This review feels like it got caught in a spider web of woes. There’s three things going on here and it’s necessary to mention it’s 20 August 2019.
Firstly, I have just come out of a belated screening of Spider-Man: Far From Home (FFH). Secondly, I hadn’t caught up on the 20-something predecessor films, including Avengers: Endgame, except Iron Man exclusively. Thirdly and most importantly, Sony has today announced their deal breaker with Disney, so Spider-Man is officially far from Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s a minefield already but I guess my spidey senses were tingling. Now with the great power of journalism, comes great responsibility. So here’s to you, Uncle Ben, in all your infinite incarnations.
Studio severance and Avengers aside – yes that’s possible – I had to quietly concede I wasn’t going to reciprocate all of the references in its canon of characters. But after Whitney Houston belted out a tribute in memoriam, to Iron Man and Black Widow, I was able to revel in the high-velocity, action packed superhero spectacle that followed.
Starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, the film dutifully follows all of the anarchy that Tony Stark left in the Avengers’ wake and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has an assignment for Parker after learning about threats that will soon plague Europe, perfectly timed to scupper his school trip. These threats are called ‘Elementals’ and it’s Marvel’s newcomer, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who brings them to our attention early on.
The tribute transitions into a TV bulletin broadcasted by Midtown Tech Highschool students, summarising the demise of Stark ahead of news for a benefit event for ‘Blip’ victims as per Infinity War, which wiped out half the world’s population. But five years on, victims of the Blip have re-emerged but stayed the same age. By the way, Happy, (Jon Favreau) has a ‘Blip beard’ now and that’s all there is to know vis-à-vis Blip.
We learn through a kindly confrontation with Happy, that Parker has ‘ghosted’ Fury and he is furious. Happy has to remind Parker about his responsibilities but his priority is the pursuit of love with Homecoming’s MJ (Zendeya) and makes that abundantly clear. Reflected in the following scene in a pitiful attempt to secure a seat next to MJ on the plane during the first leg of their European trip, before arriving in Venice. Apparently he’s allergic to the passenger’s perfume in front so through a terrifically tragic sequence of seat swaps, Parker ultimately finds himself even farther from MJ and beside teacher, Mr Harrington (Martin Starr) match-making two others in the process.
Venice is the first of a few cities to play host to a surprise ‘Elemental’ attack that takes the shape of water. The H2O monster makes a spectacular CG splash, as it emerges from the Grand Canal, creating catastrophe that Parker’s determined to dry up. It becomes even more cataclysmic when Mysterio arrives at the scene to assist ally, now suited up Spider-Man. Gyllenhaal’s response to the city’s inundation fortunately nothing akin to The Day After Tomorrow (2004). As Spider-Man traverses the water like an obstacle course, together they manage to quell the torrent.
But this Elemental isn’t the last of them and this is reinforced by a surprise visit by Fury himself in Parker’s ramshackle hotel room, which immediately cuts any tenor of tension because of more important interruptions at the door about high-school stuff. And the music underscoring this catch up stops and starts, too, which sounds equally frustrated as Fury. At this point, it’s hard to take Fury for real but he does tell Parker one attack already took place in Mexico by a cyclone in Mexico.
In a follow up conclave in Fury’s subterranean lair, we meet Mysterio again. They’re assembled together for the first time to flesh out the implications of Elementals after learning it destroyed Mysterio’s own earth as part of a Multiverse and warns Fire is imminent and finding its way to Prague. Parker conjures every excuse not to assist in the mission because his next leg is Paris and has a plan to woo MJ. But in a surprise ‘upgrade’, Mr Harrington informs the group they’re now heading to Prague. Poor Peter Parker.
Director Jon Watts unashamedly blends a coming-of-age plot into Spidey’s story arc because without the nerdy romance, he wouldn’t be our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. But this doesn’t undermine the menace that’s hell-bent on creating catastrophe across the continent. From Venice and Prague to a quaint little village in the Netherlands in a field lined with lovely tulips and finally London, the locations are enviable.
The true marvels in this movie are the captivating use of VFX, a combined talent of Image Engine’s Joern Grosshans and returning VFX Supervisor Janek Sirrs. From the tulip lined field and drone peppered sky across Tower of London, Marvel Studios industriously provided a catalogue of concepts to work from in order to take visuals to the next level.
Not least the brilliantly beguiling illusory sequences that would give Hitchcock himself a taste of Vertigo. As Parker is resigned to navigate a mind-bending maze as if he just launched into a first person video game, London finds itself under ‘Avengers level threat’. But does the spider tingle manifest itself time to save the city?
Either way – I’m a FOS but not of MCU (so do forgive me if minutiae are amiss).