By Jason Delgado
Is Spider-Man: Far From Home the greatest Spider-Man movie ever? No, but why does everything have to be bigger or better? Maybe some of the audience (and I’ll lump critics in there as well) are spoiled after the epic Avengers: Endgame, or maybe the sociology minor in me could say that it’s the very nature of our culture in general. Either way, like Cyndi Lauper said about girls, I just wanna have fun. Far From Home delivers in that regard, a teen-comedy/superhero flick that is perfect for summer escapism, and that’s all it needs to be, even though there is a deeper theme to this film beneath the surface.
In the movie, Peter Parker just wants to take a break from saving the world, enjoy his vacation, and get closer to MJ (while trying to process the loss of his mentor). The responsibility of it all is something that any teenager in that situation would struggle with, and why Stan Lee’s Spider-Man character still connects with people to this day.
In previous Marvel movies, Captain America affectionately calls Spider-Man “Queens,” after the New York City borough that he’s from. NYC has been like a living, breathing character in Marvel due mainly to the way that Stan Lee beautifully integrated it in the comics. Sadly, Stan “the Man” is no longer with us, and Peter Parker is out of his friendly neighborhood element in this film as he is vacationing in Europe. Does that mean that both elements are “gone?” Not a chance.
Many will agree that this Tom Holland incarnation of Spidey is the truest to the form that the great Stan “the Man” Lee wrote. His Peter Parker deals with all the universal teenage problems of trying to fit in, struggling with relationships, homework, and just trying to be a normal kid, all while his alter ego complicates those issues tenfold. Holland does an amazing job of embodying the awkward, relatable, and funny teen, as previously seen in Homecoming and other Marvel films. It is a cleanse from the Andrew Garfield, slick and cool, pretty boy version of Peter Parker that strayed from Lee’s wonderful writing. Tobey Maguire was a good Spider-Man in my book, but Holland brings a youthful teen energy and authenticity that Maguire simply couldn’t because Maguire was around twenty-seven when he first became Spidey.
Even though the majority of the film is set in beautiful locations throughout Europe, New York City still has a place in Far From Home, with subtle nods such as a Ramones song playing at a key moment near the end of the movie. It doesn’t get much more NYC than the great punk band from Queens, who often performed at the legendary CBGB’s club in Manhattan’s East Village. The Ramones have a long history with Spidey as well, recording a cover in 1995 of the memorable Spider-Man cartoon theme-song (originally from 1967), while other Ramones songs have been featured in numerous Spider-Man movies as a tribute to the connection. I’m a huge fan of Stan Lee and the Ramones, so to see their work thriving on after they’ve departed this world, while being appreciated by a new generation, brings a smile to my face.
The entire cast of Far From Home did a spectacular job. I don’t want to spoil the character of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, so I’ll be as tight lipped as Cap at the end of Endgame. I will say that he was sensational as the ultimate version of that character. Gyllenhaal ironically almost played Spidey in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, when Toby Maguire was dealing with a bad back. I like to imagine that it’s the old Peter Parker giving advice to the younger version of himself during some of the scenes that Holland and Gyllenhaal share together, much like the relationship between Parker and Miles Morales in the wonderful, Oscar-winning film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Zendaya, of Disney channel and Euphoria fame, is an excellent MJ. The Mary Jane of the comics usually displayed a supreme confidence, with her catchphrase of saying, “You’ve hit the jackpot, Tiger!” to Peter. Zendaya has that, along with her own awkwardness, that fits well when working with Holland. It’s when MJ lets her guard down, that her moments together with Peter Parker feel like a genuine love-story in the making. Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds is still fantastic as the humorous bestie to Parker. Interestingly, Marvel has taken the character of Ganke Lee from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, who is the best friend to the Miles Morales Spider-Man on an alternate Earth, and used him in the film world as the same kind of friend to Peter Parker since Homecoming. Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, and Jon Favreau all do their usual yeoman’s work as returning supporting characters. I love that Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are a part of the cast for this film as well (as hilarious teachers/guides on the trip), because they were supporting actors on two of my favorite television shows, the cult classic, awkward teen high school comedy Freaks and Geeks, and the genius Larry David slice of life comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, respectively. Marvel usually does a superior job of casting compared to other comic-book based film companies, and Far From Home was no exception.
The deeper theme that I mentioned earlier has to do with the very nature of reality, and “fake news.” A topic quite relevant to modern times because of growing political divides, which some may partly attribute to warring media outlets covering the same topics, but in completely different ways, or leaving out pertinent info all together. You could look at Spider-Man: Far From Home as a breezy, Summer superhero adventure/comedy, but it also works on another level, as good films often do. “With great power comes”…yada yada yada, you know the rest.
A good old-fashioned Marvel Stan Lee editorial “No-Prize” to those who can spot all of the Spider-Man comic book title references.
P.S. – As always you should stay through the credits. The ones in this film have major ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward!
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