Summary: Spiderman: Far From Home (SFFH) returns Spidey to his roots in comic books. Take your teenage relatives to it; they’ll love it. Watch it for insights about the future of America.
Spiderman: Far From Home (SFFH) returns Spidey to his roots in comic books. The acting was poor to adequate (Tom Holland as Peter Parker was the best of the crew). Much of the dialog consisted of sentences never uttered in real life. Almost nothing in the plot made sense. The fight scenes were incomprehensible. But Gold and Silver Age comic books were mostly terrible, too (we remember the rare exceptions).
This was made for young teenagers – action romantic comedies. I sat through scores of similar films at Boy Scout camps, lightly dozing while the boys roared and laughed with joy. Asking the usual critics’ question is as pointless as discussing if the film followed the Aristotelian Unities (it doesn’t). Take your boys to it; they will love it. (Will girls like it? I raised two boys and ran Cub Scout Pack and Boy Troops for 19 years. I’ve no idea.)
SFFM has lots of humor, a plot rooted in the challenges facing teens (e.g., romance, new experiences, responsibility), frantic action scenes – with a big dose of wish fulfillment for boys. Enough said about the usual critic’s gig. But such stories teach the young values and lessons useful for their lives as adults. What does SFFH teach?
Hollywood gives relentless attention to the gender politics of its film. SFFH hits the standard tropes. The guys are mostly dorks of various kinds, even Spiderman and Nick Fury. Some get the occasional moments of competence (most radically, Spiderman in the climactic battle). Most of the time we laugh at them. But the girls are brave, smart, and aggressive. Following Hollywood’s iron rule, all first kisses are initiated by the girl. When the kids are in danger, the girls’ boldness and aggression save them.
The exception is, as usual, the villain. My youngest son pointed this out to me: the role models for men in modern films are the villains. They show poise, pride, commanding presence, take no crap from anybody, and seek independence. Our society is shit, so they rebel. The epitomize an insight of the great Russian Nikolay Chernyshevsky: “the worse, the better.” Who else in most modern films would a boy of spirit seek to imitate? I saw a similar dynamic when I worked in Buffalo’s inner city. The heroes admired by the young were, quite rationally, pimps and drug kingpins. Best to live fast and die young with pride. I suspect that Crazy Horse and Geronimo would have understood.
My favorite line from the film is said by the fat sidekick about his sizzling hot girlfriend (among the many shattering the illusion moments in the film): “she’s strong and smart.” Just what every 15-year old boy wants in a girlfriend.
The firm gives no concessions to the male gaze. None of the speaking characters is attractive or well-dressed. Peter Parker’s girlfriend is plain as a fencepost, and with just as much personality (excluding her weirdness). These are actresses, so they are attractive women dressed down to suit the director’s vision.
Tech as the tool that creates success.
Spiderman’s powers were in his body and mind. He often won by virtue of his character and determination. Many of his battles were man vs. villains with machines. In these films, Spiderman powers are, to a large extent, in his tech (also, he appears invulnerable). And his villain’s powers are technological. It is tech vs. tech. Perhaps that is all today’s teens can understand. This belief will not serve them well if America – or they, personally – encounter tough times.
In the comics, Peter Parker had no living father figure. His Dad died. He was raised by his Uncle, who also died. He has no close friends. That is too dark for the light-hearted tone of these films, which provide even more wish-fulfillment than did the comics. This Peter Parker has several close friends (developing, like most similar stories these days, a Scooby gang) and several father figures.
Take your sons, nephews, or grandsons to see it. They will love it. Watch it for insights about what America will become.
Important: see the scenes after the credits.
What the critics say.
You know what the favorable reviews say without reading them. The “rotten” reviews are more interesting, showing the film’s flaws. Not that they matter.
Robert Daniels at 812 Film Reviews makes an important point: this is a shallow film.
“Instead of capping off a cinematic style and larger story: Phase 3, MCU appears content to rely on quippy jokes, illogical twists, and the past triumphs of their other releases rather than charting a distinctive new path.”
Oliver Jones at Observer forgets that this is based on a comic book for kids.
“We have seen the bloodless action before, as we have the apparently victimless landmark toppling.”
Blake Goble at Cos makes a telling observation.
“Its most affecting stuff comes from the comedy. You don’t need a computer to deep-fake decent young actors behaving awkwardly around one another. “
Posts about our addiction to films about superheroes
- Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
- We like superheroes because we’re weak. Let’s use other myths to become strong.
- We need better heroes. They are there, in our past.
- Where we can find the inspiration to fix America?
For more information
For more info, see “The Ultimate Guide to Marvel Comics Movies, In and Out of the MCU” by Joshua M. Patton at the Comic Years website.
Recommendation: see the original Spiderman films, starring Tobey Maguire. Far better stories and films than the second trilogy or the current series, fun for both teens and adults.
Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- “Justice League” is the film we need, not the one we deserve.
- “Black Panther” will be the most interesting film of 2018.
- “Avengers: Infinity War” is boring. Watch some anime instead.
- Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.
- Captain Marvel – fun for kids, swill for adults.
- SHAZAM! It’s fun indoctrination for kids.
- “Avengers Endgame” is three slow hours of fun and sorrow.
Trailer for Spiderman: far from home