Spider-Man: Far From Home – A Movie Review

Spider-Man: Far From Home is an impressive exhibition of visual effects with some great one-liners, but the most interesting thing about the movie happens during the middle and end of the credits.

If you’re not familiar with the plot, Spider-Man: Far From Home sends Peter Parker and his classmates on a European vacation.  While there, Peter is drafted by Nick Fury to help Mysterio defeat monstrous elementals intent on destroying the world.

This movie is simply a run little romp.  It’s not too heavy, it’s not too serious, and it’s not too meaningful … until those end credits.

In fact, I think it’s maybe a little too light.  I understand the need to break away from the cosmic gravitas of Avengers: Endgame, but Far From Home didn’t delve quite deeply enough into the ramifications of that movie.

I say “deeply” because, yes, Far From Home absolutely acknowledges Endgame and goes out of its way not only to catch us up on how those who disappeared are adapting to their return, but how the world is adapting to those who reappeared.  The movie also centers itself around the death of Tony Stark.  (We can talk about that now, right?)

However, all of these things are never deeply explored.  Peter feels like he can’t live up to being Iron Man … and that’s what we get about that for most of the movie.  We are not allowed a deep dive into Peter’s psyche regarding this loss.  It’s all kept very surface-level.  I literally felt the movie pushing forward, forward, forward at a harrowing pace.

I found this shallow treatment of such important events in Peter’s life troubling.

Furthermore, I really do not care for the depiction of Peter Parker’s personality in Far From Home.  I kept track, and he apologized at least four times in a single scene.  They’ve made Parker a little too apologetic, a little too full of doubt, and a little bit of a whiner.  We’re not getting much of Spider-Man’s famous quips in Far From Home.  The movie is funny, but Spider-Man is not.  I think this is the fifth appearance of Spider-Man in the MCU … I believe his confidence should be growing by this point, not weakening.  I have no doubt Spider-Man will eventually become the linchpin of the MCU.  He’ll be the moral compass, the selfless hero, and the intellectual leader years down the road.  However, he should be further along in that journey than what we see here.

Finally, the European setting just didn’t work for me.  Maybe I’m too rigid, but I love my Spider-Man set squarely in New York City.  Peter returns to NY at the end of the movie, and you could just feel the energy boost in the film when that happened.  Something about his red and blue set against the NY skyline–it’s iconic.

On that note, I do admire the movie makers for taking such a risk.  Putting Spider-Man in Europe was a bold move, and not an obvious one.  They are trying to give us things we haven’t seen before, which I appreciate.

Speaking of which, I also appreciate the fact that they had the guts to put Mysterio in this movie.  He’s one of my favorite Spider-Man villains in the comics, and they do him justice in Far From Home.  I’ll be honest, I did not like Jake Gyllenhaal’s depiction of the character in the beginning.  I think Gyllenhaal is a talented, multifaceted actor, so I felt shocked when I found his performance wooden, lifeless, and forced soon after his introduction.  Trust me, that all changes pretty quickly.  Give Mysterio time.  They use a fantastic approach with him and I think Gyllenhaal nails it.  Just like with Vulture, they don’t ignore his comic book roots, but they also add a modern day twist.

Consequently, the special effects are magnificent in Far From Home.  There are some breathtaking scenes of Spider-Man jumping and swinging around, especially at the end of the film.  And, because Mysterio is a master of illusion, they lean heavily into that area and deliver some very cool moments.

You also can’t deny the charisma of Tom Holland and his supporting cast.  Zendaya is a star, Sam Jackson is always a blast, Jon Favreau is lovable even when he’s trying to act gruff, Marisa Tomei is a living legend, Jacob Batalon should be everyone’s best friend, and Tony Revolori somehow plays a jerk we all like.

Is this the best Spider-Man movie that I’ve ever seen?  No, but it’s a fresh approach and tried hard to give us something different.  I love that they are not going after the low-hanging fruit.  It would have been so easy to use Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus again, to have them fight in NYC again, but they fought that urge.  Spider-Man has such a vast array of villains–they should have no trouble finding foes for him if they are willing to go for it like they did with Vulture and Mysterio.

I will say this: after watching the end credits, I cannot wait for the next Spider-Man movie, and I am extremely excited for the next phase of the MCU.  Both end credit scenes truly surprised me.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – A Movie Review

When I first saw the trailer for this movie and noticed it was PG, I thought, “Huh.  That might be one for the kids and me.”  We weren’t in a rush to see it, mind you, but as the reviews kept praising it, and as Rotten Tomatoes continued to maintain a 97% “fresh” rate, I got more and more interested.

I can’t necessarily claim to be a huge Spider-Man fan, nor can my two daughters (ages 10 and 6).  I loved his comics as a kid, but generally lost interest in Marvel as an adult.  Don’t hold this against us, but we are a DC family through and through.

With all of that being said, if you like Spider-Man even a little, I urge you to see this movie.  It has earned every single positive review it has received.  I loved it.

There are so, so many reasons to enjoy it.  First of all, the voice acting is superb.  Check out this cast list and you’ll understand the high quality.  The animation also won me over.  You’ll have to see it to really understand what I’m saying, but it’s refined yet rough, classic yet edgy, bright yet dark.  Best of all?  It’s not afraid to do, well, anything.  Colors pop, word panels appear, dot matrix appears and disappears–it’s a visual feast.

It also wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.  As cliche as it sounds, this movie will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you cheer, it will make you think–it engages virtually every emotion available.  And while I think it was perfectly appropriate for my six-year-old, my ten-year-old picked up on the messages of self-confidence, self-sacrifice, supporting others, and what it really takes to be a hero.  There existed in this movie an inspirational message that managed to pierce this old forty-two-year-old heart of mine.

However, the absolute best trait of the film can be summed up in one word: fun.  My gosh, this was a fun movie!  The plot is so ridiculously “comic book” that you can’t deny its charm.  Kingpin builds a machine that breaches other dimensions, which then pulls many “Spider-People” from various realities into that of Miles Morales, a teenager recently infused with the powers of a spider-man.  The movie treats its story seriously, but it doesn’t ever take itself too seriously.  I mean, Spider-Ham is in this thing!  And while I would ultimately call this a comedy, it has some heart-wrenching moments made all the more so by fantastic voice acting.  Oh, and the action.  The action is mesmerizing.  They do their best with the live-action movies, but only animation can truly capture the essence of Spider-Man.  Just look at the poster below and you’ll get a sense of the movement displayed within the film.

Even if you’re only moderately interested in Spider-Man, I highly recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  It’s family friendly, beautiful to behold, funny, action-packed, and delivers several moral messages pertaining to heroism, family, friends, and self-confidence.

I hope you’ll check it out. Image result for spider man into the spider verse movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Why I’m Passing On Venom

Last April, I posted the following comic panel …

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As you can tell, the first Venom trailer did not impress me.  I’m sure you’ll find this surprising because I’m something of a fan of that genre.  If it’s a comic book movie, I’m pretty much guaranteed to watch it.

But something about Venom just turned me off from the start.

Trust me when I say no one suffered more surprise by this than me.  I love Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Jenny Slate.  I haven’t personally seen Riz Ahmed’s breakout role in The Night Of, but I hear he’s phenomenal.  Even Woody Harrelson is in this thing!

With all of the high-quality actors involved, I felt certain Venom would be unlike any other “comic book” movie.  The pre-release photographs looked amazing.  The promotional posters were super cool.

And then I saw the trailer.

Yikes.

Nothing — and I mean nothing — about that trailer spoke to me.  Nothing looked original.  Nothing looked engaging.  Tom Hardy’s weird accent just sounded silly.  Venom, while undeniably awesome in appearance, also looked like more of the same CGI that has plagued comic book movies during the last fifteen years.  (I’m talking to you Doomsday, Juggernaut, Ares, Steppenwolf, and Abomination.)

You want to know what aspect of the trailer sealed my disdain for Venom?  The “venom” appendages that would pop out and help Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy’s human character).  They were beating up guys, grabbing errant motorcycles, and doing all kinds of crazy actions.  This is all fine.  But the visual of the arms flying out of Brock’s sides and then retracting without ripping his clothing or jostling them in any way just struck me as … unbelievable.

Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.

I normally have no trouble suspending my disbelief, but those “venom” bursts just bugged me to no end.  There may very well be an explanation provided by the movie makers or comic books for this phenomenon, but I’m certain that explanation won’t help me get past the literal visual.  It took me totally out of the moment and seemed unnecessarily fake when compared to all of the texture on Venom’s CGI body.

While I’m at it, I think they made a mistake in touting Venom as an “anti-hero” movie.  With movies like Logan and Deadpool, the term “anti-hero” has gotten a bit stale.  Those two movies had great concepts that made them both quite unique when compared to other comic book movies, but it seems that Venom doesn’t utilize any such distinctiveness.

Personally, I think they should have gone after a straight “horror” vibe.  In my opinion, Venom can’t be the hero, anti- or otherwise.  He needs to be the monster, the one we fear, the thing that keeps us up at night.

I’d also like to acknowledge that this movie probably isn’t made for me.  I’ve got Secret Wars #8, the issue when Spider-Man got the black orb that provided his new costume.  I’m also fortunate enough to have Amazing Spider-Man #300, Venom’s first appearance.  I bought these when I was a kid — I had no idea Venom would become a pop culture icon.  I just really liked Spider-Man!  This movie version of Venom doesn’t seem to be my Venom.

Several teenagers have told me that they cannot wait to see Venom.  Apparently, from what they’ve shared with me, it looks to closely follow the Venom origin story from the Spider-Man cartoon.  I haven’t seen this cartoon series, which may explain why the trailer didn’t connect with me.  Furthermore, the studio has clearly stated that they realize Venom is extremely popular with teenagers and that they aimed the movie at those fans.  This is totally fine, just unexpected.

I say it’s unexpected because it never occurred to me that Tom Hardy would make anything less than a movie that reflected his personal sensibilities.  Making a movie specifically for teenagers doesn’t seem like his style, but who’s to say?

Maybe I’m wrong about this whole thing.  I’ve been wrong about many things in my life.  It’s entirely plausible that  Venom could be an incredible movie that will blow people away.  Judging from early reviews, though, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Either way, I’ll never know.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Spider-Man: Homecoming – A Movie Review

I have to be honest, even though I thought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man proved one of the best parts of Civil War, I did not feel excited about yet another reboot of his own movie series.  I absolutely did not want to sit through poor Uncle Ben getting killed yet again, Pete getting bitten by a spider again, another turbulent romance with Mary Jane, and then a retread of the same villains we’ve also already seen.

Why didn’t I have faith in Marvel?

My mistake.

Spider-Man: Homecoming won me over completely.  It avoided all of those things I most dreaded.  Instead, we’ve got a Spider-Man finding his way months after Civil War.  This Spider-Man movie felt completely fresh and absolutely a part of the larger Marvel Universe.  Other than the web-slinging and the colors of the suit, Homecoming departed from much of what has already been done with Spidey on the big screen.  Tom Holland looks like an actual high school student.  He acts like an actual high school student.  He sounds like an actual high school student.  He’s got a whole new group of supporting characters.  Even Aunt May is a big departure from what we’ve already seen and they had some hilarious ongoing gags about her attractiveness.

As you’ve seen from commercials, Happy Hogan and Tony Stark play huge roles in this film.  This also sets it apart and makes it far more funny than any previous Spider-Man movie.  Tom Holland has great chemistry with pretty much everyone, but especially with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau.

In terms of tone, Homecoming is pretty lighthearted and humorous.  However, that’s not to say it doesn’t have some serious action scenes and real suspense.  I wouldn’t say it’s scary at all, but the Vulture is definitely an intimidating villain in both appearance and action.

Speaking of whom, Michael Keaton undeniably crushes it as the Vulture.  He delivers a multifaceted character who is both sympathetic and even likable.  I love how they set him up, the motivation they give him, and then his mindset.  I think that, along with Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, he is the best cinematic Spidey villain yet.  Maybe even the best contemporary Marvel movie villain, for that matter.

What delighted me most about Homecoming, though, is that it genuinely surprised me several times.  There were huge character revelations that I didn’t expected that made the story all the more intimate and definitely increased my investment.  I cared about virtually every character in this movie!

Spider-Man: Homecoming managed to somehow surprise while keeping a funny, light tone with real moments of suspense.  Tom Holland oozes charisma while emanating Peter’s intellect, charm, youthful indecision, and — most importantly — innocent heroism.

Against all odds, I am fully committed to this third Spider-Man reboot.  Here’s hoping Tom Holland will serve the anchor to Marvel’s cinematic universe for many years to come.

Image result for spider man homecoming movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Captain America: Civil War – A Movie Review

(Spoiler-free)

When it comes to Marvel movies, I am pretty good at remaining objective.  DC movies …  not so much – I’m a fanboy.  I can honestly tell you that if you’re a fan of the super hero genre, it just doesn’t get much better than Captain America: Civil War.  This movie absolutely satisfied on every level.

As you probably know, the premise of the film hinges on the fact that the United Nations wants to oversee the Avengers due to the consequential collateral damage that ensues after their actions.  Tony Stark, due to the series of mistakes he’s made over the last eight years, thinks it’s a good idea.  Steve Rogers, after the Hydra fiasco, only trusts those in his inner circle.  Thus, factions arise.  And when the Winter Soldier, Rogers’ childhood friend, seems responsible for more carnage, those factions go to war.

I won’t go into greater detail than that for fear of spoiling the plot, but rest assured the movie is far more complex than the above synopsis.  There are deeply motivated characters in this film, and each believes their actions are justified.  I think this movie succeeds primarily because there has been a lot of groundwork and characterization developed over the years with these men and women – their conflict feels intensely personal and legitimate as a result.

Furthermore, their conflict is handled with both grace and dynamism.  Everything you want to happen when they fight happens – it is a delight.  And while the movie is deathly serious at times, and while there are real consequences to the level of power displayed, the film, like Shakespeare, knew when it was time to lighten things up.  The one-liners in the movie are hilarious, and certain characters provide the levity needed to keep things fun.  (I’m sure you can guess who those characters are.)

What I also loved about the movie is that every character got a moment to shine.  It’s amazing they were able to cram so much in so deftly.  I know this movie is called Captain America, but this also truly Iron Man 3.5, Avengers 2.5, and Spider-Man 0.5.  They left so much for future movies to explore – I can’t wait!

The amazing action, the emotional turmoil, the “wow” moments, the hints at the future, and the fantastic humor made Captain America: Civil War a joy on every level.