Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Film Review: Spider-man – Far From Home

Peter Parker hops across the pond for a school trip, but duty calls when Nick Fury and a new ally called Mysterio enters the frame.

After the time-hopping, dimension-bending antics of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-man: Far From Home offers a smaller, more personal adventure for the youngest Avenger, with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) leaving the streets of New York behind for a school trip that zips through Europe, from Venice and Prague to Berlin and London.

Keen to put his Spidey troubles behind him, Peter dreams of a perfect trip where he gets to profess his feelings to MJ (Zendaya) and hang out with friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), but Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has other plans, and recruits Peter for a mission alongside Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Far From Home picks up not long after Endgame, in a world attempting to return to some degree of normalcy following the reappearance of everyone who was wiped from existence by Thanos and his cronies. However, it doesn't dwell on the fallout from Endgame for long; in fact, how 'The Blip' (as it is referred to) has affected the world at large isn't touched on all that much at all.

Instead, Far From Home is more concerned with the personal stakes associated with losing Peter's mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr), and how that shattering loss has shaken Peter's self-confidence. The broader implications of Thanos' actions are relegated to a footnote, which is both irksome and understandable; while we'd like to know more about Earth post-Endgame, it makes sense that Peter's personal loss is the frame on which this film is hung.

Instead, director Jon Watts continues to channel John Hughes' trademark high school irreverence and heart, with his collection of teens – which includes hilarious performances from Angourie Rice and Tony Revolori as Betty and Flash respectively – more concerned with smooching in sociology than the broader socioeconomic and sociopolitical implications of Marvel's earth-shattering crescendo just a few months ago. If you enjoyed the banter between Homecoming's ensemble, then Far From Home has a lot more of the same. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Far From Home plays a it a little too fast and loose with the humour – does anyone else miss the sincerity of Sam Raimi's original trilogy, where everything wasn't treated as a joke? Where Aunt May was a one-note joke?

Holland continues to excel as Peter Parker, with his natural charisma and youthful energy breathing life into this nervous, twee teen. Equally as great is Zendaya as MJ, whose deadpan humour perfects offsets Holland's jittery Peter. In fact, all the kids in this film work like a charm – Batalon is a goofy sidekick for Holland to bounce off, while Revolori's increasingly dim-witted Flash Thompson is now an Instagram streamer seeking Internet fame.

At this stage, it's clear that Far From Home doesn't take itself too seriously. And that's okay – after Endgame, maybe some levity was welcome. But like I said earlier, this new iteration of Spider-man is a far cry from Raimi's beloved films with Tobey Maguire. Far From Home is a high-flying adventure with colourful characters and more interlinked material than possibly any previous Marvel solo film. The star-studded ensemble is impressive (Gyllenhaal, lumbered with some truly awful exposition, and Favreau, also playing it for laughs), but their inclusion feels more geared towards this universe's impression of size and the meme-ridden press tour. Gyllenhaal's appearance on BBC Radio 1's Greg James is more memorable than anything he's given to do here.

Don't get me wrong, I really like this iteration of Spider-man; Marvel seems to be actively going against the grain so as to not retread ground previously covered by Raimi and Marc Webb. But just once, I'd like to see Holland's Spider-man (who has already racked up five appearances!) in a film that doesn't revolve around Tony Stark, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan or the Avengers.

The Verdict: 7/10

Fun, frivolous and fast-paced, Spider-man: Far From Home swings in, makes you laugh and is gone before you can say something about great responsibility. The cast is stellar, so why doesn't this film gel? If they are to do a third film (who am I kidding, of course they will), then I've got my fingers crossed they dial back even further so that Peter Parker gets room to be Peter Parker without all the additional stuff hovering on the periphery.

Spider-man: Far From Home is in cinemas across Australia now.

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