This was actually the first Spider-man movie I’ve seen with Tom Holland. I’ve seen him interviewed a few times and he seems like a likeable guy, he’s definitely a capable actor and he’s good fun in this film. The only thing I would say is that as Peter Parker, Holland is just a little bit too cool, a little too good looking and a little bit too funny.
I’ve never read the comic books so I don’t know how he was originally written, but I liked that Tobey McGuire in the San Remy instalments from the early 2000s was properly geeky and awkward as Peter Parker so that when he dons the suit, it’s a real and noticeable transformation. It’s perhaps a conscious choice, but I felt like Tom Holland’s likability in a strange way diminishes from the fantasy of the whole thing; the geeky teenager who can’t get the girl and never believes in himself becomes a superhero and inspires the world to believe in themselves too.
In saying that, this film is actually pretty good fun; Peter Parker and his classmates head off on a school trip through Europe, which for Peter couldn’t come sooner enough since Spiderman has been under a lot of pressure following the death of Tony Stark to take his place as the Head Avenger. The vacation is stopped short however, as a series of doomsday-esque monsters based off the four elements threaten to destroy the world and for some reason only Spiderman and a charismatic new superhero Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhall) are the only ones of all the Avengers to save the day.
The development of the villain in this film is actually refreshingly clever and original, and for me was one of the stronger aspects of the film. It’s very easy for superhero villains to become cardboard cutouts and exist purely to further the plot, this was a welcome and fun divergence.
I definitely wasn’t too keen on Zendaya’s M.J; I don’t think she’s a particularly strong actress in the first place, but part of the reason that M.J. works is because Spider-Man needs someone who he cares about to rescue from danger. Zendaya just shrugs a lot and is apathetic to most of the monsters and carnage going on around her (I imagine so that the filmmakers don’t cop any criticism for reducing a female character to a just another damsel) and in so doing alleviates any palpable sense of danger.
I also felt like the struggle Peter faces between his dual identity is better explored in the Tobey McGuire instalments. In this film, it seems like the biggest conflict Peter faces is that he’s tired and wants to enjoy his vacation, whereas I can remember actually feeling pretty bad for Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2 as he forces himself to walk away from a mugging, knowing that he has the power to stop it. The struggle between responsibility and wanting his own life is present in this instalment, but in a way that scarcely scratches beneath the surface.
Spider-Man: Far From Home probably won’t stand the test of time like those from the early 2000s, but I still enjoyed it. It’s definitely a lighter, cheekier and more optimistic interpretation of the source material, and though it didn’t quite knock my socks off, it was enough for me to kick off my shoes and enjoy it for what it is.
By Jock Lehman