Spider-Man: Far from Home ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Director Jon Watts really captures the "John Hughes" teen comedy tone that he's going for with these new "Spider-Man" flicks, and I appreciate it. The awkwardness of romance (and attempted romance), the angst and embarrassment and competition and class structures of high school: he's got all of that down pat. And I do like that he uses those attributes in service of a superhero narrative. It gives these movies a slightly different flavor than the other MCU films.

The action is all right, although it's really just a series of CGI clouds swirling around smashing things, but "Far From Home" really succeeds on the strength of its cast and their chemistry together. I love Tom Holland as Peter Parker. He captures the intelligence, vulnerability and frenetic attempt to balance heroism and life quite adeptly. He feels convincingly teenaged as well. His chemistry with Zendaya is adorable, and she's pretty great as Mary Jane as well (could one of these fucking movies not call her "MJ" though, it wears thin). I like her somehow cynical and simultaneously optimistic approach to the role. I love seeing these two crazy kids banter and almost connect to each other.

And I LOVE Jake Gyllenhaal in this movie. I didn't expect to like him nearly as much as I did. I knew he would turn into a villain in the second half of the movie. I mean, come on, anyone with even a passing familiarity to the "Spider-Man" character knows that Mysterio is part of his deep roster of villains. But I liked him so much, and I liked just seeing Gyllenhaal and Holland hang out and chat. They too have great chemistry together (I daresay more than Holland and Downey Jr. did together). Inevitably he turns evil, and that disappointed me because I liked him so very much as the worlds-weary mentor to Peter Parker with the tragic backstory (his backstory is so damned cool that, again, I was rather pissed when it all turned out to be a lie). I would have loved to see Mysterio take over as the head of the Avengers and be a friend of Parker's and then, three movies down the road, somehow slowly turn to the side of Darkness and then Parker would be forced to take down his closest friend. If he must be evil, that would have been much more satisfying. Instead, this "twist" feels exactly like the "Mandarin" reveal in "Iron Man 3"...though at least that was funny.

But I am here to review the movie that exists, not some hypothetical movie in my head. The inevitable betrayal takes this interesting, funny, cool little hangout superhero movie and makes it more of a standard-issue Marvel movie with a city being endangered by a catastrophic threat (I liked that this threat was fake and a con job though, that was a clever wrinkle) and the hero having to step up and save the day. Overall, I thought "Far From Home" was a solid and satisfying little romp with its own personality.

And then comes the post-credits, er, mid-credits sequence where Gyllenhaal's character posts some kind of posthumous Fox News update to the "dailybugle.net" (incidentally, here we have a cameo that made me incredibly happy) that reveals Spider-Man's secret identity because God forbid Marvel has one hero with a secret identity. At first it was cool that Marvel's heroes were known to everyone (especially that bold moment that caps off the first "Iron Man") but now that EVERY hero is known by his full name to the entire world it just seems like no one involved in the MCU knows how to do secret identity material anymore. It's especially galling in the case of Spider-Man because the most compelling thing about Spider-Man was that he was a poor kid who had to try and make ends meet but couldn't live any semblance of a normal life (or even pay the bills) because he also had to save the world every five minutes. That stuff works gangbusters in the Sam Raimi films. I mean, Marvel already fucked up that dynamic by having Spidey be bankrolled by Tony Stark, so I guess why not just ruin it altogether and destroy what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man. Ugh.

Still, I enjoyed "Far From Home" overall...despite several major disappointments. It's still a fun time, and worth a look.

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