This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
smaekelburger’s review published on Letterboxd :
This review may contain spoilers.
Also known as Night Monkey: Return of the Peter Tingle
This movie was amazing.
The first reason was because of the context. Watching my first Tom Holland movie on the big screen in IMAX at the iconic Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd in LA opening night was a once in a lifetime opportunity! The theatre was beautiful with its ornate ceiling, red plush seats, and huge red and gold curtain covering the 94 foot curved screen. I also enjoyed knowing I was walking in the footsteps of the cast and overhearing little bits of conversations between staff members about Tom Holland and the premiere that was held there just the week before.
The second reason this movie was amazing was because of the content. I tried to know as little as possible about the movie going into it, but still had a list of things I was looking for. I did not leave disappointed.
Coming off of Endgame, the biggest thing I was looking for was whether or not they would let Spider-Man grieve the loss of his mentor and father figure, Tony Stark. Thankfully, the answer was yes and I thought Tom Holland did a very compelling job at conveying the tendency of how often grief just sneaks up on you, hitting you out of the blue.
The other major thing I was looking for was how this loss affected Peter’s character development. Here I was also satisfied. After watching many of the other Marvel movies, I have come to the conclusion that what sets this Spider-Man apart from all the other super heroes is his youthful eagerness and innocence. After the earth shattering events of Infinity War and Endgame, the writers could have easily turned Spider-Man into a vengeful and angry vigilante, but they didn’t. Eagerness is still an essential part of what makes Peter Parker so loveable, though this time his eagerness is less directed towards being Spider-Man and more directed towards enjoying his vacation as Peter Parker. His innocence is also reaffirmed in this movie, sometimes to a fault, and his main motive continues to be to protect before he ever resorts to violence. There is no mistaking the sadness in his voice when he looks into the face of death, even if that face was intent on taking him out of the picture. Executive producer Eric Carroll put it well when he explained that while Peter got a lot of upgrades and support from Tony Stark, the web shooters and web fluid were always his invention. “At the end of the day,” Carroll stated, “he’s a smart guy with a heart of gold” and it’s that same heart that gives this movie its pulse.
Another element that made this movie so enjoyable was watching it with such a responsive audience. There was a lot of humour in Far From Home, but I never found it detracted from the more serious themes discussed above. The scene on the airplane heading to Europe instantly comes to mind as one of those laugh out loud moments.
The final element I was looking for was the how the growing spark between Peter and MJ was going to unfold. There are moments in Homecoming that indicate MJ might secretly like Peter, but apart from that, if you didn’t watch the trailers and knew nothing of the comics, this development might come as a surprise to you. Here again I was not disappointed. I was delighted with how they developed their relationship, creating moments that are so awkward (in typical high school fashion) and so sweet at the same time. We get to see a vulnerable and caring side of MJ that has previously been hidden behind a strong wall of sarcasm and a really thoughtful, almost romantic side of Peter Parker.
Out of everything Peter and MJ though, my favourite moment happens when Peter is about to tell MJ he likes her, but she cuts him off, assuming he is going to tell her he’s Spider-Man. When she explains that she’s been watching him and “it’s kind of obvious”, Peter is struck with a terrifying realization. He asks MJ if she was only watching him because she thought he was Spider-Man. As both of them fumble to rebuild their walls, a nagging fear is revealed that maybe Peter Parker isn’t good enough. Maybe without Spider-Man he really is nothing. It's in this moment we see a thread of continuity weaving its way from Homecoming to Far From Home.
We saw it in Homecoming when Ned almost convinced Peter to use Spider-Man to their social advantage. Trying to reassure himself as much as his best friend Peter explained, “Spider-Man is not a party trick… I'm just gonna be myself,” to which Ned retorted, “No one wants that.” Later, when wondering if he should tell Liz he’s Spider-Man he worried, “What if she’s expecting someone like Tony Stark? Imagine how disappointed she'd be when she sees me”. And finally we saw that thread most explicitly in the rooftop confrontation when Peter pleaded with Tony, stating, "I'm nothing without this suit." All this goes to show that while his character has grown, he’s still a kid wrestling wth the same questions of self doubt.
The most memorable scene in the movie for me though was one of the conversations between Happy and Peter. This scene reinforces how the loss they have both experienced has impacted their relationship. Peter now has a friend to talk to about superhero stuff and Happy no longer just barely tolerates Peter, but willingly has his back. I love this scene because we get to see the elements of grief, growth, and humour all working together. Throughout Far From Home we see glimpses of Tony in the physical world around Peter, but we also see similarities in the actions and appearance of Peter that pay tribute to the influence of his mentor. This particular scene between Peter and Happy also happens to be my favourite “touch of Tony” moment. Though it becomes increasingly clear throughout the movie, I think I also liked this scene because it is when we most clearly realize this movie is not about Peter Parker becoming the next Iron Man, it’s about him stepping up to the responsibility of being the best Spider-Man he can be.
You will often hear people talk about how a movie’s action sequences are only as engaging as the audience’s level of investment in the fate of the characters. If the people behind the camera haven’t done a good job of developing the characters, their motives, and relatability, then the action is short lived, the movie to loses steam, and the storyline loses its credibility and impact. At the red carpet premier, one of the interviewers recognized in Far From Home, “there are these amazing action sequences, but [they] are always grounded in Peter’s story.” Knowing where he’s come from, you cringe a little more with each verbal and physical blow. Since becoming Spider-Man, Peter has worked very hard to conceal his identity and create his own illusions so he can maintain a somewhat normal life, but he has also done this to protect those he loves. So it gets interesting when the art of illusion is used against him.
The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was the mid credit scene. If you want to leave on a high note with a feeling of closure, leave the theatre as soon as the credits start to roll because in this case, ignorance really is bliss. If Marvel was looking to get a reaction out of people, this scene will do that. It certainly got a “What??!! Noooo! Why would you do that!?” response from me.
Peter Parker is a man with a plan in this action packed sequel. A plan that doesn’t include saving the world. A plan that continues to get highjacked at every turn. In the rebuilding after the events of Endgame, we find a world that is looking for a hero to believe in again, but we also find people who will take advantage of the vulnerable with a smoke screen of illusion in order to create the hero people desperately want. Perhaps it’s because I was a ready and willing victim, maybe the movie was just that good. Whatever the reason, I had no trouble getting sucked into this adventure of illusion and mystery.