HEAT VISION

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' — What the Critics Are Saying

The latest Spider-Man movie is good, but is it good enough?

If there’s a running theme to be found in the — mostly positive — reviews for Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s that the much-talked-about sense of superhero fatigue, or perhaps Marvel Studios fatigue, just might be setting in post-Avengers: Endgame, at least as far as film critics go.

It’s not that the movie is bad; almost every single review published since the embargo has been lifted goes to pains to point that out. Instead, it’s that, as good as the pic may be, it feels less than impressive than it should, thanks to the other movies audiences have enjoyed featuring the character. Or, as The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy puts it, “[W]ithout a proper, full-on villain, as well as an adequate substitute for Robert Downey Jr.'s late, oft-mentioned Tony Stark, this comes off as a less-than-glittering star in the Marvel firmament. It pales even more when compared to Sony's wildly imaginative animated feature of last year, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw agrees, writing, “For all [the] exotic novelties [of the movie’s international settings], this is a very mainstream Marvel picture, written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers and directed by Jon Watts, culminating in the traditional CGI damage to tourist landmarks in the time-honored final battle-spectacular.” As if to double-down on a common criticism, he adds, “the film is certainly nowhere near the envelope-pushingly surreal ambition of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, from last year.”

But perhaps I’m being too cruel comparing it to one of the most impressive superhero movies of recent memory. After all, as NPR’s Chris Klimek argues, “Would it be better if it were 15 minutes tighter? Yep. Would it be more welcome if it had arrived two years post-Endgame instead of two months? For certain. But the movie has a bunch of winning performances from 22-year-olds still credibly playing 16, it tells a complete-ish yarn while dutifully laying track for further sequels, and it shows more visual brio than your average Marvel joint.” Isn’t that enough?

It seems to be, for some. “Spider-Man: Far From Home is the perfect chaser to Avengers: Endgame, and the breeziest spectacle of the summer," raves Polygon’s Matt Patches. "Jon Watts, who returns to the director’s chair after 2017’s Homecoming, is in total control as he scales the action back down to a single hero’s journey, grapples with the aftermath of Thanos’ reality-bending genocide (known to the kids of Queens as ‘the blip'), and shifts to the perspective of an angsty teen making life or death decisions.”

Similarly, Matt Goldberg from Collider writes, “While some Marvel movies, such as Ant-Man and the Wasp and to a lesser extent Thor: Ragnarok, are all about the jokes to the point that they obscure pathos in favor of punchlines, Far From Home is admirably deft in how it can be completely irreverent one moment and wholeheartedly invested in Peter’s journey the next.”

A common thread to be found in reviews is that dealing with the world-building baggage left over from Avengers: Endgame makes the opening of the movie drag. “It’s not until the movie’s halfway over that it finds its own independent rhythm, finally making meaningful storytelling decisions instead of alluding to them, and snapping back to life in the process,” Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos notes, complaining, “All the false starts and dead ends make Far From Home feel uneven, despite spirited performances all the way around, especially from Holland and Zendaya.”

“Overall, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a blast, though it does take some time to really get going,” writes Screen Rant’s Molly Freeman, who points out that, despite the “not-exciting” opening of the movie, “the second and third acts of Far From Home push the limits of what's expected not just in a Spider-Man movie, but superhero movies in general, getting ambitious with its storytelling and action set pieces and (mostly) sticking the landing.”

Certainly, the film attempts to do something out of the ordinary, but the jury remains split on whether or not it actually achieves it.

Far From Home has some moments that nearly comment on the nature of attempting to dazzle audiences with generic superhero spectacle. Watts ultimately backs away and settles for commentary by implication; the movie’s most exciting physical confrontations eschew building-smashing for a surreal bent reminiscent of last year’s triumphant Spider-Verse cartoon, as well as the MCU’s own Doctor Strange,” writes Jesse Hassenger from The AV Club. “Like the often-comic tone (Nick Fury has never been so frequently interrupted while delivering grave exposition), these scenes suggest a looser, jazzier adventure than Watts is ultimately allowed to deliver."

That part about what Watts was “ultimately allowed” is thinking that Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson also seems to be considering. “Far From Home is a movie about attempted escape that carefully reminds us, like a benevolent dictator, that there’s no such thing to be had,” he writes. “Sure, now that we’re post-Avengers we may get smaller, lighter, more personal Marvel movies. But they’ll still all be in rote service to the grand design. Peter Parker might fall in love. He might graduate. He might grow up and leave Queens behind. But he’ll remain trapped in the same simulation. The great treadmill built by Marvel catches all in the end — even those allowed to swing, seemingly free, so high above it.”

Spider-Man: Far From Home is set to bow Tuesday.

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