As if being in the Avengers Endgame wasn’t far enough from home, the play on words with the title will have Marvel fans scrambling to find all sorts of ambiguous double meaning. Far From Home starts off as one of the worst Marvel films before transforming itself a third of the way in as one of the best.
Back in the 1960s when television got the brilliant idea of playing horror flicks from the 30’s and sci-fi movies from the 50’s we, as children, would wonder why the initial thirty minute set-up for each picture was so boring; why it took so long for the monsters and the drama to arrive.
Disney/Marvel has eliminated that with slam/bang/crash/boom/bam openings to just about every film…except for Marvel/Sony’s Spiderman: Far From Home. How boring is the first third of this film? So bad that I almost left the critic’s screening on Wednesday night 6/26/19.
Seriously. I was this close to walking out. And contemplated it a couple or few times.
Watching actors in their twenties badly playing annoying sixteen-year-old classmates is worse than watching paint dry. Because drying paint at least has some action! And this is why Marvel president Kevin Feige is a genius and I am a mere purist critic: the younger crowd in the audience seemed to actually liked it.
Now with no place to go but up, how is the rest of the movie? The rest of the film is one of the best Marvel comics translation of ideas from the original books put to film of the whole lot of ‘em. Say that three times fast. And the Spiderman suit seems more like the comic magazine than in the Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield screen appearances. Of the seven Spiderman films (not including the very excellent Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse which I’ve got in review limbo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man:_Into_the_Spider-Verse ,) the action and plot to Spider-man: Far From Home is the best Spider-man yet, and one of the best Marvel comic films we’ve yet to see. If the future holds a complete film with this kind of action and invention, we are in for some fine forthcoming treats.
Jake Gyllenhaal, at 39, is a man’s man as Quentin Beck, Mysterio. Gyllenhaal, from Donnie Darko to Source Code, and always a fine actor, has a script putting him in complete control, not groping through the dark as in Source Code (a fave film of mine,) but given authority. For Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko was 18 years and almost half a lifetime ago. Here the actor plays the gamut of emotions, and the seeming “bromance” between Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck has more chemistry than the awkward moments with Zendaya as M.J. Even more awkward as this M.J. is “Michelle” not Mary-Jane Watson that we know from the comics. It’s the bizarre mix-up of personalities from the colorful books to film, as mixed up as some of the ever-changing actors and actresses that become these characters, that makes devoted readers of the Marvel legacy feel like they are living in parallel universes. Aunt May is played by 55 year old Marisa Tomei while in Andrew Garfield’s dimension The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, the now 73 year old Sally “Flying Nun” Field was Aunt May. Somehow, having a 73 year old woman instead of a 55 year old was more in line with the original character, but what do I know?, the film is going to destroy the box office and that’s the point of making a motion picture these days. Artistic esthetics aside there are millions of Spider-Man fans who could make more “purist” celluloid (or digital) documents of the comic books…it’s easy, just follow the yellow brick road (or Stan Lee etchings…) but Feige is the president of Marvel for a reason, and watch him re-release Endgame to get that 22.7 million it is shy of to outpace Avatar as the biggest grossing film of all time. Samuel Jackson is Shaft playing Nick Fury playing Shaft. With a new Shaft episode out in the public domain you can see the Jackson attitude at work in both films. Jackson has never played the Nick Fury of the comics, Jackson made the character his own. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D gets to play Samuel Jackson. It’s just that the actor’s brilliance overshadows those once important facts. That eminent domain thing again.
The screening of the Far From Home film was June 26th and this critic has released pieces of reviews until this completion, around 3:15 pm on July 5, 2019. The film has already garnered $309.9m in 3 days of release on a 160m budget, according to Wikipedia and it’s a good thing Spider-Man is in front of the title as there are multiple movies that go by the title Far From Home, eminent domain being so very available when films rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mysterio is a great villain, and it takes a great villain to give a film its biggest “Star Wars’ emperor” impact. Look at Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight compared to Tom Hardy’s Bane in the sequel, The Dark Knight Rises. Hardy might as well have been playing his character, Romulan leader Shinzon from the lackluster 2002 Star Trek: Nemesis, it just didn’t have the brilliance that Ledger offered, which so few people have: the artistic magical intuition to bring the ultra-exciting intangible to life.
Avengers Endgame tied things up with a bow, what you saw was expected. It WAS for the faithful fans of the comic books who will continue to spend money and keep fueling this superior enterprise. Sony and Marvel working together bring Spider-Man to life and – hopefully, God help us and save us, as the character grows older they can discard the teenage craziness (TV show Leave It to Beaver did it so much better) and get on with the business of movie-making – making films that enhance the comic book experience, not overwork and dilute it. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great action film. Just walk in 30 minutes after the start of the show.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.