MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, July 5th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham reviews Spider-Man: Far From Home.
MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: As we get further down this road of nearly every big budget release having something to do with superheroes, my personal favorites now tend to be the ones that are the least superhero-y.
For example: some early reviews have complained that Spider-Man: Far From Home takes too long to get down to the serious work of bad-guy battling. I’d argue that the second the villain steps forward, the good times slow their roll. Thankfully, that doesn’t come until the halfway point.
First, we get to enjoy big laughs watching sunny Peter Parker awkwardly attempt to woo the gothically inclined M.J. amidst gorgeous Venetian and Alpine scenery.
SPIDER-MAN: You look really pretty.
MJ: And, therefore, I have value?
SPIDER-MAN: No. No, that’s not what I meant at all. I was just—
MJ: I’m messing with you. [laughter] Thank you.
What I’m saying is this—for those getting a bit sick to death of the superhero game, Far From Home could offer a nice date-night comprise. It’s bubbly, romantic comedy on the one hand, international caped crusading on the other.
And, as this is a bit of a reset following April’s Avengers finale, you won’t feel lost if you haven’t already watched all 22 movies leading up to this one.
Longtime fans endured some sorrow with Endgame, but from opening moments it’s clear the studio is ready return to summer fun. The first scene in Far From Home—a retrospective for those we lost in the war with Thanos—is played for laughs, not tears.
Spidey, too, is ready to take a break from the heavy stuff. He just wants to see some sights on his European class trip and tell M.J. how he feels, in true Sleepless in Seattle style, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Unfortunately, since Iron Man passed his sunglass mantle, a web-slinger’s work is never done. Peter barely sets foot in the Piazza San Marco when Nick Fury arrives with an assignment.
HILL: The Elementals are here now—attacking the same coordinates. Our satellites confirm it.
FURY: We have one mission. Kill it. And you’re coming with us.
SPIDER-MAN: Mr. Fury, this all seems like big-time, you know, huge superhero kind of stuff. And I’m just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, sir.
Watching Spidey try to juggle his superhero responsibilities with his desire to be an average teen creates both the heart and hilarity of the movie.
Marvel usually excels when it puts character first and takes the time to create a story that feels specific to that particular superhero. Thor will attract different enemies and create different problems for himself than Captain America will.
SPIDER-MAN: I didn’t think I was going to have to save the world this summer. I know that makes me sound like such a jerk. I had this plan with this girl I really like, and now it’s all ruined.
MYSTERIO: I like you, Peter. You’re a good kid. And I’m glad you’re here. But you’re worried about your friends.
SPIDER-MAN: Yeah. I just always feel like I’m putting them in danger.
MYSTERIO: Look, just get them inside and keep them in a safe place for just a few hours and they’ll be alright. It’s really nice to have someone to talk to about superhero stuff, you know? Anytime.
Longtime fans will enjoy how much the plot also feels specific to the universe Marvel has created. Without giving away spoilers, characters believe certain things and make certain choices based on lessons learned in other films in the franchise.
Director Jon Watts uses newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio to explore modern anxiety over media narratives while avoiding taking political sides. In the rush to cover this inter-dimensional hero, both slick network outfits and the type of indie operators likely to get kicked off Twitter engage in fake news dissemination.
There’s much more I’d love to dissect about that element, but in the interest of avoiding angry letters from Marvel fans, I’ll save it for another time. Suffice it to say some Marvel credit scenes are more worthwhile than others. This one is a doozy, and potentially sets up a great worldview debate to come.
On the downside parents will want to note that along with a bit of language and scary imagery, the PG-13 rating comes with a porn-related joke and running gag involving a partially un-clothed Peter Parker getting caught on camera.
The porn joke is stupid and not funny. The photo gag is, but mostly due to the lengths Peter is willing to go to make sure it’s erased. Both threaten the sweet, innocent spirit audiences have long loved about Spider-Man.
Reminder to Marvel—the cinema superhero juggernaut began, in part, because there were so few options the whole family could enjoy together. Don’t stop saving the day now.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.