Spider-Man: Far From Home

Year: 2019
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Studio: Sony
Director: John Watts
Producer: Kevin Fiege/Amy Pascal
Writer: Chris McKenna/Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L Jackson, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batolon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Cobie Smulders, JK Simmons

Having been shown once before how to do a successful superhero movie by bringing Marvel on board, Sony again takes all the right cues. I don't remember how officially involved Marvel was in this production – I know there'd been a very public split in the partnership that bought the world Spider-Man: Homecoming not long before this movie came out, but Kevin Fiege is listed as a producer and you can see his stamp all over it, so someone made nice.

And as much as I want to hate every new superhero movie that comes out, it does contain a pleasant surprise in the central premise – the secret behind the enormous CGI creature/aliens/monsters who are attacking Europe is something you wouldn't guess (you might if you were an extreme comic nerd, which I'm not). In fact, even after glancing over a few spoiler-filled reviews because I assumed I'd never bother watching it I still thought the backbone to the story was pretty clever.

Two caveats, though. The first is that it's another example of the escalating cycle of violence and vengeance that underpins the entire American sociopolitical construct. It has deep parallels in real life, like when the US sponsor Afghan warlords against the Soviet Union in the 80s who turn on America with its own training, weapons and resources in the form of The Talibans and bin Ladens of the world.

And we've seen it plenty in the MCU too, like when Spider-Man's last enemy was inadvertently created by SHIELD shutting down the clean-up of New York after the battle with Thanos' forces we saw in The Avengers, or when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were so consumed with creating AI it turned into Ultron... or Vision, or both, or something...

The second caveat is that despite anything unexpected that pops up in the story it looks, feels and moves exactly like an MCU movie. How much you enjoy it will depend on your taste for Marvel movies in principle. Harmless fun or theme park rides, as Martin Scorsese said?

The snap has happened in Avengers: Infinity War, the blip has happened in Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark met his fate (is that even a spoiler anymore?), the OG Avengers have disbanded, and everyone just wants to get on with their lives, particularly Peter Parker (Tom Holland). His erstwhile father in Stark is gone and in his grief Peter sees him everywhere, so now he just wants to forget all about superheroing, go on his school trip to Europe and finally ask his crush MJ (Zendaya) out. He even goes as far as ignoring calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), sure the SHIELD head honcho just wants to send him on a crusade against some new intergalactic despot.

But the despot instead comes for Peter and his friends when they arrive in Venice in the shape of a huge creature made out of the very water of the canals, one of the Elementals (we've already seen another one made of air in the opening coda).

While Spider-Man attempts to battle the thing, a mysterious flying man in a suit shows up and fights it as well, appearing to defeat it. When Fury finally catches up with Parker to debrief him, the stranger, a guy called Quentin Beck who claims to be from another dimension, joins them and warns them of the Elementals coming to Earth to wreak havoc. Another one – made of fire and more powerful than the others – is due to attack in Prague in just a few days.

Peter wants none of it, trying only to impress MJ in his stumbling teenage way, but Fury pulls strings so his class trip is in Prague during the night of the attack, and Quentin (dubbed 'Mysterio' by the media) teams up with Peter again to destroy it.

Peter's truly had his fill. He takes the glasses Stark entrusted to him – containing controls to the entire Stark armoury of orbital weapons – and gives them to Beck, telling him he can be the hero the world's waiting for. But Beck's real plan is soon revealed and Peter has no idea what a dangerous enemy he's enabled, the battles he's been fighting with oversized creatures from another dimension just VR light shows from a fleet of drones.

It's got all the beats, characterisations, flashing lights and VFX you know. You'll get a few chuckles and it might elicit a mild gasp of delight here or there, but it's a straight-arrow Marvel film (made by Sony) and nothing more.

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