The Movie Waffler New Release Review - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

spider-man far from home review
Peter Parker finds his alter ego called upon during a school trip to Europe.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jon Watts

Starring: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Angourie Rice

spider-man far from home poster


In his autobiography, 'How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime', legendary b-movie producer Roger Corman discusses how he turned down the offer to run a major motion picture studio at some point in the '70s, citing his inability to determine whether productions with colossal budgets were getting their money's worth or not. "I can look at a movie with an ostensible $1 million budget and say whether the money was well spent or not. With a $30 million or $50 million picture, I have no frame of reference. Who can tell you what a $50 million picture is supposed to look like?"

spider-man far from home review

Watching Spider-Man: Far From Home, I couldn't help recalling Corman's words. Variety tells me the film's budget was $160 million, but aside from some hefty actors' salaries, I simply can't see where the money was spent. Not to sound like a citizen of Ancient Rome with a season ticket for the Coliseum, but when I sit down to watch a summer blockbuster I expect to see some toil and sweat on the screen. Armies of extras splashing through muddy fields, boats being pulled over mountains, Kevin Costner drinking his own piss, that sort of thing. It always feels like something of a cheat when you know the entire cast and crew spent 12 weeks in front of a green screen on a shoot so comfortable it makes the average Woody Allen production look like one of Werner Herzog's South American adventures. And when they can't even get the green screen right it's another kick in the teeth. How does a movie with a $160 million budget feature outdoor scenes that resemble the rooftop scenes from The Room?

Far From Home has a lot of outdoor scenes, ostensibly filmed in some of Europe's major cities, but in reality we're watching its cast perform in front of a green screen with second unit location photography added in later. And boy does it show. Characters seem to hover awkwardly in the frame, with a thin glow around them as though you've turned up the sharpness on your TV set to 11. In some scenes it's all too obvious that the actors involved weren't in the same room at the time of shooting. It really is on the level of the average SyFy Channel original production.

spider-man far from home review

Where its affable predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming, drew on the '80s teen movies of John Hughes, Far From Home borrows the European Vacation model (listen out for a soundtrack nod to that movie), sending Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates off on a school trip to the continent. Hoping to put aside the responsibilities of his superhero alter-ego, Parker is focussed on a plan to confess his love to MJ (Zendaya) atop the Eiffel Tower. The trip is interrupted when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) press gangs Parker into service, aiding Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a lazer-shooting superhero who claims to have crossed over from another dimension, in a battle against a series of elemental monsters ravaging Europe. Mysterio appears to take Parker under his wing, becoming a surrogate father figure in the absence of the late Tony Stark, but something doesn't seem quite right about him.

If Spider-Man: Homecoming was a charming teen comedy occasionally interrupted by a second-rate superhero movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a second-rate superhero movie occasionally interrupted by a charming teen comedy. Homecoming was a breath of fresh air, a low stakes slice of summer fun that refused to trade in the sort of empty spectacle Marvel movies are so often criticised for. I guess the fans weren't happy though, and so the Freaks and Geeks inspired high school comedy of the previous movie is shoved into a locker while we're forced to watch a seemingly endless procession of geographically confusing action set-pieces, all bogged down by weightless CG. Without getting into spoilers, the film itself seems to comment on this with a Scooby Doo-esque plot twist, and when the villain talks about his frustrations with how "nobody notices you unless you're a superhero," it feels like a subversive commentary on the current state of the box office.

spider-man far from home review

What saves Far From Home from collapsing under a cloud of poorly rendered rubble is its talented but under-used ensemble of young actors. The few moments when the movie allows us to just hang out with Parker and his classmates are genuinely endearing, and Holland and Zendaya have an adorably goofy chemistry, matched here by the unlikely romantic pairing of Parker's geeky best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and prom queen to be Betty (Angourie Rice). With Disney/Marvel having such a monopoly on the box office, do they really need to give us the same overblown but uninvolving action sequences every time? Name any Bond movie, no matter how bad, and I'll tell you its key set-pieces. After 20+ movies I can't recall a single standout action scene from the Marvel franchise. After a decade of crash bang wallop drudgery, haven't we earned the right to just spend some quality time in the company of Parker, MJ and their buddies?

Spider-Man: Far From Home is in UK/ROI cinemas July 2nd.


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