Marvel’s European Vacation – Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home ★★★

One of the advantages of hating all things superhero is that I don’t have to take part in those “bro-ey” discussions that usually begin with, “Dude, did you see what Thanos did to civilization? I can’t wait for the next 40 installments!” I tend to go blank when I’m with a gaggle of gays who think movies begin and end with all things Marvel. Isn’t there one other gay who seeks out the works of Pawel PawIikowski and Michael Haneke? Please! Slide into my DMs!

I totally understand that studios need their big tentpoles to prop up the rest of the industry, but I just can’t with the dense lore, the Halloween costumes, the CGI third act destruction, the lack of nuance, and the fact that I can never remember anything I see from these films. Can’t we just reserve fantasy and fighting for the bedroom where it belongs? I do, however, have a soft spot for Spider-Man. He’s just a kid, standing on top of a spire, telling us he loves saving the world. I thoroughly enjoyed Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, which did such a fantastic job of letting us feel Peter Parker’s fear and excitement when he discovers his powers. I loved last year’s animated Into The Spider-Verse, thinking that this style was the perfect fit for the genre. I thought Spider-Man: Homecoming from 2017 had fun with its John Hughes-style teen comedy disguised as a comic book movie. Tom Holland, Zendaya, and national treasure, Marisa Tomei, all brought a lively comic energy to their characters, and the film wasn’t just a giant spectacle or quip machine.

So I can’t say I approached the new one, Spider-Man: Far From Home with any sense of dread, but I also only went because a friend from breakfast asked me along. The film, directed by Jon Watts, and written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, has a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, and yes, a painful third act in which things blow up real good. It does, however, have an up-to-the-minute ending which pings on the fake news era in which we currently reside, and any film series which ends for the second time with a main character shouting, “What the f*ck?!!” before smash cutting to black gets a few bonus points. It’s their signature line and I’m here for it.

Since I don’t regularly travel through Marvel’s Universe, my friend kindly caught me up on some blip which occurred which wiped out half of civilization only to return them five years later. Couldn’t they just have ditched the whole superhero thing and made this about Peter Parker’s very confused, very mixed-age Senior Class? Give me Spider-Man: Back From The Future now, please! Anyhow, Peter and company take off for a whirlwind trip to Europe, with Peter trying to leave his costume behind so he can just relax in places like Paris and London and make googly eyes with MJ. I enjoyed all of the high school comedy elements, with Jacob Batalon returning as Peter’s BFF, Ned, who finds instant love with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice, all grown up from The Nice Guys and Tracy Flick-ing the hell out of her uptight co-ed role). My big question was, where the hell is Josie Totah (formerly J.J. Totah from Other People and Champions) from Homecoming? Always a welcome presence, I missed her “get it gurrlll” sass in this one.

Of course, the good vs. evil has to rear its ugly head in Venice when this giant, swooshy thing destroys gondoliers and canals, only to be destroyed by a laser-y, scuba helmet-wearing superhero named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Welcomed into the fold, he befriends Peter, who has been given EDITH, the late Tony Stark’s powerful sunglasses, which have untold powers. Imagine if SIRI had anti-glare capabilities and you’ll get the gist. Together they try to stop further destruction and mayhem, and…this is when I stopped caring. It doesn’t help that Gyllenhaal and superhero movies aren’t a good fit. He looks spectacularly uncomfortable in his garb and the script stiffens up this usually loose, limber actor.

Still, this film has its pleasures. Samuel L. Jackson, as usual, gets the best lines as the irascible Nick Fury. Martin Starr (Silicon Valley) and J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) do HBO proud as the adult chaperones on this adventure, and, you guys, Peter Billingsly (Ralphie from A Christmas Story) is a grown-assed man and is worth keeping an eye on here. Zendaya, in full Aubrey Plaza deadpan mode, won me over, especially when she unwillingly takes a shaky-cam ride through the city with Spider-Man. Stick around for the usual 6 endings buried in the final credits, because these moments feature a welcome cameo and what I’m gathering is a game-changing reveal. Hell, the proper ending to the film changes everything without all those hidden scenes.

Tom Holland, so earnest and fast-talking, keeps things grounded in a way that sits with me better than the non-stop meta-comedy of the Deadpool and Guardians of The Galaxy films. He’s playing a real character here, and I especially loved his heroic actions in the sequence where he doesn’t don the costume. He comes across like a mix between James Bond and Marty McFly. More costume-free antics, Marvel! In fact, in my head, I’ve erased the mind-numbing action scenes and reformatted this into Sixteen Candles: That Time Across The Pond.

GAY SCALE: For each review, I’ll rate the film on my 50 SHADES OF GAY SCALE to let you know how far it tips in our favor. Spider-Man: Far From Home gets a 0 out of 50. Sure, Tom Holland shows off his six-pack and looks great in tights, but by erasing Josie Totah and by not having a single LGBTQ+ character, it stings a little. One character in particular, the third side of the Peter Parker/MJ love triangle, could have easily been written as gay, giving that resolution a little kick. I guess adults parading around in body-hugging costumes is now a straights only thing. Hasn’t one Marvel staffer been to West Hollywood on October 31st before?!!!

By Glenn Gaylord

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