Spider-Man: Far from Home ★★★

most superhero movies are about a conflict between someone who wants to save the world (superhero) and someone who wants to change it (super villain); far from home, however, is rather about someone who doesn’t want to save the world (spider-man) and someone who wants to appear to save the world (mysterio).

yesterday i went to watch far from home (my review for that viewing is already up). it was cheap tuesday and i overheard that the cashier putting together our popcorn and drink was kept on two hours after his shift was supposed to end: he was moving slow and walking in the wrong directions, exhausted. the fact they’d run out of butter and both the popcorn machines were low didn’t help. we ended up getting in late and missing the first half hour. i went back tonight and caught the whole thing. it turns out, we missed nothing. the first half hour was pure exposition, the jokes were weak and very little happened, conceptually or practically. the moment we walked in: mj’s discovery of the word bo as the best invention in italy, just after peter bought the black dahlia necklace, was in fact the perfect place to start the movie. my exhilarated reading of marvels phase four launch movie was dampened slightly by the exhausting narrative that it started with and it tempered my reading of the rest of the movie. nonetheless, it remains a fun summer hit with a wealth to think about and my favourite marvel villain/marvel romance to date (if anyone gets salty they need only refer to the snyder reviews or have a conversation with me about nolan to know where my allegiances lie - marvel rarely wows or even charms me. oddly enough as a youth, with the comic books i was the complete opposite and both the x-men and spider-man were formative for me; even the avengers, back when ant-man was the leader and iron man was the drunk side character genius, my personal favourite then).

what was particularly touching to me about far from home was it’s articulation of bursting through hegemony (or hypnotism): spider-mans first encounter with “mysterio-as-villain” reminded me on the first night, funnied up and sitting in the front row, of that writhing moment when you finally realize, this is not real: this is an illusion. this moment is not actually immediately liberating. it does not feel good. you are pulverized. or as the dialogue goes:

s: i know this is not real
m: do you though? i don’t think you have any idea what’s real. 

indeed. i knew what wasn’t real, but you don’t get to be selective in those moments when reality folds in on itself or disintegrates. when the map stops matching, nothing holds. i knew what wasn’t real, but i didn’t have any idea what was real. 

we begin with a narrative, the functioning illusion, and then as you catch on to the fact it is an illusion, the illusion is threatened and becomes dangerous, time and space become dislodged from their given readings. things divide into a rapid montage, which access and trigger deep levels of loves and fears (responsibility for fathers death-tony stark rising from the grave for revenge-queens collapsing and rejecting spider-man-spider-man being an imposter or just a kid in a sweatsuit-mj’s life threatened because of his actions &c), but it is in fact only because of passing through this atonal chamber that peter reactivates his spidey sense. reality must be doubted, denied, suspended, negated, and this doubt, this denial triggers the actualization of the negation, or suspension of reality in reality itself, which in turn must itself be denied, negated. 

in this way, the goal is not to save the world (or to appear to save the world), but neither is it to change it. it is to declare that it is not a world, pass through the world of not worldness and act within the not world of not worldness purely towards an idea (love and justice in spider-man’s case, to put it naively).

lest any of this look like sacrifice, or celebration of some sort of pain, i insist that there may be such a thing as an adolescence where the madness of thinking has nothing to do with suffering specifically or undressing oneself of a straitjacket of lies shoehorned into at birth. it is not noble to endure cruelty but to vanquish it.