Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' delivers on action and characterisation, but has a television feel to it

Marcus Goh
Contributor
PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

In this brave new world of cinematic universes which group their movies by "Phases", much like how television episodes are grouped by seasons, no one movie stands alone — especially not a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) one. Spider-Man: Far From Home's herculean task as the film that closes Phase Three of the MCU is the result of that, in addition to serving double duty as a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. While it does deliver magnificently on several fronts, it can't quite shake off its resemblance to a television series, rather than a theatrical presentation.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

Spider-Man: Far From Home follows the adventures of Spider-Man, as he makes his way through a world that has endured the Snap of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (half of the universe's population got wiped out, then resurrected five years later). As he deals with the ramifications of the snap in his civilian alter ego Peter Parker, a mysterious new character appears to present another complication to Spider-Man's already complicated life.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

There's this unmistakeable feeling that the film has — that of a television series. That's not to knock its production values — they're just as good as every other MCU film — but more an indictment of its storytelling and stakes. It ticks off all the right checkboxes and gives us all the requisite dramatic beats, but the whole feel of it comes across as a minor episode in a much larger arc, which it is. While the stakes don't have to be galactic in scale, it does feel that it should be a little more important than what we see in the film.

Perhaps it's because we've seen this story template used a little too many times. We've seen plenty of MCU films in which a hero's personal struggle mirrors a much larger struggle that affects the fate of thousands. Not every MCU movie follows this formula, of course, but it's one that's so familiar and predictable that you can recite the beats of the plot once it becomes apparent that it's heading down a particular path.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

However, it does hit hard with its emotional beats, especially when we realise what has been Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) greatest struggle along. It's depicted in an intense, heart-wrenching revelation that comes at his lowest point, and mirrored in a subtle plot point that is foreshadowed early in the movie. It shows us that despite his fairly upbeat personality, the events of the previous two Avengers movies have hit him hard, and brings the core theme of Spider-Man — responsibility — to the forefront.

As a film meant to show us how the Snap has affected the world (there's a new term, "Blip", used to refer to the characters who were wiped out by the Snap and then brought back to life five years later) in a light-hearted way, it does address some of the issues that have come to mind, without retreading the more painful aspects of such a traumatic event. It also has to pull double duty as the second solo Spider-Man film, which it does by keeping the focus tight on Spider-Man himself.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

His supporting cast feels a little marginalised in this film, playing smaller roles and having less character development than in their first appearances. Ned (Jacob Batalon) is reduced to a bundle of jokes and stereotypes, instead of being the loyal and supportive sidekick of the first film; while MJ (Zendaya) is little more than a love interest to the title character. His other classmates don't even get a refresher scene to school audiences on their names, which shows you just how unimportant they are to the plot.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

On the other hand, Tom Holland himself continues to endear to viewers as the eager, impulsive, overly polite and well brought up Peter Parker, in his continuous deference to authority and constant attempts to shirk responsibility. His journey, while predictable, is poignant because he's clearly unable to process his emotions, which is perfectly normal when you take a step back and realise that in-universe, he's supposed to be only 16 years old. He feels much more settled in his role now, and willing to take a little bit more risks with his performances and delivery, which pays off in the film.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

The action sequences are as amazing as always, even though the stakes are not on the aforementioned galactic level. They're carefully crafted to show you the level of mastery that Spider-Man has attained in his stint as a superhero, and serve to remind us that he truly is one of the more competent superheroes that will take the MCU forward. And of course, they're just fun to watch, since they literally pit Spider-Man against the elements.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

Spider-Man: Far From Home hews a little too close to the television model of storytelling for comfort and relies a little too much on a formulaic plot, but it still delivers in terms of characterisation and action. For a movie that's meant to bookend an epic arc of films prior, while still serving as a solo superhero sequel and spotlight on Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Far From Home performs admirably.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you're a Spider-Man fan.

Score: 3.8/5

Secret ending? Two, one mid-credits and one post-credits.

Running time: 129 minutes (~2.25 hours)

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a superhero film that's the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as being the twenty-third instalment in the MCU.

The film follows Spider-Man in his civilian identity of Peter Parker, who goes on a school trip across Europe with his classmates. However, a dire new threat has surfaced that could threaten the entire planet... as well as a mysterious new ally. Spider-Man finds himself torn between his personal life and duty once again, and must find peace within himself if he is to balance both sides of his life.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is directed by Jon Watts and written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. It stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Zendaya (MJ), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio/Quentin Beck), and Martin Starr (Mr Harrington).

Spider-Man: Far From Home opens in cinemas:
- 2 July, 2019 (Singapore)
- 3 July, 2019 (Philippines)

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

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Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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