Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

DIR: Jon Watts • WRI: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers • DOP: Matthew J. Lloyd • ED: Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dan Lebental • PRO: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal • DES: Claude Paré • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jon Favreau 

Sony’s well advised alliance with the Disney, Marvel people continues to pay off with this entertaining sequel to Spiderman: Homecoming, entitled Spider-Man: Far From Home in continuance with its home-themed titles. I’m guessing the next one is going to be called, Spiderman: No Place Like Home.

Far from Home follows on from the events of Avengers: Endgame, which resulted in the successful destruction of Thanos and the return of those who were turned to ashes five years prior (if you don’t know this already shame on you).  

Peter Parker and his friends, Ned and MJ, are adjusting to life, five years after the ‘blip’, as it is now known… at least to teenagers. Not having aged, they are finding some of their friends have grown in their absence. Most notable of these, for Peter, is Brad, once a scrawny ten-year-old, now a buffed up teenager who is making the moves on MJ.  The gang’s school trip to Europe is interrupted by Nick Fury, who needs an unwilling Spider-Man to help a new hero in town, Mysterio, Quentin to his friends, (a better than expected Jake Gyllenhaal). Quentin is chasing down elemental creatures that have destroyed the earth of his dimension and now threaten to destroy ours. Peter Parker unwillingly aids the agents of SHIELD and Mysterio, who becomes a sort of replacement mentor for the much missed Tony Stark.

Moving alongside the expected superhero shenanigans is the joyful, humorous teenage road trip. Peter is head over heels in love with MJ now and this possible romance is the where the story’s heart is. The last near girlfriend of his, moved a distance after her dad, The Vulture, was incarcerated, you might remember.  I’d say teenagers move on quick but there was a five-year gap if you count the ‘blip’. 

I wont tell you anymore, suffice to say Spidey has all sorts of ups and downs, personal challenges and life-threatening moments that he manages to overcome and save the day. Director Jon Watts does a great job of balancing the drama and the comedy. Watts understands that the whole thing is absurd already but that doesn’t mean it has to be treated with mockery and, god forbid, that camp might rear its head. For the most part, he balances out the humour and jeopardy beautifully. There are some clunky moments in there and some of the humour doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it’s easy to forgive, when the heart of the piece is so adeptly handled by the actors. 

The nerd part of me would love to say more about the plot but to say more would spoil the hell out of the wonderful revelations. I should point out that the film only plays to full satisfaction if you stay to the very last scene; yes, that means the final post-credit scene, not the middle post-credit scene. Anybody who leaves the cinema before seeing that final scene has in affect watched a different movie than us stalwarts.  I was never so amused and satisfied with a post-credit scene as I was with this one. If you stay for it you’ll thank me. 

Paul Farren

129′ 15″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Spider-Man: Far From Home is released 5th July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home– Official Website

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SuperPod: Wonder Woman & Spider-Man

 

Our latex-wearing superpodders, Richard Drumm and Paul Farren, return to their headquarters to plot the rescue of their missing partner Scott Adair. Whilst plotting, our crime-fighting duo discuss the two latest DC and Marvel films to hit the big screens, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

 

 

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We Love… Superheroes: Spider-Man

batman signalcopy(1)

  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Spider-Man

‘… the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages …’

Daire Walsh

 

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Since appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 (a Marvel Comics Anthology) in August 1962, Spider-Man and his alter ego of Peter Parker have become a regular fixture in a number of different mediums. Whether it be the comic books themselves, the world of television (both animation and live-action) or the ever-evolving film industry, the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages.

 

Having struggled to make it to the big-screen for a number of decades, in spite of its immense popularity, Spider-Man finally made its way into cinemas in 2002 – fresh on the heels of the Marvel-related Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) – under the guidance of Evil Dead helmer Sam Raimi. As a massive fan of the comic-book series, Raimi seemed an ideal choice to bring his unique style and craftsmanship to a mainstream PG-13 superhero film, and with the highly-regarded duo of David Koepp and Bill Pope on screenwriting and director of photography duties respectively, the signs all seemed positive.

 

With a number of screen credits already behind them, the hiring of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for the roles of Spider-Man/Peter Parker looked like wise moves, as did the decision to cast the excellent Willem Dafoe and James Franco (who was being heralded at the time as the “new James Dean”) as the father-son team of Harry and Norman Osborn.

 

There is always a certain leap of faith needed for films like this, as origin stories can be quite tricky, but Raimi handled Parker’s transformation from a bookish teen to a wall-crawling crime-fighter with a delicate touch. The Michigan native also knows how to crank up the action elements when needed, and with universally solid performances, as well cameos from series creator Stan Lee and Raimi favourite Bruce Campbell, there was something for everyone to embrace.

 

This meant it was completely unsurprising when box-office returns of $800 million dollars were matched by overwhelmingly positive critic responses, making a sequel an absolute certainty. 2004 was the date chosen for Spider-Man 2, and with the shackles now off to a certain degree, Raimi was given the scope to produce a bigger, bolder and better follow-up.

 

Having struggled with an over-reliance on Computer-Generated Effects for the sequences where Maguire was swinging between buildings in the first film, Raimi managed to make this seem more physical at the second time of asking, and having opted for a colourful, campy adversary in the form of Dafoe’s Green Goblin two years earlier, the menacing presence of Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) was now the avenue that was being explored.

 

A number of the film’s set-pieces, including Octavius’ brutal slaying of a medical crew with the tentacles that have become attached to his body, are handled with the trademark brio and energy that we have come to expect from Raimi. The showdown between Spidey and Doc Ock in a bank, as well as the former’s desperate attempts to halt a runaway subway train are other highlights, and due to the nature of the chosen villain, there are many oddly peculiar aspects to the drama.

 

There is much more than Spider-Man 2 than just spectacle, though, as it is also a coming-of-age story, with Peter Parker stepping out of adolescence to become the man he believes he can be. We also see him struggling with his secret identity, which has alienated him from his true love, Mary-Jane Watson, and his best friend, Harry Osborne.

 

Having adapted Uncle Ben’s mantra of ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’, Parker begins to explore the possibility of stepping out of the suit, before finally realising that he can’t escape the superhuman abilities that have been bestowed upon him. This thematic substance, supremely crafted action sequences, as well as further cameos from the aforementioned duo of Lee and Campbell, means that Spider-Man 2 holds up as one of the strongest superhero films ever committed to celluloid.

 

Unfortunately, despite plenty of hype and expectation, 2007’s ‘threequel’, Spider-Man 3, proved to be a major disappointment, as the introduction of Spidey’s black suit fail to achieve its desired effect. A bloated running time of 139 minutes also contributed to its problems, and a few too many enemies, including one (Topher Grace’s Venom) that Raimi didn’t approve of, meant that audiences were generally left underwhelmed by the whole experience.

 

With box-office takings of $890 million, it was the most successful film of the series, but it was felt that a return to the old formula was needed for the expected Part Four. Raimi’s return to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell appeared to be the perfect tonic ahead of the next Spider-Man outing, but it was instead decided that a re-boot by (500) Days Of Summer director Marc Webb would be the next course of action.

 

With rising British actor Andrew Garfield stepping into Spider-Man’s spandex, and an impressive supporting cast of Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, Sally Field Martin Sheen and Denis Leary joining him, The Amazing Spider-Man was given a Summer 2012 release. Bizarrely, unlike Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Webb’s film echoed many events from Raimi’s original film a decade beforehand, though a successful run at the box-office ($752 million off a budget of $230 million) means that Garfield & Co. will be here to stay for the time being.

 

Whether or not the 2014 sequel will be able to progress the franchise in the same way that Raimi did remains to be seen, but it is clear that there is still a huge appetite for the East Coast’s web-crawling hero. When the character was first written on the page, Lee and Ditko wanted to show how an angst-ridden teenager dealt with the burden of a superhero identity, and that is precisely what has made Spider-Man such a success throughout the ages.

Daire Walsh

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Carmen Bryce on Wonder Woman

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We Love… Superheroes

batman-signalcopy1

 Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without them.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

 

 

Batman – Ciara O’Brien

Darkman – Darragh John McCabe

The Hulk – David Neary

Spider-Man – Daire Walsh

Superman – Glenn Caldecott

Thor – Rory Cashin

Watchmen – Anthony Assad

Wolverine – Tony McViker

Wonder Woman – Carmen Bryce

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Sounding Off: A Response to ‘Superhero Movies – no longer films for our times’

 

Paul Counter responds to Paul Lynch‘s insistence that  superhero movies are no longer films for our times featured in Film Ireland‘s ‘Sounding Off‘ section – the place for debate and discussion on the topics that you find most compelling.

Last month’s Film Ireland carried a cover showcasing the Death of a Superhero, and a back page proclaiming it. After years of horrible box-office domination the superheroes were finally about to succumb to their kryptonite – in these complex times, cinema audiences would demand more from their heroes and superheroes would simply be outgrown.

The aspiring scriptwriter in me is yelling just to nod and look intelligent. It really is. I’d love to work with some of the people on this forum in the future. Why am I sticking my head above the parapet and defending these awful films?

The comic book fan won’t lie down though. The main reason he can’t sit still is not to convince you superhero films are high art, or even better than half good. There have been many superhero films so bad they should be wiped from existence. It’s because super hero films really aren’t about to die. They are obviously making a fortune. And it’s because having spent many years with the guilty secret of admiring men in tights who can summon thunder, I’d like to understand why now so many other people pay for a cinema ticket to do so. And it’s because if we’re serious about making films in Ireland with a real commercial appeal, as James Hickey says, then we should try to honestly assess why these films make huge, huge money each summer rather than exaggerating rumours of their demise.

The thrust of Paul Lynch’s argument is, I think, that superhero films have been in existence for 70 years, and their format of good versus evil must evolve to reflect more complex times today or else it will lose its audience. Whether we might wish it so or not, as a statement of fact this is utterly wrong.

The modern CGi-enabled superhero blockbuster has been with us for around a decade and as a spectacle is a completely different beast to what went before. Five of the highest ten grossing superhero films have been released in the last four years. More and more are being greenlit for development by studios desperate for the sure-fire return they bring (listing the number of sequels and reboots slated for release would exhaust you, reader). Rather than needing to evolve, this vast success is stunting growth, leading to a formulaic and limited approach to recycling the same kind of story.

With their easily translatable character arc, obvious external change, internal dilemmas and protagonists, the superhero origin story could have come straight from one of Syd Field’s workshops. With their huge brand recognition (since those ’40s films there have been millions of comic books and hundreds of cartoons) and universal values these films are of course that dreaded thing, the perfect summer blockbuster. Indeed superheroes and Hollywood have become such a match made in heaven that Disney recently bought Marvel, one of the two major comic book companies.

Suggesting that that simple story structure and a clear moral delineation are exclusive to superhero tales or have had their day is equally wrong. This is true of most films throughout history and will remain so until we become so cynical that good and evil are concepts a generation doesn’t even encounter in childhood.

So are superhero films kids films dressed as adult films? Of course. Challenging the films to grow up is paradoxical when the route of their success is that they allow the audience to do exactly the opposite. Today’s audience grew up with these characters as kids. At the root of their appeal are individuals who choose to wear spandex, can do impossible things, live in mansions and drive flying cars. This is essentially a childish fantasy, much like becoming a Teletubby or appearing on Wanderly Wagon. Unlike a guest slot on the Wagon, however, harnessing the living power of the sun and driving a flying car still appeals to me immensely. It stops becoming so appealing however if I have to park my flying car outside the White House to advise Obama on a responsible foreign policy, or spend a six months helping a recovering drug addict through a painful rehab. Other films do this very well, that simply is not the function of the superhero film.

Perhaps the time will come when the genre must subvert that expectation, as Paul observes the Western chose to do with the morally confused ‘70s upon it. It should be remembered though that the most successful film of the seventies was Star Wars. Westerns had simply been overtaken by better special effects and spaceships.

The most interesting aspect of all this is the one he has back to front. The complex times we live in don’t damage black and white escapism: they encourage it. With property out of reach to first-time buyers this generation stays at home longer. Grown men play on playstations. We get married later, and get drunk more. We exist in a state of extended kidulthood, an absence of responsibility that just wasn’t there in the ‘70s, so the audience has changed.

But could superhero films grow up? There is the material to support this such as The Authority and The Ultimates (which reimagines the Avengers as alcoholics/schizophrenics /wife beaters), but this isn’t the version getting made (Watchmen excepted). The problem is, I suspect, because the audience like to be quite clear what they are getting when they purchase a cinema ticket – probably one of the few experiences where we deliberately purchase the goods without inspecting them – and for a superhero film they expect mindless escapism.

Can we get better superhero films? My definition of a better superhero film would be different to my definition of a better piece of cinema, so it depends. They are films that arrive at the cinema with a history already behind them. Where a film captures the essence of the source material from page to screen, entertains an audience and generates enough revenue for a sequel to be made it has probably done its job. It’s not meant to be anything more.

Are comic films going to be left behind then in an evolutionary cinema race in which they are unable to adapt? No. They currently have no need to adapt, and the material is there if, and when, they do.

The more likely reason for their extinction is the finite number of characters that automatically command a large audience. With Spider-Man already on his fourth film this summer, three Nolan Batfilms and five X-Men films already completed, people will tire of seeing the same characters and studios will be unwilling to invest in lesser known properties.

Until that happens, for those that have no history with comic books, and no desire to reconnect with that inner child, I suggest the best course of action is simply to avoid watching them. I doubt they damage credible cinema, or take any audience share from more meritorious films, indeed with cinemas teetering on the edge of economic viability these cash cows probably effectively subsidise much of the more creative endeavour out there.

Paul Counter

If you would like to respond to this article or feel strongly about something and would like to kick off your own topic, please email steven@filmbase.ie

 

 

 

 

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