For some reason, I’m getting requests to review super-hero movies, even though it’s hardly an area of expertise. There are good ones, The Dark Night, Thor: Ragnorok, Iron Man 3. But most of them have a written-by-committee feel; David Mamet described a summer blockbuster movie as being like a themed ‘pageant’, and there’s generally little of cinematic merit, or even any directorial stamp other than the house style for Marvel or DC. I was hugely impressed by Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movie, but found it easy to give up on the franchise which followed after, with rapid personnel and direction changes and no real case made for re-joining the action.
Yet Jon Watts’ film, dropping on Netflix in the UK, at least clears one thing up; Disney may be the home of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they’ll continue renting out their hottest properties to other streaming services to function as adverts or taste-testers. Far From Home may well win a few over with its bright CGI, expensive locations and hokey humour; it certainly feels like one of the better efforts in the genre. The mix is firmly domestic vs geopolitical. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) wants to make some moves on girl-pal MY (Zendaya) on their school-trip to Europe, but has to juggle his romance against a secret world-saving mission organised by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a mysterious superhero called, erm, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who may be a friend or an enemy.
Vague spoilers apply; Mysterio is an enemy, and gets to have a similar character-breaking, fourth-wall-breaking, mid-film freak out that Ben Kingsley did in Iron Man 3. Anything that works in a Marvel movie seems to get repeated over and over again; if it’s funny watching people standing in lifts with elevator musak playing, it’ll be funny every time, right? JB Smoove IS genuinely funny, but unfortunately doesn’t get enough time to fully register as Peter’s witch-craft obsessed teacher; I guess nuggets like this are what DVD extras are for.
So in the end, Peter Parker saves the day, fights some monsters, identifies the villains and sets up further instalments involving something called Elementals. The saving grace of humour has rescued many Marvel movies and just about glues this one together, although there’s still plenty of groaning clichés, like Spider-man running out of web-juice just before the final fight. And the desire on the part of Marvel to show characters loving and mourning their heroes is a bum note for the many casual viewers; it’s a tale of Skrulls and Fury, but ultimately signifies nothing in particular.