Despite being a comedic success, Spider-Man: Far From Home is far from a perfect movie. Director Jon Watts’ command of moving chess pieces and villains is obvious, compared to other Marvel films. Although chaos permeates the action and special effects, the film somehow manages to revive something that has been missing in past live-action superhero films: a sensibility for its teen audience.
It doesn’t get talked about enough but Spider-Man (and many other superheroes) caters to either the very young broods who dress up as the character on Halloween night or to the adults who grew up loving the character and still cling to it. This isn’t to say superheroes aren’t for adults too, but between those two demographics, teens get lost in the shuffle. Of all the superhero films, Far From Home, even with its flaws, best caters to teenagers. In fact, one could argue Far From Home is more a teen comedy and less an actual superhero film. The humor is nestled perfectly among mild sensuality, goofy awkwardness, and overall campiness.
In the story, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is out of Queens and travelling to Europe on a class trip. It’s a risky move to uproot a character from his proverbial stomping grounds, especially one as codified as the “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.” But as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) says, “you’ve been to space!” However, Spider-Man is still just a Spider-teenager at heart, and teens primarily want one thing: to hang out with their friends and significant others. The main struggle for Peter in this film is that he just wants to be a teenager.
Unfortunately, monsters and villains run amok in Europe, too. Even more unfortunate is how the set pieces for these conflicts are constructed in Far From Home. The extremely fast-paced action combined with dominant special effects create rampaging sequences that are hard to digest. Spider-Man’s foray into the villain’s “illusion tech” later on in the movie is so dense with effects and manic pacing that the audience never has a chance to really feel any stakes at all. Instead, it feels more as though special effects are splashed onto the screen and the audience.
Nonetheless, humor is a saving grace for this Spidey film. It largely stands out thanks to Ned (Jacob Batalon), Peter Parker’s best friend. His unique stage presentation and delivery have him stealing scenes left and right. For instance, the casual, recalling joke of Ned saying, “Aw, babe” in tandem with his girlfriend is hilarious. Zendaya as M.J. also makes a mark with her gloomy Daria-esque spin on the traditionally doe-eyed character.
Out of all the Peter Parkers, Holland is by far the best at portraying an actual teenager. Tobey Maguire didn’t quite look the part and though Andrew Garfield was slightly better in that department, he mimicked the sarcastic, spry path set down by McGuire. Holland’s version of Peter lacks certainty and confidence, even with all he has done and every person he has saved. Even the way he carries himself is very unsure. But every iteration of Spider-Man has brought us closer and closer to a true teen superhero: goofy, awkward, and confused. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the culmination of that fact, even if it’s buried under excessive effects.
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