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Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Spins Fun Entertainment

Latest Marvel entry has delightful cast but ridiculous script

Photo credit: Sony

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) gets a new look in Europe for "Spider-Man: Far From From Home."

Companion viewing

"Spider-Man" (2002)

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017)

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018 and best Spidey ever)

Spidey is leaving his neighborhood to travel abroad for "Spider-Man: Far From Home" but he seems to find the same superhero problems in Europe.

I have to confess that after seeing last year's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" any new Spider-Man film feels a bit anti-climactic because "Spider-Verse" was such perfection.

But "Spider-Verse" was animated and Marvel wants to continue to feed the live action franchise so we have "Spider-Man: Far From Home" this summer. Peter Parker (Tom Holland returning) is heading to Europe with his high school classmates for a field trip. His plans include going to the top of Eiffel Tower with MJ (Zendaya) to confess his feelings for her. But then Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls because some elemental forces of nature are attacking earth and without the Avengers he needs some superhero support.

Peter tries to juggle superhero duties with teenage life with not very successful results. Fortunately, a mysterious person named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, who made me think for a moment that his Dastan from "Prince of Persia" was making an appearance) pops up to help out. As you might expect there is a lot of noisy destruction, lots of things blow up, and there's an overflow of CGI eye candy to try and win over the audience.

There has been some talk of "franchise fatigue" as sequels and reboots and remakes underperform at the box office. The fatigue does not come from audiences tiring of popular characters or particular genres but rather from growing tired of studios milking franchises for every drop of monetization they can think of with little concern for the quality of the product.

I don't mean to take this out on "Spider-Man: Far From Home," which is a fairly innocuous entertainment but it does typify a reliance on formula and on studios counting on the fact that people are supposed to just come to see anything in the Marvel franchise. Marvel, under Kevin Feige's guidance, has built a lot of good faith with a string of mostly well-made superhero films (there have been a few duds).

"Far From Home" is enjoyable because the actors and the characters they have created are engaging. But the script focuses too much on ridiculous technology and lazy scriptwriting. Over the top is fine in superhero movies but it has to work within the inner logic of the world created. Sure Thanos can snap his fingers and half of the living world disappears but we have spent multiple films building up his character and letting the audience comprehend what getting all the stones for the Infinity Gauntlet really means.

But "Spider-Man" writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers just manufacture a lot of crazy tech to create massive destruction and a threat to earth that can lead some audience members to roll their eyes. There's a point when such excessive destruction makes you start to think about how many people really are dying and how difficult it would be to rebuild the beautiful city of Venice or replace all the art destroyed. At one point, there's a line of dialogue asking if some of the main characters are OK, the answer is yes, but it made me think of how narrowly the screenwriters were thinking. If the people we know are OK but a lot of other people die then everything is OK? Is that what the film is asking us to feel? That's how this one felt.

I know this is a popcorn movie not to be taken too seriously. But the superhero films that do try to create stronger scripts are the ones that not only win my love but make we want to see them again and again. So Christopher Reeve's Superman having to choose who to save gives more emotional weight to that 1978 film and makes it so touching at the end. The best Marvel films — "Black Panther," the "Captain America" films, "Captain Marvel" — give us epic stories but also allow time for the characters as well, and they don't let the CGI action overwhelm the story.

"Spider-Man: Far From Home" was enjoyable enough to watch but I don't feel any desire to revisit it. I hope these appealing actors come back in a better film. In the meantime, I am going to watch "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" for the 10th time.

NOTE: Make sure to stay until the very end. The final kicker is the best thing in the movie.

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