By Michael Clark Movie Critic
With the epic Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Phase III finale “Avengers: Endgame” still in the rearview mirror, Phase IV gets underway with the eighth “Spider-Man” movie in the last 18 years. If you include the collective MCU features, the total would be 10. That’s a whole lotta web-slingin’ goin’ on.
Before the MCU kicked off in 2008 with “Iron Man,” Spider-Man was the most well known of its characters and he remains so. Does it matter that he and his Peter Parker alter-ego teen have been played by three different actors? Not a bit. The same thing (or something close to it) happened with “Batman” and “Superman” and while many noticed, no one really cared. It’s the costume, silly, not the guy filling it.
Close to an hour shorter than “Avengers: End Game,” “Far From Home” lacks its predecessors’ “heavy-ocity” (thank you Woody Allen) in every possible manner, which in some ways is a relief. Any three-hour-plus movie is a marathon slog regardless of the quality and the sitcom grade comic relief found here (if you want to call it that) is doled out by the trunk-load.
With the possible exception of the equally over-praised “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Far From Home” is the lightest (meaning thinnest) of all MCU offerings and concludes with the franchises’ lowest number of verifiable human fatalities. Although three European cities (Venice, Prague, and London) are decimated along the way and not a single innocent bystander buys the farm. If you want impossible to believe cartoon-level violence with not a drop of blood spilled along the way, this is the movie for you.
The flick isn’t bad per se; the action and CGI sleight of hand in the second half mostly makes up for the slogging exposition in the first and Tom Holland as the title character is arguably the best live-action actor to don the iconic spider suit. “Far From Home” is less a dangerous MCU adventure and instead a slightly rougher “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” meets “Scooby-Doo” by way of “True Lies.” Truth be told, what makes this movie so vanilla-level forgettable isn’t so much that it came out after “Avengers: Endgame” but that it came out after “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse” [SITS].
The winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, “SITS” turned not only Spider-man but the entire superhero genre on its’ ear. It trumped every MCU movie in every possible way and with the right folks at the controls it could easily became its own little universe. If you still haven’t seen “SITS” yet, you should do so soon but not before “Far From Home” as it will make the latter feel ever all the more meh.
The studio has politely requested reviews not include specific plot twist and certain character information taking place in the second half which is understandable for viewers who know nothing of the literally hundreds of past Marvel comic book version villains going in. If however you are already aware of these many bad guys, you’ll know instantly what’s likely to happen by merely looking at the cast credits available on any number of online outlets.
What the studio likely won’t have any issues with is in addressing the atypical simmering romance between Peter and M.J. (Zendaya Coleman). Both barely 22 at the time of filming, Holland and Coleman still each easily pass for teenagers despite Coleman’s lithe figure and model-mature beauty. It’s hard to tell if Coleman is going minimal here or just doesn’t have much range and it really doesn’t matter either way. MJ is written to be: A) mysterious, B) aloof, C) hard to get, D) worth the wait or, E) all of the above. The as-yet announced next “Spider-man” installment would serve itself well to devote more time to the MJ/Peter dynamic which is still yet to hit full stride and would rope in an entirely untapped audience demographic (35- to 60-year-old females).
A staple for all of the MCU movies so far (save for “Endgame”) is the inclusion of “Easter Eggs” in the end credit sequences which generally hint at what be coming next, often with cryptic detachment. There are two of these in “Far From Home” which at once acts as a preview for future installments and offers different perspectives of events in the film which could radically alter the future of the characters.
It’s easy to see why the studios (Disney and Sony) do this. It rewards the die-hard fans for sticking around while keeping the interest in the future high; it’s pretty savvy marketing when you think about it but it’s also something of a cheap trick. If scenes are so significant that they can change the entire complexion of the plot you need to include them before the words “directed by” show up marking the unofficial end of the movie and queuing the audience to get up and hit the road.
A five day opening weekend coupled with a relative lack of competition should propel “Far From Home” well over $100 million at the domestic box office and continue the massive MCU juggernaut.
This article originally ran on gwinnettdailypost.com.