Spider-Man: Far From Home Review
People, and Americans seemingly in general, seem to have a hard time giving others credit for things. It seems to tough for many people to ask for help, to look like they need it. We love getting all the credit for our own work, even if we do sometimes work it teams. How do we measure the worth of someone in a team? Also, when and how do people decide that something they've help create is their own? Think back on the Mark Zuckerberg case with the Winklevoss (spelling?) twins. How much of that story to believe is true? We are also living in a time where we have to be the best at what we do, and nobody can do it better than us.
These are thoughts I had in my head as I watched Quentin Beck reveal his plot. Sometimes, it helps having expectations completely get reversed watching a movie. Anybody who has casually picked up a comic book or vaguely remembers the old "Spider-Man" cartoon probably knew that Jake Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck was secretly a bad guy. I figured it'd be revealed he'd be bad. Sure enough, I was right. Just how far they'd go with his character was a huge, and nice, surprise.
But before we really get to know Quentin Beck, we get back into the life of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his crush MJ (Zendaya) and his rival Flash (Tony Revolori) and how they deal with the fallout of the Snap. Which isn't called The Snap anymore, it is referred to as The Blip. That event from five years ago, where half the universe's population suddenly disappeared. I was hoping that his movie would discuss this in at least some form, and it's the source of some of the film's early laughs. The kids are discussing how weird it is that their class is full of kids who came back to life from Hulk's Infinity snap and kids who grew up five years older. They are also dealing with how bummed they are that they have to redo their previous year of high school from the beginning. After such a turbulent year, they need a vacation, and Peter, Ned, MJ, and Flash go on a school Europe trip during the early days of summer. Peter wants to leave his spider-suit at home, only for his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) to pack it anyway.
It wouldn't have mattered of course. Because Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been tracking Peter all the way to Europe. Peter has known this as well, he's been ignoring calls from Fury for a few weeks. He really wants to enjoy his European vacation, but Fury can't let him. Seems like there are attacks all over the world, that creatures that represent a different element have come from an alternate Earth to destroy Peter's reality. The only survivor of that alternate Earth is Quentin Beck and Fury is pairing him up with Spider-Man to battle the Elementals, since apparently all the surviving heroes from the battle with Thanos are either off-Earth or unavailable, its up to Spider-Man to help.
One of the biggest appeals of Spider-Man is how a hormone-filled teenager balances the turbulent terrain of the high school years, budding adulthood and also committing to be a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. That appeal is front and center in this movie, and Holland continues to be a pitch-perfect Peter Parker. He's got this "cute" plan to ask MJ to be his girlfriend, using the romance of Europe as an aide. But how can he do that when the world is seemingly in peril? Its the relation to those crazy teenage years that drives the drama of the movie, and these actors have done nice work making this feel very real. They look like regular high school kids with their own needs and their own pressures. Adding the fate of the world in Peter's case makes Peter's journey all the more engrossing.
And that's all before Peter discovers Quentin is a fraud and he's been controlling the Elementals the whole time.
Quentin Beck is an ex-Stark Industries employee who helped create some top-of-the-line tech for Tony and got no credit for it and was eventually fired for being too unstable. Man, that's the type of character Gyllenhaal can do in his sleep, no wonder they hired him. Beck leads a disgruntled cabal of ex-Stark Industries employees who are trying to help turn Beck into a hero. Sure, one could say that this feels like the Marvel version of "The Incredibles" but Beck is trying to make sure there's no more special people, he's just ready for people to finally know his name. He wants to finally contribute to society after being ignored by his former employer. He's ready to show the world how great his brain is, and get that fame, that recognition. Even if it means people will die.
Once it is revealed how great an illusionist Beck is, it leads to some of the most unique visuals in a superhero movie yet. The two showdowns between Spidey and Beck are just cool. They're just amazingly cool. Its amazing just watching the challenge that Beck presents to Spider-Man and the special effects work, as expected, is phenomenal.
The film is filled with fun performances. Batalon continues to be a trusty friend to Peter, and I liked that he got a short yet sweet love story of his own in this movie. Zendaya is subtly funny as MJ here. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are also funny as the two chaperone teachers who go on the trip with the students. Jake Gyllenhaal, like I said, is really good playing charming unstable, and he definitely makes you feel for his dilemma, even if we disagree with his methods, which are always my favorite type of villains. No doubt, the best surprise was J.K. Simmons showing up in the post-credit scene as J. Jonah Jameson. Yep, the same actor has played the same character in two different universes. Make no mistake, this isn't the same Jameson from the Sam Raimi movies. The MCU version is a Alex Jones clone, essentially. I am very interested in an MCU where superheroes have to be also deal with fake news media and how journalists will begin to manipulate a story for clicks on their websites.
Overall, "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is a great coda to the first 22 movies of the MCU. A sign of a bright future. The reminder that Spider-Man is in magnificent hands over at Marvel Studios and Disney and also sheds light on some wonderful possibilities for future stories. Not only that, the movie has some smart things to say about legacy, how we move on from tragedy, navigating the teenage years, and the hardships of becoming a household name. This wasn't the movie I thought it was going to be, and sometimes that's just what I need.
FINAL GRADE: A