“Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) is a fun enough Marvel movie; based on my own enjoyment, I’d rate it an 8 out of 10. It’s got the same qualities as almost all the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — fun, humor and great special effects housed within a remarkably well constructed shared universe. This mostly standalone adventure is definitely one of the MCU’s campier outings, but I think that most viewers will find it a welcome break after the last two high-stakes, apocalyptic “Avengers” films. (You may have heard of them.)
It’s also a great film to appeal to comic fans who are younger adults. The humor usually works, and the characters are nicely relatable. Peter’s peers and teachers are all engaging enough on their own, and make a good group of supporting characters. I know most fans have commented how much they like Ned, and I do too — but I think the MCU’s biggest improvement in this part of the mythos is the character of M.J. She is vastly different from her comic book progenitor, but in good ways. She’s dry, sardonic and slightly dark, and she’s extremely well played by Zendaya. I don’t imagine that many fans will agree with me here, but I personally find this character to be a lot more likable and compelling than the MCU’s Peter Parker.
And that brings me to my largest concern about the new “Spider-Man” films. Their version of Peter is sometimes frustrating. I don’t think it’s the fault of Tom Holland, who brings a nice amount of energy and personality to the role. I think it’s the fault of the screenwriters, who have made the character so doltish, boyish and eager-to-please that it’s occasionally annoying. He sometimes seems more like a middle school student than an advanced high school student. (Isn’t he supposed to be a senior here?) The writers seem to want to counter-balance the character’s high intelligence with a humanizing flaw, and they seem to want to contrast young Peter with the older, more seasoned Avengers lineup. All of that makes perfect sense, but I do think they go a little overboard.
I’m willing to go on record here and say that I prefer Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” His trilogy between 2002 and 2007 had more heart, more devotion to heroic archetypes, and greater attention character depth and detail. (I still think that 2004’s outstanding “Spider-Man 2” is one of the best comic book movies ever made.) There are advantages, too, to depicting an iconic superhero that doesn’t inhabit a shared universe — you spend more time exploring the character than exploring their context in relation to others.
Still, I’d recommend “Spider-man: Far From Home.” Like I said, it was a fun movie.
As I believe I may have mentioned, I have a love-hate relationship with David Tennant’s onscreen performances. I find him inexplicably, positively grating whenever he plays a protagonist. (See 2011’s “Fright Might” remake, or his cringe-inducing stint as “Doctor Who.”) But it seems to me that the man is absolutely fantastic when he plays a bad guy. (See his frightening and hilarious role as Kilgrave the first season of “Jessica Jones” in 2015.)
“Bad Samaritan” (2018) thankfully presents us with the latter Tennant. He musters an intensity with his eyes and his voice that are incongruous counterpoints to his innocent-looking face, and this makes him a damned good antagonist in a thriller. (He is a highly organized, sociopathic kidnapper in this film. I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler, as all of the film’s marketing make it clear.) He’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch — and listen to.
With that said, “Bad Samaritan” is an average movie — not altogether bad, but not awesomely good, either. (I suppose I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.) It benefits a lot from another very good actor in Robert Sheehan as its anti-heroic young protagonist. (The plot setup here is interesting — a mild-mannered burglar discovers a psychopath’s captive while in his house, then struggles with how he can help the terrified victim of a far worse criminal than he is.) The movie’s biggest sin seems to be that it borrows heavily from comparable genre-defining works from the likes of Thomas Harris and James Patterson. But it’s still an enjoyable enough movie in its own right.
There’s someone else here that’s great fun to watch too — Kerry Condon as the kidnapee. Her voice is amazing, and she’s a superb actress; I think she’s strong enough to carry another movie like this. I just knew she looked familiar … it turns out she played Clara, the really weird woman that Rick found in the woods during Season 3 of “The Walking Dead.” (He asks her the show’s signature “three questions.”)
She is also to voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y., Tony Stark’s on-board A.I. in several of Marvel’s “Avengers” movies. Didn’t see that one coming. Weird world.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) isn’t a bad movie. To the contrary, it’s a very good one — I would even rate it a 9 out of 10, if a little reluctantly.
The action, humor, surprises and special effects are all top-notch; it’s got a slew of fun Easter eggs and great continuity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and Michael Keaton hits it out of the park as the story’s villain. (As Ed Harris did recently with HBO’s “Westworld,” the sublimely likable Keaton really surprised me with how he could become so intimidating.) Furthermore, the screenwriters wisely omit another redundant re-telling of the web-slinger’s origin. (Even a die-hard fan like me is sick of seeing or reading about it.)
I think your enjoyment of this movie might vary according to what you want Spider-Man to be. This isn’t a movie in which Peter Parker or his alter ego stand out as his own man (despite its plot resolution’s heavy-handed efforts to tell us that). I submit that it’s fairly undistinguished as a standalone superhero film — it feels like an ancillary, companion film to the “Avengers” movies, including last year’s de facto installment, “Captain America: Civil War.” Indeed, fan-favorite Tony Stark is “Spider-Man: Homecoming’s” most significant supporting character — far more than any of the many friends, family, love interests or villains that have long inhabited the iconic hero’s mythos. Peter’s primary motivation throughout the movie is his desire to become an Avenger, like a normal kid would aspire to the varsity football team. Many of his powers stem from a ultra-high-tech costume designed and given to him by Iron Man; it even has an advanced A.I. that is a femme fatale equivalent of J.A.R.V.I.S. (Fun fact: that alluring voice belongs to none other than the alluring Jennifer Connelly. The actress is the wife of Paul Bettany, who is the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. and then the actor portraying The Vision. And Connelly herself played the love interest of 1991’s mostly forgotten “The Rocketeer,” a World War II-era hero with the a similar character concept to Iron Man.)
I was a big fan of Spider-Man in the 1990’s, and, believe me, the ol’ web-head did just fine with his own powers, intelligence and character — and without any sort of “internship” with Iron Man, either metaphorically or otherwise. He was also a far more popular character with readers. I was buying comics regularly between 1991 and 1996 — while Spider-Man books and merchandise were everywhere, I don’t think I ever remember seeing an “Iron Man” comic on the racks at my local comic shop. I kept thinking inwardly of Spider-Man during this movie as “Iron Man Jr.,” and, for me, that wasn’t a good thing.
I also found myself musing during the film that this felt like “Spider-Man Lite.” While “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was fun, it doesn’t have the depth, character development or gravitas of the Sam Raimi trilogy. (Yes, I even liked the third one, despite its bizarre flaws.) I know that critics are praising the movie’s lighter tone, and I realize the need to avoid a simple rehash of the Raimi films. (Nobody would want that; we can rightfully expect more from the excellent MCU.) I actually prefer the Raimi films, though. While Tom Holland might be the better Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire was a strange casting choice), the Raimi movies were more … heartfelt. They were an earnest exploration of the Spider-Man of the comics, and they felt … truer. “Homecoming,” in contrast, is yet another cool installment in the “Avengers” series. “Spider Man 2” came out 13 years ago, and I can still remember how that movie made me feel — not to mention how its sheer quality vindicated “comic book movies” like no other film before it. This new movie will not be memorable that way.
Anyway, although my criticisms above are obviously lengthy, please know that this is only because I love the source material so much — and we comic book fans have a tendency to analyze. I certainly enjoyed the movie, and I’d cheerfully recommend it. (Note my rating.) The MCU continues to entertain with quality movies; its consistency, even with its expanding group of ongoing Netflix series, is kind of astonishing.
Go see this. You’ll have fun.
We can conclude that from evidence left at the aftermath of one of their battles.
I found Loki’s horn down by the Potomac River. Observe.
(This is the coolest piece of driftwood ever found.)
“Captain America: Civil War” (2016) is nearly everything I hoped it would be; it’s easily on par, if not better, than the first two “Avengers” movies. (And I can’t help but think of this as the third “Avengers.” Yes, Cap’s name is in the title, but this is necessarily an ensemble story about the divided superteam.) I’d give it a 9 out of 10.
I honestly just need to be very vague in this review … this is such an eagerly awaited film, and I want to be extra cautious about spoilers. No, there are no twists in the movie, but there are surprising character and plot elements.
The movie surprised me in a couple of ways. One, this film appears to follow the original 2006 comic book crossover only very loosely. (I have not read it, but I know the story.) There is no “Superhero Registration Act” that would directly affect countless people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s much narrower than that — a demand by the United Nations for direct oversight of The Avengers.
Two, this is definitely the darkest and most adult outing with The Avengers so far. Don’t get me wrong — the levity and gee-whiz comic book fun that is the MCU’s trademark is still there, and it’s no Christopher Nolan movie. But the movie’s central story device is set in motion by the question of who should be held accountable for civilian deaths. And so many individual major characters are motivated by grief or rage.
This is notable throughout the film, for example, in the characterization of Tony Stark, and his portrayal by Robert Downey, Jr. He’s no longer a wisecracking billionaire playboy who all the guys want to be. Instead, he’s a troubled, pensive leader who often seems out of his depth. We watch as his team and the events surrounding him spin out of control, and we no longer want to trade places with him. He’s more sympathetic. But he simultaneously fails to engender the viewer loyalty that he so quickly and easily won in every other Marvel movie he’s appeared in.
And yet … he isn’t, as I had suspected, a cardboard adversary for Captain America’s underdog to stand up to. There are some sad things going on in his life, both during the events of this movie and in “Iron Man 3” (2013), and his failings and poor decisions are perfectly understandable. (I won’t say more, besides that viewers will definitely get a different spin on “Iron Man 3” after this movie.) And Downey displays a great range in playing this far sadder Tony.
One character in the movie even makes a quip about “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), and it feels like a meta reference, as that film is regarded as the darkest in the “Star Wars” original trilogy. (And their are story structure similarities as well.)
But don’t get me wrong — “Captain America: Civil War” still brings loads of fun. It’s an effects-laden, geeky, hero-against-hero, superteam gangfight that is straight out of every Marvel fan’s dreams. (And, needless to say, it’s far better than its analog this year from DC.) Tom Holland might be the best Spider-Man yet. The action is damn pleasing, and the one-liners made me laugh out loud. (“Made ya look.”)
The bromances (including the broken ones) seemed real to me. I found myself liking and caring about … Winter Soldier, of all people, and I kept hoping things worked out with his friendship with Cap. (Sebastian Stan impressed me in the role for the first time.)
What didn’t I like? Well, I had some small criticisms. I submit that Black Panther was a complete misfire. The character concept is boring (he’s an African Bruce Wayne), he seems like an ethnic caricature, and he absolutely is shoehorned into the plot. When his tough female subordinate physically threatens Black Widow, he smugly opines that a fight between them “would be amusing.” It felt creepy and sexualized, and maybe like something out of a 1970’s blaxploitation film. He’s also pretty blandly played by Chadwick Boseman.
Spiderman, too, seems shoehorned in as fan service. I loved seeing him in the movie, but i wish he’d been written in differently. (Would Stark really recruit a highschooler to combat seasoned soldiers, one of whom is a superpowered psychotic assassin?)
Next is a criticism that is just a matter of personal taste. I myself would have preferred a movie that was even darker. Just think for a minute about the basic story. We have civilian casualties driving the world’s governments to seek control over its superheroes — then the heroes themselves fighting each other with what must at least be considered possibly deadly force.
That’s a story pretty much brimming over with pathos, if you ask me. But the movie underplays those plot elements considerably. We hardly see the civilian casualties that are supposed to drive the plot — and when we do, they’re glimpsed briefly in news footage. And all but three of the heroes (Tony, Black Panther and Winter Soldier) display any of the anger or sense of betrayal that you would expect from a violent “civil war” among former friends. And it is violent … members of either faction fire missiles at, or try to crush, their opponents. Does the MCU’s characteristic banter belong anywhere here?
Finally, this could have been an idea-driven movie like the latter two “Dark Knight” films. But only Cap and Iron Man seem to genuinely fight about ideology. Others fight according to personal or professional loyalty, personal revenge, or just because they are a “fan” of either Cap or Tony. And neither does the script articulate their positions especially well. Wouldn’t it be perfectly in character for Cap to quote Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin? “Those who would exchange their liberty for a little temporary safety” and all that?
Oh, well. I’m probably asking too much from a superhero movie.
This was a hell of a lot of fun. Go see it.