Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

spider-man Archive

Wednesday

3

July 2019

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Spider-Man: Far From Home Is the Perfect End to Phase Three of the MCU

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

One of the most impressive feats that the Marvel Cinematic Universe achieved in its third phase was the way it made the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker feel so organic despite their relatively short amount of time on screen together. The mentor/protégé dynamic on display throughout Avengers: Infinity War and the closing moments of Endgame came about as a result of about twenty minutes of footage in Captain America: Civil War and fifteen in Spider-man: Homecoming. Iron Man’s own trilogy had wrapped up within the MCU before Andrew Garfield finished his run as the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.

As part of a giant interconnected universe, Far From Home certainly had obligations to explain the ramifications of Endgame’s earth-changing “blip,” as the film calls it. It can be easy to forget that this film is also the first solo effort in the franchise to have the bulk of its narrative set after the events of Infinity War, as both Ant-Man & the Wasp and Captain Marvel primarily took place chronologically before the massive team-up. The world is a different place since Thanos came to town.

To its credit, Far From Home handles the “blip” thoroughly without letting it become the major driving force of the narrative. Peter, Ned, and MJ, among others, are still in high school, but many of their once-younger peers aged in the five-year gap, creating some awkward classroom dynamics. Set during a European class trip after the school year, the film was able to recapture much of the high school energy that propelled Homecoming while not being bogged down in any of the inevitable post-Endgame weeds spread across New York.

Tony Stark’s presence looms heavily over the narrative. Not only does Peter miss his mentor, but his absence creates a void within the superhero hierarchy that needs to be filled. Nick Fury wants Parker to step up, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, an enigmatic sorcerer who flies around with a cloudy dome on his head.

As always, Samuel L. Jackson steals the show in all of his scenes, dropping plenty of memorable one-liners as the battle-hardened elder statesman of the MCU. Far From Home allows itself to have a little fun at Fury’s expense, pitting him against the wise-cracking Parker for a dynamic we haven’t seen throughout his extensive appearances. Tom Holland’s chemistry with Gyllenhaal is another highlight of the film. Parker’s youth compared to all the other superheroes has left him without peers among the other Avengers, but Mysterio’s similar sense of otherness provides a suitable counterpart who can relate to his sense of feeling lost after the events of Endgame.

The action sequences are all well-crafted, though Far From Home excels when Parker isn’t wearing a mask. Peter is a grieving teenager lost in a world that’s demanded quite a lot from him in a short period of time. His efforts to reclaim his youth are easily relatable, with a quieter set of stakes that serve as a perfect counterbalance to the time traveling heist of Endgame. Saving the world is fun and all, but sometimes you just want to be allowed to have a moment with the person you love.

The film does a great job handling the elephant in the room, namely the absence of the other Avengers. While some are understandably unavailable, gallivanting off on other planets, Far From Home manages to address any lingering questions the audience might have for what everyone else is up to while the Elementals wreak havoc on Europe. Perhaps the one exception is Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes, who would have been an interesting addition given his close ties to Stark.

Far From Home closes out Phase Three of the MCU with a delightful story that embraces the human toll that saving the world has taken on the friendly neighborhood web-slinger. It’s perhaps a bit overstuffed at times, juggling Peter’s high school adventures with his obligations to Fury, but it’s a fast-paced narrative that delivers plenty of laughs. For those wondering what the future will hold for a world without Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, the film gives you plenty of reason to think this massive universe is going to be just fine.

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Sunday

23

December 2018

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Is a Heartfelt Psychedelic Delight

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews

There are a few great ironies surrounding the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s a superhero movie about connected universes that exists outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is a visual splendor with cutting-edge animation that still has a throwback feel to days gone by of costumed animated shows. The narrative focuses on a teenage boy trying to find his place in the world just as Spider-Man is about to become the only Marvel franchise not completely under the control of Disney, with an unclear direction full of possibilities.

After a decade of rotating Spideys, the Peter Parker origin story is more than a little played out. “With great power comes great responsibility” begins to apply to the franchise itself, risking becoming self-parody with any additional repetition. Into the Spider-Verse never loses sight of this, killing off its prime universe Peter Parker early on in favor of an older, heavier, and sullen version of the character to serve as a mentor to the film’s primary protagonist Miles Morales.

Shameik Moore voices Morales perfectly, bringing a sense of vulnerability to the Spider-Man role in a way not seen since Tobey Maguire. His Miles is grounded in an entirely relatable position, a boy who’s not quite sure where he belongs in a rapidly changing environment. Much is expected of him throughout the film, but he never lets the superpowers arbitrarily alter the human issues at the heart of the narrative.

The animation in Into the Spider-Verse provides some of the most innovative visuals ever crafted in a mainstream film. I practically had acid flashbacks throughout some of the sequences, expecting Jefferson Airplane to start playing at any moment. What’s perhaps more impressive is the way in which this scenery fits in perfectly with the arc of the film. Animated films have the luxury of being able to craft literally any scenario imaginable, but such sequences need to be consistent with the presentation of the storytelling.

Into the Spider-Verse manages to simultaneously present a fairly traditional origin story while seamlessly intertwining scenes from every corner of the animator’s imagination. It’s a wild ride that’s always rooted in reality. The other universe’s spideys don’t get a ton of screen time, but you feel like these characters have grown in their short time together. Film presents mere snippets of a character’s life. This movie makes every moment count.

The superhero genre has frequently pushed the limits of market saturation over the past few years. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was hardly born out of necessity, but along the way, it made a very compelling case for the future existence of non-MCU Marvel movies. These stories go beyond connected universes, even ones about connected universes, showing a sense of wonder beyond the prospects of an appearance from a superhero of another franchise. The movie throws everything and the kitchen sink at the audience’s imagination, delivering an immensely satisfying experience that should not be missed on the big screen. We’ve seen a lot from superheroes, but Into the Spider-Verse serves as an excellent reminder for how much more the genre has to show us.

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