The Weekend Movie Takeaway: 'Spider Man: Far from Home'
July 8, 2019
With Spider-Man: Far From Home opening a few days ahead of the July 4th long weekend, a large haul was naturally expected.
Even with those expectations, the $185 million take spanning six days is still an extremely impressive number. It speaks primarily to audience goodwill for this character, and the larger universe in which he exists.
Reviews were mostly on the kind side, and the high numbers being sustained throughout those six days also speaks to a generally positive audience reaction.
But when stopping to consider the film itself, it appears to highlight a major issue with large-scale, contemporary narratives.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME]
One reason many fans were curious about Spider-Man: Far From Home is that it is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to be released since the game-changing (if not game-ending) Avengers: Endgame.
That blockbuster did something that very few modern blockbusters manage to achieve: it surprised the audience. The biggest shock in the film is when it leaps ahead five years, and stays there. Although the film ended with Tony Stark reversing the “snap” that had killed 50% of sentient life in the universe, the movie didn't try to undo the five-year jump.
Endgame gave us very little information about what happened during that five-year period, and when it was finally acknowledged that Far From Home would be set following those five years (an acknowledgement complicated by the fact that the first Far From Home trailer came out before Avengers: Endgame, and was thus initially forced to dance around the issue), fans were looking to this film to provide a few answers.
This plot point put a considerable narrative burden upon Far From Home, and it's a burden the film tries to skirt around with a couple of jokes in during opening minutes. Although we do get a few details about what is now being referred to in-universe as the “blip”, Far From Home isn't particularly interested in exploring the massive complications that would result from half the world's population disappearing for five years.
For me, this undermined the central narrative thrust of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and for the first time, showed the downside of being part of what is considered to be the most successful endeavor in modern macro storytelling – the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As the 23rd film in the MCU, and the last movie in Phase Three of the grand experiment, there was very little room for Spider-Man: Far From Home to just be a Spider-Man movie. Although it used its own little eight month leap forward to try and distance itself from the “blip”, the insanely huge shadow cast by that event can't help but affect a narrative that should have more freedom to focus on the character it is centered around.
Tony Stark may be dead in the MCU, but he's all over Far From Home. A potentially fatal dangerous drinking game would be to take a swig every time his name is mentioned.
Despite these issues, the film still made a mint, of course. So while Kevin Feige and his collaborators have always succeeded in bringing in the coin, it’s usually not to the disservice of the story they’re telling. Feige and Co. have always placed an admirable emphasis on streamlining their narrative and letting each individual film stand on its own merits.
Maybe it was down to the fact that this was a collaboration with Sony (who still owns the cinematic Spider-Man rights), as opposed to being a “pure” MCU film, but Spider-Man: Far From Home was serving many narrative masters, pushing Spider-Man himself further down that list than a title character should be.
Written by: Dominic CorryDominic Corry is a Los Angeles-based film critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Raised in New Zealand, he is also the West Coast editor of Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers. For more of his film writing, see his website www.TheGoodInMovies.com