travis kyker’s review published on Letterboxd:
Like if Before Sunrise met The Matrix, and *almost* as weird as that sounds. (Seriously, for better or worse, say goodbye to that homogeneous “Marvel formula.”)
The first half is a really great road trip comedy — funny, endearing, light on its feet — and the second half is, well, pretty weird. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — there’s a sequence or two in there that’s probably the most artistic thing Marvel’s done since Age of Ultron’s fever dream scene. The problem is that none of it actually means anything, and is all just there to look pretty. The villain and thematic irrelevance of their method of attack (and its self-important forcefulness) is remarkably similar to that of last year’s Incredibles 2, interestingly enough (I’ve heard some takes that suggest some self-deconstruction going on within the big twist, but I don’t buy that at all).
I don’t really like comparing the MCU’s Spider-Man films to Raimi’s — the former is their own thing and should be allowed to stand distinct and separate — but on the other hand, the original trilogy is fresh on my mind and its approach to the character is just so much better, so it’s impossible not to notice the sharp contrasts between the two takes. What makes Raimi’s films so great, in short, is their treatment of Peter’s superpowers as both a gift and a burden: the first part is easy to accept and happens within hours of their discovery; the second is far more difficult, and takes three entire films of character development. The trilogy is ultimately (among other things, but most basically) about selflessness, the pursuit of goodness for its own sake, and the freedom to do what’s right without the burden of ulterior motivation. The MCU’s Spidey, on the other hand, is far less mature, both thematically and emotionally: Holland’s Peter spends most of this film wrestling with his sense of worthiness, but is never allowed an actual arc into a better place. Whenever he chooses to do the right thing, it’s motivated deep down by guilt for “messing up really bad” or the desire to eventually hand off responsibility to someone else (this is actually an explicit character point in the film, brought up midway through and never really addressed again). MCU Peter’s personal goal can, by chance, be accomplished by doing the “right thing,” so he does it; Raimi’s Peter does the right thing and is rewarded with the personal goal he selflessly gave up (See: “Sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the things we desire most… even our dreams.”)
To be clear, I really don’t think the MCU is intentionally making their Spider-Man comparatively immature — I just don’t think they care enough to notice how it comes off when you dig deep enough into his character. His first sequel is a perfectly fun, unexpectedly unique movie with a few too many twists and an incredible cameo, but inside it’s as hollow as Mysterio’s bubble helmet. Far From Home made me want it to be a better movie, Raimi’s trilogy made me want to be a better man. My Peter tingle says it’s pizza time.