It’s Spidey vs Spidey, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the latest chapter in the Marvel Universe and takes a look back at what most people consider the worst spider-flick ever made.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Directed by Jon Watts (2019)
Spoiler warning: if you haven’t see Avengers Endgame, and yet still somehow care about continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you probably shouldn’t watch Far From Home, or even read this review. If, on the other hand, you are one of the literally millions who saw Endgame, or you’re just in the mood for a fun superhero movie with no prior knowledge, then you might just be in luck.
Set immediately after the world-shaking events of Endgame (where half the universe died, then came back to life five years later because... reasons), Far From Home finds Peter Parker (Tom Holland) trying to find a normal life amid the chaos. Choosing a supervised European vacation as his release, Spidey is confronted by a bunch of elemental villains and an inter-dimensional hero who may be more than meets the eye.
From an acting perspective, there isn’t a bad performance in Far From Home. Tom Holland is the definitive Spider-Man, capturing both the innocence and insouciance central to this character. Marisa Tomei continues to make Aunt May way far more intriguing than ever before, and Jacob Batalon shines as Peter’s best friend and confidant, Ned. While comic book nerds will pick the twist before they walk in the door, Jake Gyllenhaal is great as Mysterio/Quentin Beck, while Zendaya proves that she has some serious acting chops as the most nuanced Mary Jane ever portrayed on film. Other standouts include Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, and the tag team of Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove as supervising teachers.
At the end of the day, Spider-Man: Far From Home probably won’t change your life. It’s very entertaining, but it’s hardly the dinner-party conversation starter that Moonlight or A Serbian Film are. To be clear, I consider this a good thing, as movies are made to entertain and this movie achieves that task with aplomb.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Directed by Marc Webb (2014)
Sometimes franchise reboots work, as in Mad Max or Planet of the Apes. Then, sometimes they don’t, like Tomb Raider, Power Rangers or the Amazing Spider-Man. This does not necessarily reflect poorly on the talent involved in said reboots, as Alicia Vikander is undoubtedly a talented actor who will most likely looks back on the Tomb Raider remake with a vague feeling of regret.
I’m not sure that the same holds true for Andrew Garfield, the actor with the misfortune of taking over from Tobey Maguire in the iconic role of Spider-Man. It’s not that Maguire was particularly good in the role (particularly by the time Spider-Man 3 was made), but more the fact that Garfield was woefully miscast as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Oddly good-looking, Garfield fails to capture the dorky innocence of Peter Parker and the quippy wit of Spider-Man, which might not have been a major issue if the bad guys were any good.
It has long been accepted that a hero is only as good as their nemesis. Batman is defined by the Joker, as Superman is by Lex Luthor and Indigo Montoya by the six-fingered man. Unfortunately, the villains in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are B-list at best, with the charisma-free Dane DeHaan playing the Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx playing Electro and Paul Giamatti playing the Rhino, in one of the weirdest casting choices since Keanu Reeves played a British aristocrat in Dracula.
Perhaps the most egregious part of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the way it handles the (spoiler) death of Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. In the comics, this was one of the most significant events in the life of Spider-Man, here it’s played off as another reason for Spidey to really hate the bad guy. It’s not often that you find a movie with almost no redeeming features, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may well be that unicorn.
We live in an age that, if you don’t like a movie, you just have to wait a while and someone will remake it with different actors and a brave new take on the material. Sometimes this works, as in the case of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and often it doesn’t, as in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In terms of viewing experience, it would be difficult to find two films as similar as these, which produce such a different reaction among viewers. I’ve now watched Amazing Spider-Man 2 with three different groups of people (including some children with very low standards) and each group decried the movie as one of the worst things that they’d ever seen. This is a particularly big call when you consider that two of the actors in this movie are legitimate Oscar winners (Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti), but I stand by it: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sucks balls.
By contrast, almost any other movie would be entertaining, but Spider-Man Far From Home goes over and above and delivers a movie with heart, excitement and genuine character development. Even if you hate superhero movies, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to like about this flick — just don’t hang around for the post-credit scenes,you’ll just find them consfusing.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: 3/10
Spider-Man: Far From Home: 8/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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