Tom Holland Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury
Jake Gyllenhaal Quentin Beck/Mysterio
Marisa Tomei May Parker
Jon Favreau Happy Hogan
Jacob Batalon Ned Leeds
Even though we are living through another COVID lockdown, and every day seems to be another Groundhog Day, Friday came along, so it is another movie night in our household. For this week, we decided to revisit the Marvel Comics Universe again with the viewing of the latest Spider-Man film. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a light romp that takes place after Avengers: Endgame in the MCU timeline. With the movie selected, the bottle of Chardonnay opened and pop-corn popped we inserted the film to start the latest Spider-Man adventure.
Spider-Man has always been one of my favourite characters in the MCU. I remember as a child watching the cheesy cartoons on Saturday mornings. Even as an adolescent, I could see how the same frames were always being used to demonstrate Spidey swinging through the streets, but it did not matter. I enjoyed the story-lines and re-watched the episodes’ time and time again on weekend mornings. Not only did the cartoon’s stick in my mind, but also the theme song “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can”. Don’t tell me you didn’t sing along with lyrics; and you can thank me for the ear worm that you now have with the song resounding in your head for the rest of the day. Don’t forget, I am old enough that I remember when these cartoons were “new” in the late 60’s as was our colour television! Not to mention, this was pre-cable era and we only had a few channels, so whatever was on tv was what we had to choose from, and there were only a half dozen channels! But, I have digressed, we are here to read about the “Far From Home” not my memories of a cheesy cartoon from the 60’s.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” stars Tom Holland in the title role. He is the 3rdSpider-Man in the MCU film adaptions, and for me, Holland actually embodies the Spider-Man of my young memories. The previous actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were valiant attempts to capture the essence and youthful exuberance of Spider-Man, but I personally found them lacking. Especially Maguire, Garfield was a bit better, and with Holland, they have truly found “Spider-Man”. To round out the cast, we have Zendaya (MJ), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), Favreau (Happy), Tomei (Aunt May), Jackson (Fury) and for the villain Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio). Each character adds to the film and balances it like only a proper MCU film can.
While this film storyline continues shortly after “Avengers: Endgame”, it is robust enough that it can almost be watched as a stand-alone movie. However, having said that, if you are not familiar with the whole MCU film history, you may lose some of the nuances, inside jokes and continuity issues, but not enough so that you will not enjoy it. “Far From Home” is essentially about Peter Parker taking a high-school trip to Europe with his greatest hope of finally hooking up with his teenage crush, MJ. Prior to departing, Happy (Favreau) presents Peter (Holland) with a final gift from Tony Stark. This gift is in the form of a unique pair of sunglasses that will allow the approved wearer (in this case Peter) all the power of Stark Industries (To include a myriad of space based weapons systems, communications monitoring and a fleet of armed drones). Concurrently, we find Nick Fury investigating an otherworldly occurrence in Mexico where a demon of some sort is battling a new caped warrior (Gyllenhaal).
Fury (Jackson) is trying to contact Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) while on the trip as he needs his assistance to combat these new bad guys (who we later find out are called “Elementals”). Ghosting Fury (Jackson) Peter/Spidey continues to try and woo his crush, MJ (Zendaya) while in Venice. At this point, I have to stray for a minute, my wife and I really loved the Venice scenes as it brought us back to a pre-covid trip where we spent a few days wandering/rowing around that fair city. The cinematography was excellent in these scenes and the memories that surfaced brought us extra enjoyment while watching it! Now back to the movie…we find our high school trip touring all the major sites of Venice, when suddenly, a new Elemental arrives and starts to destroy some of the historic buildings and sites. Quentin Beck (Gyllenhaal) shows up and starts to battle this new foe, and Peter (Holland) must ditch his classmates, don his Spider-Man persona and help him out. Together, the two intrepid heroes manage to save the city and destroy the elemental.
Now that Spidey (Holland) and Beck (Gyllenhaal) have met, Peter/Spider-Man believes that he was given too much power and responsibility from Tony Stark (Ironman) and passes on his sunglasses to Beck so that he can do good with them. (BTW it is at this time, the term Mysterio comes into play and Beck takes on this new moniker). Peter then goes to rejoin his classmates and their tour, and hopefully his romance. Shortly after receiving his new powers, Mysterio/Beck’s (Gyllenhaal) true identity comes forth and we find that he is a disgruntled employee from Stark Enterprises. Not only is he upset with the way that Stark treated him, but he has surrounded himself with other upset geniuses from his former employer. Now in control of all of Stark’s toys, specifically the armed drones and illusion generators, Beck’s real dream of trying to out Avenger the Avengers comes to light. Beck/Mysterio (Gyllenhaal) wants to have monster illusions that only he can fight and demonstrate that he is the new hero of the world as the Avengers are all broken up as a result of Endgame. Ok, I have now pretty much given half of the movies plot, needless to say, Spider-Man has some other great adventures around Europe, keeps on putting the moves onto MJ, and it all culminates in a final battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio…and also not to mention leaving it open for the next phase of movies in the MCU.
What did I find entertaining about this film? Well, for starters the story line was pretty tight. In our opinion this was one of the better Spider-Man movies to date. (We really liked the first one, and this was a close 2nd). The characters are continuing to develop, not only Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) but also the supporting characters as well. The CGI was very well done and the cinematography was excellent. For us, as avid travellers, it really brought it home with some scenes as it brought back memories of us travelling all over Europe. The villain, Beck/Mysterio was enjoyable to watch, not to over the top as some villains are portrayed, but done well enough to add to the film. To us, this was important, as we are not really fans of Gyllenhaal, but at times he does some pretty good work. As I previously mentioned, even though it takes place after Endgame, it has enough meat to it and fill-ins so that you could almost watch this as a stand-alone if you are unfamiliar with the whole storyboard presented over the last 10 years or so. Also, we found the chemistry between all of the cast to be excellent which really added to the film writ large.
Now, let us take a look at the main cast of this popcorn film;
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man: I have already mentioned that I like Holland the best in the title role. To me, he really embodies Peter Parker and his innocence as well his desire to be the hero, help enhance the character immensely. What we really liked in this film was the way he portrayed his inner anxiety as he was torn between being a hero and also a teenage boy with his first love. He pulled off the emotions extremely well, and balanced the enought to bring out a truly strong character in this film. I really look forward to his next outing as Spider-Man in the third film and how he takes this character further.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: What can I say about Jackson? He is the consummate actor and even when he is in smaller roles, he leaves an impact. Samuel Jackson is Nick Fury! I can’t picture any other actor in this role who embodies the strength of character and leadership as Jackson has created in this franchise. While his role in this film is minimal, his contribution to the storyline is integral to it, and as usual, he delivers in all facets. What I always find amazing when he plays Fury (or Windu in Star Wars), is that he can actually speak a sentence without his trademark “MotherF*&ker”. I know he is in 70’s and that his timeline for this role is limited, but I would be hard pressed to suggest a replacement. As always, his contribution to a film or project is a key ingredient to it’s success!
Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio: As mentioned previously, I am not a fan of Gyllenhaal, but I can recognize when he contributes to a film or performs well in a role on film or television. In the character of Quentin Beck, he did a fair job. Even in his first scene in the film, you could see that he had some ulterior motives but we were hard pressed to figure out what it was initially. When his true motives came out, it was done in a believable fashion which added to the character and the film. His villain of “Mysterio” was not really a villain like the Green Goblin, but more so a misguided individual who really wanted to be better than he really was and to prove his worth, not only to a deceased former employer, but to himself. In that respect, he did deliver those emotions to the audience. Gyllenhaal also displayed chemistry with his co-stars to not only enhance their performance, but also his own. Overall, not a bad performance, but not his best either.
Marisa Tomei as May Parker: What can I say about Tomei, I have been a fan of her work since I first saw her in “My Cousin Vinny”. She is talented in comedic as well as dramatic roles. While her repertoire of films may not all be blockbusters or award winners, I always seem to enjoy her performance. Her portrayal of a younger “Aunt May” is refreshing compared to the older actresses who played that role in previous Spider-Man forays. She handles the role well, to include her knowledge of who Peter really is. Not a huge role for Tomei, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. I especially liked the chemistry between her and Happy (Favreau) and their own sub-plot that seems to be continuing throughout the series.
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan: Favreau is another actor that I always enjoy watching. He can switch from a bumbling idiot, comedic tough guy to a dramatic role easily enough. Though I prefer when he is in one of his more comedic roles. He has excellent chemistry with all of his co-stars (especially Tomei) and his character is integral to the “passing of the torch” if you will between Iron Man and Spider Man. A constant character in the MCU, he is always a joy to watch.
Zendaya as MJ: Zendaya is the 3rditeration of MJ (much like Spider-Man himself) and she brings her own style to the role. Even though her resume is quite impressive for such a young actress, I have only watched her in the Spider-Man franchise. Her portrayal of MJ is a bit more impish and sneaky compared to Stone or Dunst and more specifically less whiny than Dunst’s portrayal of the same character. Additionally, as they are supposed to be teenagers going to high school, (yes she is in her 20’s) but she does look a bit more like a teenager. I would be hard pressed to say which portrayal I enjoyed more, Stone or Zendaya, as each of them have displayed unique interpretations of the same person. Overall a very good performance and I look forward to seeing her in Dune in the upcoming year.
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds: Batalon is an excellent sidekick to Parker/Spider-Man. I enjoyed his incredulity in the first film and how he has matured and grown (character wise) in this film. One thing I did especially like in this movie was the fact that he was not the typical “fat nerdy kid” and they let his character develop and have a girlfriend. He adds a touch of comic relief in every scene and does it well. I have only seen him in the Spider-Man franchise so have no other roles to compare it to, but I hope to see him in future films or television shows as I believe he has a comedic talent that has yet to be discovered.
So overall, were we entertained? Yes, we definitely were. This was a light enjoyable film with a solid cast that kept you watching. The special effects, story-line and chemistry displayed throughout the film ensured that the audience was entertained throughout. Sure, there may have been a few errors or goofs in the film, but nothing that would detract from the viewer’s enjoyment. Would I recommend it? Of course, especially if you are a fan of the super-hero genre of films, or even if you want to watch a light action/comedy for entertainment. If you are not a fan of either, then you might want to give it a pass.
Our rating: 7/10
If you are interested in watching other films/shows with the principal cast, please consider the following recommendations:
Tom Holland Avengers Endgame and Infinity War, Spiderman: Homecoming, Captain America: Civil War
Samuel L. Jackson (Pretty much anything!) MCU Franchise (Capt America, Avengers etc), The Negotiator, Shaft, Glass, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Unbreakable,The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Black Snake Moan (and the list goes on!)
Jake Gyllenhaal Life, Southpaw, Source code, Jar Head,
Marisa Tomei My Cousin Vinny, The Wrestler, Wild Hogs, Rescue Me,
Jon Favreau MCU (Avengers, Iron-Man etc) Entourage, The Break Up, Four Christmas’
Till next time!