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Spider-Man: Far From Home Cannoli Send a noteboard - 06/07/2019 01:22:58 AM

Jim Butcher, whom I, and like two other people here read, (beet? Tavi? still here? Peace Talks is done, FYI. Just waiting to get published) is best known for "The Dresden Files" but he also wrote a Spider-man pastiche. I like Harry Dresden and am ambivalent about Spider-man, because I mostly know him from media so old I cannot recall the content (the Electric Company and a bad cartoon, which I mostly remember for the theme song and my little brother pointing out that his chin was talking) and a bunch of middling movies in a time when it's really a consumer's market for superhero films. We have better options than a whiny arrogant loser, who can't appreciate what he has. So why does Butcher write about him? I am beginning to see a certain Dresden-esque quality to the character. Like maybe it's a thing to have the writers constantly taking a giant dump on his life. It's just that Butcher is a better writer, so he gives his characters legitimate problems to offset their superpowers, rather than "I must keep my identity secret, but not really, because I perform feats of superhuman strength in school and lose my mask at every opportunity, like, on trains or even after swinging (from what? ) through a portal into a battlefield, to face the most deadly villain I have ever fought" It has taken seven movies (more if you count Civil & Infinity Wars), but I think I finally see what they are doing with him. I just had Tobey McGuire pegged as a loser and Andrew Garfield as a victim of bad writing, but when you give me enough angles on a subject, I am better at grasping what is apparently obvious to other people at first shot. I was like that with math - I always learned something easily the second class the topic came up, no matter how I struggled with it on first go-round. But now that the franchise is in the hands of producers who lack the avunculicidal fetishes of Stan Lee, Sam Raimi & Mark Webb, and has spent two movies NOT doing origin stories, or establishing personal motives for villains (it turns out that all you need to establish good villains for bug themed superheroes is falling back on House Stark being the Lannisters of Earth-616), it actually has time to do some new things with the character. Which means taking a giant dump on him. Without impotence metaphors.

So in this movie, it is set after "Infinity War" and people are now coping with the disruption of coming back to life five years after they died, so half the world's ages have changed relative to the other half. It turns out that every student with a name you might remember from "Homecoming" died in The Snap (they have a stupider Watsonian name for it), so he's still hanging with the same group of Michelle, Ned, Flash and the blonde girl from "The Nice Guys". I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Banks was wasted as the same character in the McGuire turds. Not much is explored with that, aside from some anecdotes about having to reclaim homes from people who moved in during the intermission, and the inability of institutions to adjust to the fact that half of humanity is biologically and emotionally five years younger than their chronological age (not to mention effectively having slept through the traumatic, generation-defining moment of their lifetime). There is also a token character with the group who was born five years after them, but caught up to their grade while they were not-dead.

Aunt May is coping with the discovery that her nephew is Spider-man by exploiting him for endorsements of her charity work and hooking up, maybe, with Happy Hogan. Unlike every parent figure ever (and most love interests) in this sort of story, she is an ethusiastic supporter of his Spider-man work. But he's going on a class trip to Europe, and he just wants a vacation, so he is adamantly leaving his Spider-man costumes at home. One of which hangs in the closet and the other of which swirls around in a nanite tank in the bedroom of his Queens apartment. Because funny is more important than making sense. For exhibit B, see everything the bearded chaperone teacher says or does on the trip. So Peter, because he's still a bit of a nincompoop, is still carrying the idiot ball, deliberately choosing to forget all the times an emergency suddenly comes up and he needs his costume right away. Maybe he thinks nothing could possibly go wrong in Europe. He does pay lip-service to the idea that if he suddenly jumped out in costume to save the day, so far out of his friendly neighborhood, when Peter Parker also just happened to be in the same city, someone might figure out who he is. Again, because that's apparently a problem. Remember all the times their identities being public was a legit problem for the rest of the MCU? Oh, right. You don't because that's never ever been a thing. Peter's running around with a piece of Stark tech and he's still on close terms with Tony's...friend? assistant? personal jester?... let's go with associate. No reason he can't live on a lower floor of that tower from the first Avengers movie, especially since the Avengers don't, with an AI security system to stop random villains from taking shots at him or May. But the secret identity thing was something Stan Lee came up with way back when to provide conflict and motivations, without having to constantly think up genuine threats to Kryptonians or Asgardians or Themysciran or billionaire ninjas or green rage monsters, and in Spider-man, the filmmakers are going to keep playing under that imaginary limitation. Except actors need the public to recognize them in order to get paid after the movie is over, so Peter keeps taking off the damn mask! The only reason gangsters aren't hunting him down from the last movie is that the Vulture arbitrarily decided not to share that datum.

I keep getting side-tracked, but that last bit is relevant, sort of. This is a Marvel movie. We know what we're getting into. Lots of good action, self-deprecating humor and great visuals. Spider-man's vacation is cancelled because giant elemental monsters are attacking random cities around the globe and he happens to be traveling near the next ones on their lists. For some reason absolutely no one else is available, so they need webs to stop giants made of water or lava. Of course, being one movie after Infinity War, we don't know what the status quo for the MCU is at the moment, but as we have seen in the past, that question is never addressed in any other movie so I'm not giving them a pass on it. Seriously, this is much more a job for War Machine and Scarlet Witch and Hulk. Who are still alive and not seen heading off the planet and whose limitations are rather undefined. The Hulk can science whatever you need at any moment, Rhodes presumably has access to whatever Stark or next-gen military tech can get the job done, and Wanda's powers do whatever the writers want them to.

Instead, because these villains come from an alternate reality and are crossing over thanks to The Snap, despite several of the finest science brains in the MCU taking pains to avoid that very thing, a new character has come to "Earth-616" as the world we've been watching is known, played by Jake Gyllenhal, whom the kids from Queens call "Mysterio". He likes the name and rolls with it. He waves his fingers and CGI lines that are different in color and shape from Wanda's or Dr. Strange's powers move around and hurt the bad guys. He is a candidate to step up and fill the role Iron Man left in the defense of Earth-616 and in mentoring Spider-man. But of course, because this is a character Jim Butcher wrote a book about, that can't go well for Peter. Tom Holland never had to film a scene where Uncle Ben goes to the Big Rice Pot in the Sky, and Tony dying from Snapping can't possibly be blamed on him, but they HAVE to dump on Spider-man SOMEhow. So that's where we get the conflict in the second half of the movie, after he watches Mysterio save Europe with some very peripheral help from a local hero called the Night Monkey.

But the problem with this film is it's a shell game. Even more so than the other MCU films with lots of fridge logic and plot holes. They keep you busy with the action scenes, and make it funny when they dump on Peter, so you aren't reflexively challenging the dumping in his defense, and keep talking fast enough that you don't see what the magician's other hand or assistant is up to and you don't think back to inconsistencies. Like on the one hand, they act like Spider-man's secret identity thing is important and part of the stakes, even though they keep undermining the notion whenever that's convenient, with someone pointing out just how easy it should be to figure out that Spider-man only shows up in cities where Peter Parker is known to be present. They talk about Tony Stark like he's so great and awesome that his judgment alone should be enough to outweigh all sorts of very real issues, but at the same time, they keep showing things that suggest he & his father are either assholes who are constantly making decisions that mess up other people's lives while benefitting the Starks, or are the MCU equivalent of the Vala Aule - great craftsmen and generous with their talents, but REALLY bad personnel assessment skills, given how many of their subordinates, colleagues & founded groups turn evil (Sauron, Saruman, Feanor, dwarves betraying Doriath, Obediah Stane, Aldridge Killian, Mya Hansen, the Russian whip guy, SHIELD going Hydra).

Also, there's a twist that I saw coming a mile away and I don't know much for sure about the Marvel print universe (although, to be fair, Twisted Toyfair Theater spoils a lot more stuff than you'd think - I remember one story where Mysterio used smoke bombs to escape when he was on an airline with no ticket, but after the smoke cleared, you could see a corner of his cape sticking out of the overhead luggage compartment; remembering that alone was enough to prime me to look hard enough at what the movie was doing to guess the essentials of the twist ahead of time.

Also, there is a reveal in the post-credit scene that was very subtly seeded in the movie (pay attention to Nick Fury's dialogue, especially referencing his activities in prior movies), but undercuts a lot of what happens in the film itself. The mid-credits scene is another thing that's supposed to be dramatic and clearly a game-changer, but the very next Spider-man movie could very easily undo it, especially given how fast and loose they play with the stakes of various aspects of the story, but even if you take the event seriously, those undermined stakes mean it doesn't land as hard as they want it to.

I decided after I watched "Endgame" that I was going to regard that as the conclusion of the MCU. We all know there are going to still be lots more movies, but I'm not going to feel as invested in seeing them for completeness sake. I'm not going to care about the over-arching Story or be as interested in the tentpole movies, if they are still going to be Avengers. Part of it was the tendrils of SJW nonsense that began seeping in pretty hard into "Endgame" even if they weren't enough to derail the film, but part of it was because I got a general sense that maybe the wheels are starting to come off. They've been basically doing one thing and doing it well, but time moves on, and even the best magician has to learn new tricks. It's getting too easy to spot the mirrors on this one's stage.

On its own, it's an okay, dumb action movie, good for kids if you don't mind language issues (the teenage romances in it are totally sexless), but you have to check your brain at the door.

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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Spider-Man: Far From Home - 06/07/2019 01:22:58 AM 229 Views
I’ve read every Dresden novel and own most of them. *NM* - 06/07/2019 02:01:38 AM 21 Views
I like Codex Alera myself. *NM* - 07/07/2019 01:27:17 AM 19 Views
I've read all of Dresden except the comics - 07/07/2019 08:28:01 PM 42 Views

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