Since the news broke two weeks ago that Sony and Marvel Studios are parting ways, which has huge implications for the future of Spider-Man and his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m dusting off this review of Spider-Man: Far from Home which I meant to post 2 months ago but never got around to polishing until now.
(There are spoilers below for Jake Gyllenhaal’s 2014 movie Nightcrawler, so if you really want to watch it and be surprised, don’t read this review!)
When the movie started with the words “in memoriam”, it was the Comic Sans font that clued me in more than anything else that it was a student presentation and tribute to the fallen heroes. And I was proven right when it was followed by an amateur slideshow video and blurry images with watermarks on them — aka average high school student quality work! ? I’m impressed by how concisely the student news programme was able to summarise what happened after the Snap and move pass it. They even managed to make the disappearance and reappearance of half the world a visual gag!
I didn’t like Quentin Beck playing the Exposition Fairy in the middle though, right after he was revealed to be a bad guy. WHICH I KNEW FROM THE START, and not only because he was a villain in the comics. When an MCU movie very purposefully establishes a brand new stranger, who is not the main protagonist and hero, as a “good guy” in the first 20 minutes, be very careful where you step, cause high chances are that he isn’t one. (See Peter Quill’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)
The opposite is true too for bad guys. (See the Kree in Captain Marvel, who also appeared after the end credits of Far from Home. It was a surprise to see them not only impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill, but that it was Fury’s idea! “One more person knocks on that door and you and I will be attending another funeral.” ?)
But wow, Quentin Beck is definitely a mad genius — and one with an astoundingly abnormal ego to boot, to even imagine that his reverse psychology stunt would work. Because no one in their right frame of mind could have foreseen how utterly DUMB Peter would be. I’m still not sure how he got to that level of stupidity to hand over E.D.I.T.H. — the *one* thing that his most-respected and dearly beloved mentor Tony Stark willed to him specifically — to Beck, a guy he met like 2 days ago. Huh?????? ???
I bet Marvel hired Jake Gyllenhaal for this role specifically because of his performance as an amoral sociopath in Nightcrawler, a movie about a con man-turned-freelance crime journalist who goes to unethical lengths to get his scoops, and who sets up his partner to be murdered at the end. (A good film, but it made me feel icky afterwards. If I didn’t have to market it, I would probably never have watched it.) That was who Quentin Beck reminded me of. (Plus, fun fact: Rene Russo, aka Frigga, Thor’s mother, was also in Nightcrawler.)
Tom Holland’s look of betrayal (when he stopped the real Beck from shooting him) is so good, I felt personally betrayed by Quentin Beck myself.
Other than Beck, the movie was a fun vacation school trip and romance. Ned and Betty’s summer fling made me laugh, because I predicted that their teen romance would end by the end of the trip. And it did, just as suddenly as it began! ? The filmmakers were totally making fun of teenagers’ flippancy and tendency to be over-dramatic about love.
So yeah, I liked the movie. Peter goes on a summer abroad school trip, gets sidetracked by Nick Fury, misses Tony, fights bad guys. Fun stuff. NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT ENDING.
I was ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED to once again see J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, editor of “fake news” paper The Daily Bugle! When Peter was taking pictures of himself while swinging through the streets of New York, it reminded me of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man doing the same thing to earn money by selling his pics to the Daily Bugle. Which led me to think of and lament that we wouldn’t get to see J.K. Simmons’ funny though exasperating editor who kept slamming Spidey as a menace. And then he appeared! ?
To deliver infuriating fake news!
When Peter was framed as the villain and his identity outed, I was OUTRAGED and heartbroken for him. Some people just like to watch the world burn, and even after death, the unstable and crazy Quentin Beck was determined to drag Peter down with him. Not only does it hit too close to reality for me with how evil is triumphing now with disinformation, all Peter wanted was to live like a normal teenager. And now he can’t have that, and his name is being dragged in the mud! And Tony or Steve aren’t around to help him now! :’-O
But after I had some time to digest that shocking ending, I realised that most of the other Avengers’ real identities are known to the world, and they’re still able to live normally. I mean, Tony revealed himself and after the initial hoo-hah, that was that. (Of course, it helps that he’s a billionaire who loves the spotlight and has a practically sentient AI security system.) Even without Tony and Steve, Peter still has other adult figures in his superhero life — Sam/Falcon/New Cap, Doctor Strange, Pepper, Happy. He’ll be able to survive. And his name will eventually be cleared, somehow.
But now that Sony and Marvel Studios are parting ways, future Spider-Man movies won’t be allowed to namedrop the Avengers anymore, or have inter-MCU crossovers. (And vice versa. Spider-Man will probably be obliquely referred to as “the kid” in future MCU movies, if anyone even mentions him.) Which means no more support system from the other adult superheroes. Peter’s really in the shitter now. That was probably where Marvel was planning to put him in for the next movie anyway, but before the split, we sort of knew that Peter would be fine. He’s part of the Avengers after all! But now he isn’t, and he really has to deal with being outed and vilified all alone, which will make his journey in the next movie extremely tough to watch. :'(
Not to purposely point out the obvious, but it sucks that the talks broke down. I think that Sony needs Marvel Studios more than Marvel needs them — though I read an opinion that’s the opposite — because I believe what made the Spider-Man movies good was creative oversight from Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studios team. Spider-Man: Far from Home‘s US$1.1 billion, which made it Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing film ever, wouldn’t have been possible without help from its MCU connections. Look at how Sony mismanaged the most recent non-MCU related Spider-Man movies because they were so eager for profits!
And look at how Sony intended to milk the Spider-Man IP before the Marvel Studios deal came about: Through another interconnecting universe called the Sinister Six, made up of Spider-Man villains. When I first read that news years ago, I already wasn’t excited, and now after seeing how good a Spider-Man movie can be when Marvel Studios is making it, the Sinister Six idea sounds even less appealing. (To be honest, I don’t think that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Andrew Garfield was *that* terrible, but apparently lots of fans have different opinions.)
The hope is that Sony and Marvel Studios will go back to the negotiating table, but if the split is permanent, we’ll just have to deal with it. While Kevin Feige probably was sad to lose Spidey too, there are other teenage wonders that he can groom from his stable of comic book characters. And it’s not like he doesn’t have anything else to do for the next few years.
On the other hand, some fans seem excited to see Spidey appear in a Venom movie in the future, which Marvel had no plans to do previously. I guess it’s cool. I resisted watching Venom for the longest time because I thought it was a horror movie, but when I finally did months later, Venom and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy!)’s relationship won me over.
(Also fun fact: Riz Ahmed was Jake Gyllenhaal’s ill-fated partner in Nightcrawler. Hollywood is a small world! Especially now that practically everyone and their mother has signed on to do a superhero movie. Instead of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, they should change it to Six Degrees of The Avengers. Heck, Kevin Bacon himself was in a superhero movie — he played the villain Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class!)
*Updated on 28 September 2019: Sony Pictures and Marvel have agreed to let Spidey stay in the MCU for at least two more movies! Kevin Feige will produce the third Spider-Man standalone film and Spidey will appear in one future Marvel Studios film. I can’t begin to tell you how happy and relieved I am that now Peter won’t be left completely to the wolves after that shocking reveal of his identity!
But if I were Kevin Feige, I would begin to find a way to untangle Spidey from their plans for the MCU, so in future if the companies decide to break up for good, he’s able to do it without reconfiguring whole chunks of his plans. And if I were Sony, I would get as many tips as I can on how NOT to screw up Spider-Man because of greed and then have to reboot it for the 4th time in future.