Jul 17 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review (1 star out of 5)

Published by at 8:39 pm under Writing Articles

1. This version of Spider-Man is a useless toolbox who actively avoids doing interesting things, and what he does attempt is usually wimpy and/or incompetent.

2. Unlike most main characters, his choices don’t matter much. For example, he chooses to leave his supersuit at home (but his aunt sneaks it in anyway) and he tries to choose his school trip over superheroics (itself a red flag) but Nick Fury railroads him into coming to Prague anyway. He has an unusual lack of agency over his story. Relatedly, he’s pushed into following in Tony Stark’s footsteps, but he doesn’t have any of the initiative, charm, or intelligence to make that feel believable, nor does he pursue an alternative which is interesting in any way. (He mentions a few times that he would just rather be a neighborhood Spider-Man, but he’s not proactive enough to actually do anything about it).

2.1. It’s hard to complain about being a neighborhood Spider-Man if he’d rather go on an iconically upscale Euro trip than save the world. A neighborhood Spider-Man might also spend less time complaining in general. Unless the neighborhood is NW Washington DC.

3. If your superhero would rather be on a school trip than a superhero, don’t make a superhero movie about him, it’ll probably suck.

3.1. Surrounding a superhero with faceless classmates and teachers is not a great setup. Even if they had good lines, these school characters besides Ned and *maybe* MJ are bystanders to the central plot. They don’t know what’s going on and don’t create particularly interesting social obstacles either. Instead of a scene distracting the world’s most oblivious teacher from a ****ing missile strike, maybe Spider-Man has to hide something from Nick Fury or another character involved in the superhero plot? That looks like a more promising setup to me.

3.2. The first movie in the Marvel cinematic universe after ~50% of humanity getting erased for 5 years is a high school vacation.

4. If any characters causes viewers to ask “Should you even be on this team?”, it’d be very helpful if viewers see there’s some reason to have him on the team . In this case, Spider-Man’s main role is being grossly inadequate and he doesn’t even want to be there. You’ve proably seen like 100 movies where a cop screws up a case and the hardass boss says “Gimme your badge (pause) and your gun.” This movie’s twist is that the main character tries to quit on saving the world and the hardass boss has to smile at this absolute toolbox and convince him to do his job.

5. Incompetent clownery: have we hit rock bottom yet?

  • Peter accidentally calls a drone strike on his own bus within seconds of being given the drone system.
  • Peter has two fights with elementals without realizing that they are holograms.
  • Peter could have stayed home from the water elemental fight and the outcome would have been largely the same. A more competent hero might have picked up some information which could have been useful later on and/or been more successful at whatever he attempted.
  • “Peter tingle”
  • Every conversation Peter has with Mr. Harrington or Aunt May.
  • Peter getting fooled by illusions of Nick Fury twice. Even on first viewing, Peter clearly has to be severely concussed or otherwise mentally damaged not to suspect anything when “Nick Fury” asks Peter who he told about Mysterio’s fraud. (Arguably this is worse for a character that loves movie references. If you’ve seen a movie ever, when someone asks you “who have you told about this criminal activity?” they’re ready to murder you and the witnesses. If I were trying to make Spider-Man sound non-dumbass here, I’d suggest a rephrase like “We need an ironclad case. Do you have any corroborating witnesses or other evidence?”)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal calls him awkward.
  • In a good movie, a protagonist should be able to speak with a love interest and make it interesting. In this movie, Peter concocts a half-assed plan where his friend pretends that he has an allergy in a scheme to get her to sit next to Peter. Having his friend deliver these lines somehow makes Peter look even more pathetic.
  • Arrested by the Dutch.
  • “Even Dead I’m The Hero”. Even dead, Tony Stark has more of a pulse than Spider-Man.
  • “I love Led Zeppelin!” during an AC/DC song. He’s designated himself as the pop culture guy, that’s his thing (pathetic as it is), and he can’t even do that right. Having a character fail ineptly at something he’s supposed to be really good at… I generally wouldn’t recommend this for superhero movies. (The only positive example that comes to mind outside of superheroes is Michael Scott in The Office — I think he’s comedically effective largely because he’s a chaotic mix of brilliant boss, complete mental case, and rolling HR disaster. He also gets great lines and great acting).
  • Talos/Nick Fury thinks Peter isn’t even worthy to bring up Captain Marvel (“don’t invoke her name”). That’s rock bottom, isn’t it? Is it possible to be more inadequate?
  • I’ll give a pass for an alien shapeshifter not knowing that opera is not the best way to keep teens occupied. A shapeshifter soldier surviving a genocidal war getting fooled by Mysterio pretending to be a fighter surviving a genocidal war? Oh, God. That’s like Dr. Strange getting fooled by an alien pretending to be a human surgeon that has never before met either a surgeon or a human. I would REALLY hope the writers give Strange a better explanation than “wow, his costume was amazing.”

6. Out of all of the common concepts for a sequel, “Same characters as last time, but now they’re in Europe” is one of the least promising. No surprises here, taking bland characters and taking them on a Euro vacation is actually worse than leaving them at home – doing tourist stuff does not generally make for very interesting material, and the setting is probably going to take time/space that otherwise could have been used more effectively. (In fairness to set-in-Europe sequels, “let’s refilm an animated movie in live action” and “let’s refilm a movie but with a younger cast” are probably worse).

6.1. In a good sequel, you might see dramatic themes expanded upon, interesting character arcs built upon, etc. E.g. looking back to the 2000s Spider-Man movies, I think Spider-Man 2 did a great job building on Peter’s conflict between maintaining a normal life vs. being a superhero. In Far From Home, the only theme brought back from Homecoming is “Peter Parker is still completely a joke at being a superhero, and if he got hit by an asteroid the audience would be better for it.” I’ve never seen a movie as committed to a theme as this one.

7. One bright spot: in the post-credits scene a villain took Spider-Man’s secret identity public. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of scenes where other characters have to be mentally damaged to protect the secret identity.

8. Other bright spots: the action is surprisingly competent, definitely better executed than other drone battles in Avengers 2, Iron-Man 2 and Venom. The hallucination powers are creative. The villain (pre-reveal) is notably more engaging than Spider-Man. Weirdly, he’s more believable as a fake hero than he is as a live villain given how thin his motive/plan is.

9. The fake hero setup creates interesting opportunities for hero-villain interaction. Hey, not EVERY supervillain has a daughter you can date.

10. The editing in this movie was notably weak. There were a lot of moments that stood out here, but I have to call out the villainous reveal scene as some of the worst exposition I can remember. E.g. “They called me unstable” sounds like a B-film about a mad scientist. More generally, there was a lot of wasted time:

  • Most of what happens before the water elemental fight (e.g. the fundraiser, most of Venice, and maybe the airplane scene).
  • Every Flash Thompson line
  • Aunt May’s side-romance with Happy.
  • The Netherlands scene was funny but Peter Parker desperately needed time/space to be competent. (Also, if we’re pretending that his secret identity is interesting at all, having a character get arrested and unmasked without any followup is probably bad plotting).

10.1. The editing is sloppy enough that consistency issues were noticeable during a first viewing. E.g. Mysterio gets prompted for safety concerns after launching a drone strike in his own area but Peter somehow didn’t get this safety alert when he called in a drone strike on his own bus.

10.2. If Tony Stark builds a drone strike system that doesn’t have any safeguards against assassinating a busful of kids, maybe it’d help to give it to someone less dumbass than Peter Parker. Peter Parker is not just a raging storm of stupidity, he infects the people around him. Other victims include Talos, the real Nick Fury, the love interest, classmates and teachers, and whoever signed off on making this movie.

11. The plot hinges on Mysterio setting up fake crimes to pump up his own status by beating up holograms. He carefully choreographs everything and pre-tapes footage about how the fight will look before it happens. Spider-Man making an unscripted appearance against the water elemental should have been a bigger deal. This would have been a good opportunity for Mysterio to improvise something to keep Spider-Man from figuring out that the fight was a sham. This would probably have a more satisfying outcome than “Maybe Spider-Man will spend the entire fight trying to keep a tower from collapsing but not even accomplish that.”

12. Peter and MJ figure out that Mysterio is a fraud by stumbling upon one of the hologram generators he used. It’d probably be more satisfying (and help develop their competence) if they worked harder for it. For example, thinking back to the first Avengers movie, there’s a scene where Captain America realizes that he’s being deceived when he’s introduced to an “Army nurse” pretending it’s still the 1940s. CA picks up on subtle clues that things are off (e.g. she’s wearing a man’s tie, her haircut doesn’t meet 1940s regulations, and she’s got a modern bra on). How lame would it have been if Captain America had realized the WWII setup was a sham because the nurse accidentally dropped a modern newspaper?

12.1. What might a competent hero might have been able to pick up on to suggest that something is up with Mysterio? I have a lot of ideas on this, but to start with, Peter should have an interest in Mysterio’s equipment. It’s noticeably more effective against the elementals than anything else they’ve tried, and any super-engineer should be trying to figure out how to build more of it. Peter might offer help on routine repair/maintenance (and get shut down), and maybe wonder about how exactly Mysterio is keeping a futuristic suit repaired by himself. Secondarily, Mysterio’s visual style is very flashy/Hollywood (e.g. flying around with a cape), and that’s a really odd move from an engineer who claims to be one of the survivors of a failed war against elemental invaders.

14 responses so far

14 Responses to “Spider-Man: Far From Home Review (1 star out of 5)”

  1. B. McKenzieon 17 Jul 2019 at 11:02 pm

    This movie was so bad it (temporarily) brought me out of retirement.

  2. B. McKenzieon 29 Jul 2019 at 12:43 am

    What might a competent hero might have been able to pick up on to suggest that something is up with Mysterio?
    –Mysterio claims to be one of the last survivors of a failed war against elemental invaders. His equipment, particularly his cape and fishbowl helmet, look off for anybody fighting for their life. Too flashy/Hollywood.
    –If Spider-Man had asked, most likely he would have learned from Nick Fury that Mysterio first appeared to SHIELD in a dramatic and impressive entrance, very typical for the character, probably wearing a brilliant and mint-condition suit. But wouldn’t you expect that someone who’s the last survivor of a war to show heavy signs of wear on tear on his equipment? If pushed on this, Mysterio might claim that he fixed his suit before reaching out to the authorities. This should look subtly suspicious to a competent character (e.g. strange priorities, a preoccupation with image that doesn’t fit how Mysterio acts around Nick Fury, questions about where he got the supplies to fix his suit and/or who helped, etc).
    –Mysterio’s had a script written up which will probably cover most routine questions reasonably well. However, as we’ve seen, Peter has some very weird conversational moves that no writer could anticipate. For example, he’s probably the only person in the galaxy who will interrupt a superhero talking about a world-ending threat to talk about multiple universes. Mysterio can deflect some of this along the lines of “Hey, the world’s about to end, let’s get back on topic”, but eventually Peter will hit on SOMETHING that is super relevant here and now and that Mysterio should be able to discuss comfortably. E.g. his equipment appears to be a lot more effective than Spider-Man’s or Stark’s in handling the elementals — how does his equipment work, and can they build more?
    –Spider-Man happens to have a more-than-casual interest in multiple universes, so upon meeting someone that claims to be from another version of their universe, he might have some intelligent questions about what happened that could uncover information that might be useful later on. Mysterio speculates that Thanos’ snap caused him to enter this dimension, but Spider-Man could reasonably intuit that this probably isn’t correct (e.g. Thanos’ snap affected entire universes. Wouldn’t we expect to see more than 1 visitor from another dimension if this were the cause?)
    –Mysterio’s equipment is designed by former Stark employees. Peter, having fought alongside Iron-Man and used some equipment from Stark, might notice some similarities. He might get Mysterio to admit that, in the other universe, he worked with Stark. Peter might be able to pick up that he doesn’t respect Stark very much.
    –Peter might volunteer to help him on a repair/maintenance task, or come to him with an upgrade idea (either because he likes Mysterio or out of scientific curiosity). Peter’s probably surprised that Mysterio declines and that he can’t persuade Mysterio to reconsider. (Mysterio is playing a character that’s very cooperative with Peter to gain Peter’s trust, so this would be out of character for him).
    –Spider-Man might have a theory that people from different universes have their own corresponding counterparts in this universe. If he makes any inquiries along these lines, Mysterio will quickly change the subject (to protect his secret identity), and an intelligent investigator may be able to pick up that there’s something there.
    –Over the course of normal socialization, Spider-Man and/or SHIELD might ask normal, friendly questions about Mysterio’s background. Anything that Mysterio has to improvise, he might not keep 100% consistent later. “I’m really sorry about your wife. What’d you say her name was again?” Even if Peter isn’t suspicious, there’s some chance that some minor detail will slip. Mysterio’s a good actor, and he has a scripted narrative to follow, but nobody’s 100%, especially in high stress situations. (Trying to deceive Nick Fury and a supposedly intelligent superhero should be high stress).
    –Mysterio’s actual identity is probably in Stark’s systems, and it’s very likely that Stark’s glasses would reveal his true identity. If Mysterio knows what Stark’s glasses are capable of, he will probably be very careful not to show them his face.
    –MJ shows Peter a social technique that bluffing someone doing something suspicious, claiming that you know more than you do, might get them to admit something they didn’t want to. This is a confrontational, high-risk move (maybe not Peter’s style). Inept bumbling definitely is Peter’s style, though, and he might accidentally stumble into this. For example, he might semi-jokingly say in a drily accusatory way that “I know what’s really going on with you” (e.g. he suspects Mysterio of something very minor like having the hots for Maria Hill or something, or that he thinks he’s solved how Thanos’ snap might have caused the interdimensional travel). Mysterio’s normally a glib, smooth talker, but he’s also unstable and paranoid. He might react heatedly to this banter.

  3. Anonymouson 31 Jul 2019 at 6:45 pm

    “Nick Fury thinks Peter isn’t even worthy to invoke Captain Marvel’s name. That’s rock bottom, isn’t it? Is it possible to be more inadequate?”

    I actually agree with most of your points just one thing. At the end of the movie, they revealed that this wasn’t Nick Fury. But actually a scrull.

  4. B. McKenzieon 31 Jul 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Yes, you’re right, “Nick Fury” was a Skrull the entire time (as was Maria Hill). My Amazon rental didn’t cover the post-credit scenes, sorry. I didn’t include Peter getting fooled by the Skrulls in the list of Peter being rock-bottom useless because I think an average character could reasonably get fooled there without looking like an idiot. The only tell that comes to mind is one that Peter wouldn’t be familiar with (the real Nick Fury would have challenged Peter Parker referring to him as “Nick Fury” — the real Fury hates it when people think they’re on a first name basis with him).

    In contrast, getting repeatedly faked out by Mysterio pretending to be Nick Fury is much worse. In general, Marvel movies since 2018 (phase 3.5) have been much more heavy-handed on incompetence, and Spider-Man pretty much lives there.

    Also coming in for some shame: how do two Skrulls (shapeshifters that survive by infiltrating/disguising themselves) get fooled by Mysterio? (Talos handwaves this as the production values were really good but, wow, if anybody should have been able to tell that this is a con, it should have been them.

    –Mysterio claims to be one of the last survivors of a losing war to save Earth. Given the Skrulls’ firsthand experience losing their own desperate war in Captain Marvel, a military leader like Talos should be able to pick up that the edges on this alleged soldier are way too soft. (E.g. his equipment’s always been too pristine, and he’s way too sympathetic to Peter’s whining about not being able to do his school trip than anyone who actually thought the planet was in any danger).
    –They’ve probably thought a great deal about how to convincingly play a target.
    –Like Peter Parker, Talos is really weird in his conversations in Captain Marvel and could take dialogue in a direction that Mysterio’s script could not anticipate. He has first-hand experience that Nick Fury offered to pay Talos $50 to shapeshift into a Venus fly-trap, so maybe Talos mixes in some wacky/confrontational beats as part of his Fury act even if he doesn’t yet suspect Mysterio.
    –He’s got at least some exposure to alien technology, which could interact with Peter in unexpected ways. E.g. Peter might rule out a theory about Mysterio’s arrival because something like “X phenomenons don’t exist, nothing is faster than light.” Talos might instinctively correct Peter Parker — he knows faster-than-light is definitely possible; an FTL engine was a plot device in his Captain Marvel appearance. Mysterio might notice that Fury is acting out of character here, which might make Mysterio nervous. (Fury having any sort of opinion on theoretical physics is problematic for Mysterio because it suggests either that his read of Fury’s personality and/or his capabilities is wrong. In particular, if Fury has beyond-advanced technological support like a team capable of proving FTL is possible, Mysterio’s bunch of Stark castoffs might be badly outmatched by whatever Fury is working with).

    (If they do know that Mysterio’s a fake, perhaps they hold back on telling Peter for whatever reason. E.g. maybe they’re under strict orders not to break cover and/or to test Peter. I know that putting Peter in a potentially dangerous situation is heartless, but given how grossly incapable he is of controlling Stark’s system safely, testing how he gauges challenging situations would probably benefit the planet even if it works out really badly for Peter individually).

  5. Anonymouson 31 Jul 2019 at 11:13 pm

    I didn’t get the vibe, although I can see it, that fury (Skrull) didn’t think Peter was worthy of saying captain marvel’s name but rather he just didn’t want to hear her name. I thought it was set up for ‘Captain Marvel 2’ or something, especially when they were revealed as Skrulls. I was thinking that maybe the Skrulls (and possibly fury) had some kind of falling out with her and return as antagonists of some kind in the next movie.
    That was just my immediate thought but maybe I’m thinking too hard about it.

    In the end, one of my friends said the movie very ‘teeny-bopper’. I can’t disagree.

  6. Anonymouson 31 Jul 2019 at 11:13 pm

    *was very

  7. B. McKenzieon 02 Aug 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Yeah, the target audience for this feels very age specific. Most teen and preteen characters get taken more seriously in story and are more successful at what they do (e.g. Hit Girl, Dash, and Shuri). Most kid characters get treated as a lot older than they are, but Peter gets treated as a lot younger than he is, especially in Homecoming (e.g. “training wheels” and every adult in his life going full nanny on him).

  8. B. McKenzieon 02 Aug 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Peter suggested that Fury get Captain Marvel instead, and I think Fake Fury’s response is “don’t invoke her name.” “Invoke” has a strong connotation of respect, like citing an authority or calling on a god or supernatural powers. If he were disrespecting Marvel, I’d suggest “don’t even bring her up” as a rephrase.

  9. Anonymouson 12 Oct 2019 at 10:08 am

    I liked Far From Home, and I would highly recommend you watch Jay Exci’s video where he defends the film https://youtu.be/hs5V5oixFQQ

  10. B. McKenzieon 12 Oct 2019 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks, Anonymous. I watched a few minutes but it didn’t address any of the points I had with the movie. I don’t have any strong opinions on its main point of contention (whether Peter Parker changed enough over the course of the movie). I don’t suppose, does he happen to address why a superhero movie might want a main character that’d rather be on a school trip and/or is extraordinarily incompetent?

  11. Anonymouson 17 Oct 2019 at 5:37 am

    I have a feeling that MCU Spider-man suffers from executive meddling trying desperately to claw into the tween demographic. The writing seems to suggest that status quo is God but the greatest spider-man stories are the ones having a great impact on the character, who in these movies, is not allowed to age and that shows everywhere, from the obsession with high school (that is portrayed as middle school) to that creepy un-supported falsetto voice tom holland gives the character. Might be biased but hated endgame and both spider-men. I wouls prefer if all infinity war casualties stayed dead and miles took over the spider-man persona. I don’t like the idea of the multiverse because its such a cop out: “well this guy died let’s just go to another universe where they are alive”

  12. Anonymouson 17 Oct 2019 at 5:41 am

    Not kidding i’d even “fridge” aunt may, in order to force the character to grow up (back in black style) but this is disney and i’m told this isn’t very pc these days :p … This character needs kingpin as a big bad a.s.a.p.

  13. B. McKenzieon 19 Oct 2019 at 9:58 am

    If I’m understanding this correctly, the MCU movie immediately after Earth getting hit by a 50% genocide where half of humanity disappears for 5 years is a high school vacation movie and, more than that, the main character is unusually committed to the high school vacation rather than saving the world. What the bojangles.

  14. B. McKenzieon 14 Sep 2020 at 1:24 am

    “Not kidding i’d even “fridge” aunt may, in order to force the character to grow up”. I’d fridge Peter Parker. Suppose act 1 had a shocking murder of Peter Parker, preferably as he’s doing something iconically stupid. In complete seriousness, a whodunnit trying to solve the murder (probably an ensemble around Ned and/or the misused love interest and/or Nick Fury and/or Skrulls) would be much more watchable than Peter Parker complaining that a world-ending threat is threatening his vacation. I think this is the most promising plot arc that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker can contribute to at this point, and mainly because he’s not in it. This Peter Parker is that useless.

    If you absolutely need the Spider-Man series to continue, I’d have Ned take lead in a mystery-oriented spinoff. Probably without major superpowered action scenes — it’s not like the Holland movies were doing great work in that space anyway.

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