Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURESZendaya (MJ), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), “Spider-Man: Far from Home” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURESZendaya (MJ), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

Movie Review: ‘Spider-Man: Far from’ super

Friday, August 2, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is the equivalent of a 1950s science-fiction drive-in flick.

One big difference is that “Spider-Man: Far from Home” has a $160-million budget.

The budget for “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959) was $60,000.

In “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” there’s a student field trip, but this being the 21st century, rather than going to the area planetarium, as in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), it’s a trip to Venice, Austria and Prague.

There’s a teen puppy-love storyline about two young couples. And there are monsters, called The Elementals, and superheroes, notably Spider-Man and Mysterio.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is one-part “Scooby-Doo” (2002 live-action theatrical release), one-part “The Blob” (1958) and one-part “Gidget Goes To Rome” (1963).

The screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (co-screenwriters, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” 2018; “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” 2017; “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” 2017; “The Lego Batman Movie,” 2017; TV’s “Community,” 2010-2015) is based on Marvel Comics characters by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, is summoned to fight the Water Elemental and the Fire Elemental. What these monsters represent and who they are working for, is, ahem, foggy.

An attempt to bolster the storyline with a plotline whereby Mysterio becomes a turncoat is a cut-and-paste job.

Director Jon Watts (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” 2017; “Cop Car,” 2015: “Clown,” 2014) has turned “Spider-Man: Far From Home” into an awkward mix of teen romance and CGI action overkill.

The action scenes, especially those with the Elementals, are not well-executed. The Elementals have little if any character depiction. The effect is that of tornadic activity or an occluded front. I’ve seen more frightening scenes on The Weather Channel.

As a villain, Mysterio is “Tron” (1982) meets Daft Punk, the French electronic music duo. The alter ego of Mysterio, aka Quentin Beck, is simply too nice, especially as played by Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler,” 2014; “Prisoners,” 2013; Oscar nominee, supporting actor, “Brokeback Mountain,” 2006), one of cinema’s most eminently likeable, finest and underappreciated actors.

Samuel L, Jackson (Nick Fury) is little seen, mostly functioning as a pontificator, or kind of emcee. Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) also appears in what is not much more than a cameo. Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan) has a larger part, but his performance belongs in the Mug-O-Rama Hall Of Fame.

Marisa Tomei (Oscar recipient, supporting actress, “My Cousin Vinnie,” 1992) is again fine as Aunt May.

Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds) gives one of the movie’s most genuine performances and is engaging in scenes with his girlfriend, Angourie Rice (Betty), which are excellent. They’re adorable together.

Other memorable turns as students are provided by Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson) and Remy Hii (Brad Davis), the latter as Peter Parker’s rival for MJ’s affections.

Even more adorable are Tom Holland (Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man), reprising his role from “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and Zendaya (MJ), also reprising her role. Holland is so good he makes you forget actors who previously played Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire in movies directed by Sam Raimi, 2002, 2004 and 2007, and Andrew Garfield in movies directed by Marc Webb, 2012, 2014), as good as they were.

The film has lots of quippy dialogue, which is always fun.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” sheds light on The Snap and The Blip, whereby characters disintegrated, or were atomized in “Black Panther” (2018) and “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), in the latter when Thanos snapped his fingers (The Snap), and reappeared (The Blip) in “Avengers: Endgame” (2019).

In “Far from Home,” the time lost or gained during The Blip is said to be five years. Those who survived aged five years. Those who disappeared and returned didn’t age.

Whereas “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) was a fun animated exploration of the genre, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is preoccupied with advancing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The appearance of a can of Coke beverage, or another commercial product, in a movie scene is an example of product placement. With Marvel, the whole movie is a product placement for the next Marvel movie.

Marvel fans will enjoy “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” Teens and children should enjoy it. For the non-Marvel fan, or casual movie-goer, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” might be a bewildering experience. As superhero movies go, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is far from super.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” was not on my summer popcorn bucket list. Seeing it hasn’t changed that, although I always enjoy the popcorn.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for science-fiction action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments; Genre: Science-Fiction-Action; Run time: 2 hrs., 9 mins. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Mid-way through the “Spider-Man: Far from Home” end credits, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) is seen on a Times Square video screen, reporting that Mysterio has revealed Spider-Man’s identity among other matters. At the end of the film, the Skrulls characters of Talos and Soren are shown to have materialized as Nick Fury and Maria Hill in the film at the behest of the real Nick Fury, seen commanding a Skrull spaceship.

Box Office, July 26-28: “The Lion King” continued its perch at No. 1 two weeks straight, with a still strong $75.5 million, $350.7 million, two weeks. Director Quentin Tarantino’s epic, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” opened solidly at No. 2 with $40.3 million. 3. “Spider-Man: Far from Home” again dropped one place, $12.2 million, $344.4 million, four weeks. The film topped $1 billion worldwide, the first “Spider-Man” movie to do so. 4. “Toy Story 4” again dropped one place, $9.8 million, $395.6 million, six weeks. 5. “Crawl” again dropped one place, $4 million, $31.4 million, three weeks. 6. “Yesterday” dropped one place, $3 million, $63.3 million, five weeks. 7. “Aladdin” stayed in place, $2.7 million, $345.9 million, 10 weeks. “Aladdin” topped $1 billion worldwide, the first Will Smith movie to do so. 8. “Stuber” again dropped two places, $1.6 million, $20.1 million, three weeks. 9. “Annabelle Comes Home” again dropped one place, $1.5 million, $69.7 million, five weeks. 10. “The Farewell” moved up two places, $1.5 million, $3.6 million, three weeks.

Unreel, Aug. 2: “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” PG-13: David Leitch directs Dwayne Johnson, formerly “The Rock” and a Freedom High School graduate; Jason Statham, Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby in the Action Adventure “Fast & Furious” movie franchise spinoff. “Luce,” R: Julius Onah directs Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Kelvin Harrison Jr. A married couple’s image of their son is shattered.