I have grown to become more a DC fan over the years, Spider-Man is still one of my favorite characters and when something new about the character comes out I’m always there to watch it or read it.

That is why I feel underwhelmed with the movie Far From Home and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s take on Spider-Man. As someone who is well-versed on the character, his supporting cast and the myth that is Peter Parker and his alter-ego, I find the Tom Holland iteration the one with the most unfulfilled potential, but before I dwell into that in this review, I want to point out the positives of Far From Home:

Positives: Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

One of the MCU’s biggest weaknesses has always been their handling of villains, with Thanos or Loki been two worthy exceptions. In this movie, however, Jake Gyllenhaal proves that he is a veteran in the business and his portrayal of Mysterio is charming, visceral and intense, often showing the deceitful and manipulative nature that is so intrinsic to the character.

The strongest moments of the movie are when Gyllenhaal’s character is on the scene and he seems to be the one that is more comfortable with his role, which is even more fascinating given that he basically has to play two characters in Far From Home (the false Quinten Beck from “another universe” and the one that wanted revenge on Tony Stark).

Gyllenhaal’s performance of the character gives a lot of layers to him and he shows how flexible he can be, often varying between being friendly with Peter, manipulative, almost psychopathy and having a degree of megalomania that works in compelling fashion.

In that regard, we have to say that this interpretation of Mysterio does justice to the character’s legacy and I personally would like to see more of him in the MCU in the coming years (hey, he’s Mysterio; he may not have died, okay?).

Positives: the action sequences.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

Far From Home, much like the vast majority of movies in the MCU, is an action thriller and it truly delivers on the action department, providing the kind of excitement that scenes of this nature should generate.

The first action scene with Peter and Mysterio against an Elemental in Italy is quite good, with the camera angles and the destruction working in a very effective manner–it gets you interested and you want to know what happens. Another strong action moment was when Mysterio used his illusions to torment Spider-Man, which, to me, was the best scene of the entire movie, thanks to a great combination of special effects and the way they were implemented to trick Peter.

The final act is a typical Marvel ending, but it’s done very well.

Negatives: handling Spider-Man’s mythology.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

When it comes to the greatest superheroes in the history of the industry, the big three are Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. That’s it, you can’t get any bigger than those three. They are not only characters, but they are also part of Western civilization’s modern mythology and their ethos and values are so delicate and yet so important that if you make a few changes, they no longer feel like the same characters.

One of the biggest criticisms (and I agree with that) about the MCU’s version of Spider-Man is his over-dependence to Tony Stark and how much of his character is based around him. That was already an issue with Homecoming, but it becomes a lot more troublesome with Far From Home.

Tony’s ghost stretches like a big shadow across the whole film, with Peter constantly asked or challenged to take over his role and him rejecting the position not only because he doesn’t think he would be a good Iron Man, but also because he wants to spend time with his love interest in this movie, Michelle Jones (Zendaya). For anyone that is well-versed in the character, this is a fundamentally wrong take and it shows that the people in charge of making this film don’t really comprehend Spider-Man’s core values.

Peter Parker is a combination of Batman and Superman: his alter-ego was born out of a tragedy and he is motivated by that trauma like the former, but he is also meant to inspire and show a more uplifting side of life even in the darkest hours, like the latter. Add to that the personal struggles of an everyman and putting his responsibilities as a hero (his duty to do the right thing) above everything else and you have Spider-Man.

There is nothing of that in this MCU version. This is a Peter Parker that doesn’t have any real struggle: his biggest personal problems throughout the film are him trying to get a girlfriend (which is fine, given that has been sort of a constant in the comics) and his aunt May and Happy dating one another. That’s it. The reality is that this iteration of Spider-Man has it too easy and it shows through his lack of responsibility, like revealing his identity to aunt May in Homecoming in a very dumb manner or by almost killing his classmate with a drone in Far From Home just because the latter might ruin his chance with Michelle. Sense of duty and responsibility are two key elements of Spider-Man’s ethos and Far From Home only deepens that problem.

To put it simply: the real Peter Parker would put on the mask to save the day, even if it meant losing in the love department, while this Peter Parker has to be pushed to the stage. Some people might say that this is fine because it’s an adaptation or the famous “it’s a different universe!” but this is a more postmodernist take where everything can be changed and yet stay the same, which is totally not true–what makes Spider-Man work are not his suit and his powers, but his core values and moral principles. That’s what makes a hero.

There is also the constant denial of uncle Ben’s existence in the MCU. A lot of people have claimed that he has been avoided because we have already seen the origin story in other adaptations, but that comment showcases why this Spider-Man is fundamentally wrong: it’s not about showing uncle Ben’s death, but rather give him the place and importance that he deserves in Peter’s development as a hero and as a man.

Ben Parker is the main motivation for Peter to put on that mask and to be the decent man that he is because he was raised that way–you take that away and it’s not Spider-Man. Tony Stark cannot fill that role because he didn’t raise Peter, didn’t inspire him to become a hero and has removed a key aspect that made Spider-Man so endearing to so many generations: his capacity to be his own man.

This is something that was already an issue in Homecoming and has been poorly handled in Far From Home, with Peter constantly needing assistance with Fury, Mysterio, Happy and Stark’s technology to make something happen. His strength, his perseverance, his motivation, doesn’t come from his own sense of guilt for being partly responsible of the death of his uncle and his sense of what’s right and wrong, but rather as a circumstantial event. Rather than feeling as Spider-Man, his own hero who overcomes his struggles and adversities as his own man, it feels like Spider-Boy, Iron Man’s sidekick that is constantly living in the shadow of his mentor.

Spider-Man is not only a superhero, but a cultural myth of Western civilization and Far From Home is yet another example of how the MCU doesn’t get the character. I have read opinions on social media about how this movie has taught Peter how to be his own man, but considering that was the whole point of Homecoming, you can’t help but feel a bit skeptical about it.

Negatives: Peter and Michelle’s dynamic.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

I’m not going to dwell on the whole “MJ” controversy that has been going around the Spider-Man fandom and focus on the dynamic between Michelle and Peter during this film.

The main problem that I found regarding this relationship is the fact that we don’t get a proper development between them to understand why they are attracted to one another. At the end of Homecoming, they barely talked to each other and Peter was interested in another girl; by the time that we get to Far From Home, they already have an stablished friendship and Peter is very interested in her, even though we never get a proper explanation as to why and if you are going to have romance in a story, you need proper motivation.

This is a natural consequence of the fact that Michelle doesn’t really have a character and I don’t put the blame on Zendaya because she is working with what she has (much like Holland). Beyond a keen interest in the dark aspects of human history, which is mostly used for comedy purposes (more on that later), we don’t know anything about the character and, more worrying, the story doesn’t show us anything: we don’t know the reasons behind her liking Peter, we don’t know what she wants beyond his romantic interest, we don’t have any knowledge of her background and we don’t have any knowledge of her character. Some may say that she is a teenager and therefore she doesn’t have much motivation, but we are all driven by something in different stages of our lives and we don’t get that with Michelle–she is just there to fill a position as Peter’s love interest and nothing else.

The MCU has done many things right in several aspects, but romance has never been their strong suit and in this particular case it feels very weak, especially considering that Spider-Man has a very strong record with the ladies and it has always been a strong element of his character. In this movie it feels like a hindrance to Peter’s motivations as a superhero and it doesn’t have a strong emotional component to keep us interested.

Negatives: an over-reliance on comedy.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

Far From Home was promoted as the epilogue to this phase of the MCU, but you would be hard pressed to view this as a proper ending given how the film relied way too much on comedy, often undermining the most emotional and key scenes, and thus making a weaker story.

The Marvel sense of humor has been discussed multiple times and we have to admit that recent films have been abusing the comedy side of things, losing tension in the most important scenes and even films (one of the various elements that hurt Avengers: Endgame as a story, in my view). Not only that, but it has gotten progressively more immature, with terms such as “Peter tingle” to Peter’s spider-sense, which makes you wonder why they couldn’t just take that seriously considering that is a fundamental power of his and that joke is not that funny, to begin with.

One could say that comedy can be fun and entertaining, which is true–after all, that is the whole point of comedy in a story. But when you do it in an excessive way, you end up hurting the story and even the characters themselves. The drone scene in the bus is depicted as something to be laugh at, but it also shows Peter’s tremendous degree of irresponsibility or how he thought that AC/DC’s Back in Black was a Led Zeppelin song, which only makes him look like an idiot.

This is something that spreads across the characters. Peter’s friends are basically props for comedy purposes and only Mysterio seems to come across as someone who is really serious about the whole situation, given that even Fury falls within the first category at times. The whole point of comedy is that you can’t hardly ever get most jokes right, let alone all of them, so less jokes and better executed ones could be a much better formula if Marvel wants to keep going with this approach.

Final thoughts.

(Image by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Marvel Studios)

There is one small detail in the movie where they show, only for a second, that Peter’s suitcase has the initials of his uncle Ben and I have to say that was a very classy detail and it fit to the character quite well, with him going around with an old suitcase that belonged to one of his uncles. By the time the movie ends, it has been destroyed.

That is the best way to sum up Far From Home and the MCU’s handling of Spider-Man as a whole: it takes the core elements that made the character so iconic and they watered it down to a point that is a Spider-Man adaptation that truly fails to hit the right points to work at its best. Rather than an accurate and faithful depiction of the character and his mythos, we have what could be perceived as a casual fan’s notion of what Spider-Man is and without the independence and common struggles that made him who he is as an individual and realistic character.

Some can say that this is a fictional character, but I would like to take this paragraph to say that heroes, especially superheroes of Spider-Man’s stature, never die and they are much more than just a story or a few points that you have to hit: they are there to inspire and to become aspirational figures for us to reach. We may never have Peter Parker’s powers, but we sure have his common struggles, his personal losses and his defeats; he is there to serve as a reminder that we can still do good in this world and we can still overcome adversity without losing our sense of responsibility as men and women. Sadly, this movie doesn’t understand that.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a film made for and by casual fans, so if you’re mostly linked to Marvel characters through the MCU, then it’s very likely that you are going to love it. If you’re like me and you are more connected with the source material and other iterations of the character, this might not be the film for you because it offers a very similar take to what we already saw with Homecoming.

Kevin Tanza

Kevin Tanza is a Venezuelan writer who fell in love with stories, music and soccer/football when he was a child and since then, he hasn’t stopped writing about them. He has been published in multiple websites in both Spanish and English. You'll find his work at MusikHolics, Good Comis to Read, Gemr, The Busby Babe, Chiesa di Totti, La Soledad del Nueve, Sail Away, Colgados por el Fútbol, Genre, United’s Red Rain, Mariskal Rock, Sugati Fashion, Indie Artists Go and Music Existence. He has also published a series of short stories. Feel free to use the links provided below to follow Kevin on social media. For business inquiries, please contact him via email.

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