Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
Spider-Man is a character who has many phases in his life, unlike Batman and Superman, who are static in their development for the most part. Right now Superman is married with a son in the comic books, yet I anticipate the time will come where the reset button is hit, and that is erased. While many a Robin has come and gone and developed in their unique ways, Batman is never changing, always returning to his starting position. When looking over Peter Parker’s life, there are the high school years, the college years, the married years; the shivers clone saga and eventual reset, the successful businessman phase. Parker is dynamic and grows yet for the movie-going public nothing quite beats high school Spider-Man. He is reflective of our foibles and awkwardness, forced to choose between a normal life and one as a hero.
Far From Home quickly explains that the Blip, as the masses call the five years after Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet, left hundreds of millions homeless and high school students forced to restart their interrupted years despite technically being in their twenties. Because these kids didn’t exist during that absence, the powers that be have ruled they didn’t age. Peter Parker and his friends are embarking on a European class trip which gets interrupted by an elemental attack in Venice. Peter is brought in by Nick Fury who introduces him to Quentin Beck, a man from another universe whose Earth was destroyed by these elemental creatures. He’s here now to save the MCU and needs Peter’s help. Meanwhile, Peter has been unofficially handed the mantle of future leadership by the late Tony Stark and struggles to decide if he is worthy of it.
If you are a comic book reader and are familiar with Quentin Beck aka Mysterio then you know not all is what it seems in this story. Mysterio and his motivations in the film are classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko with some modern ideas thrown in. So far I have loved both takes on villains in these MCU/Sony co-produced movies. I’d say The Vulture was a better villain, but Mysterio is by no means terrible, just not as developed as the previous picture’s baddie. If I had to compare Mysterio to someone, it might be Helmut Zemo from Captain America: Civil War. Both characters are the byproducts of the actions of superheroes in the MCU, and so their motivations are pretty clear and straightforward. Mysterio is not a sympathetic villain, but that is in line with his portrayal as a pathetic conman in the comics.
I’ve decided that Zendaya’s portrayal of M.J. is my favorite, maybe even better than the comic book Mary Jane. At this point they are wholly different characters, only having their role as a love interest to Spider-Man in common. Zendaya can perfectly capture that teenage awkwardness of liking someone and being a weird kid into their niche. It’s hinted she is a true crime fan as Peter seeks out a gift related to the Black Dhalia murder that he knows she’ll love. There is a fantastic scene where Spidey takes her for a web spin, and it stands as a beautiful counterpoint to the Superman/Lois flying scene in the 1970s Superman film. M.J. is screaming and freaking out the whole time, not enamored with this experience in the slightest.
I can see similar complaints to Homecoming being leveled about Far From Home; it’s too much of a high school comedy and not a “serious” Spider-Man film. I would argue that the two times we got “serious” Spider-Man movies were the two Andrew Garfield ones and they should be the final word on that. Spider-Man should be light and fun and with strokes of darkness. From my perspective, this is an excellent movie for older kids. Its themes deal with admitting you made a mistake but also realizing you can overcome those, that they are learning experiences. It’s a fantastic message in a culture where a report card without straight As can bring kids to tears. As a third grade teacher, I hope my students see the message in this movie and take it to heart. I try to emphasize this idea every year, and it’s nice to have Spider-Man backing me up. If you are an adult taking this picture too seriously, then that’s pretty pathetic. Superheroes never end up on my favorites of the year list not because I hate them but because I’m a grown-up and I get most of my enjoyment from movies tailored to my age group. I can already imagine how much my niece and nephew will enjoy this picture and that’s good enough for me.