Spider-Man: Far From Home

Funnily enough before watching this I was listening to a cheerful podcast about how deepfakes can be used maliciously to provoke nuclear war and the end of the world. So perhaps these superhero films aren't just mindless escapism but do actually do what great science fiction should, which is to extrapolate from the problems and possibilities of contemporary society and technology and provide warnings about the way forward. Maybe. The villain's final line "people will believe anything" is certainly weighty in the current political climate. Then again, unlike Batman in The Dark Knight, I don't see Peter Parker destroying the insanely sophisticated snooping system bequeathed to him by Tony Stark. Who's to say he won't turn out like Jake Gyllenhaal's duplicitous Mysterio when he grows up, gets a job and gets screwed over by his boss? Like in a lot of Marvel movies, Iron Man is the solution to his own problem and perhaps we're better off without such billionaire playboys in the first place.

Anyway. The film would have been more successful if you couldn't see the twist a country mile off. Homecoming's big coup was to hit you with a mid-film revelation that you just would not be able to see coming, whereas Mysterio feels dodgy even if you know nothing about the character in the comics. Gyllenhaal has an impossible job trying to convince you that he's actually just a nice guy, and does about as well as anyone could, but he's a lot more enjoyable when he's revealed to be the slightly deranged wannabe dictator choreographing his own propaganda. Jon Watts obviously enjoys a joke, and perhaps making the villain a frustrated film director is one at his own expense.

The twist in Homecoming didn't just work on its own terms, it cleverly tied up the political superhero shenanigans about the little guys screwed over by the CEOs with the personal travails of a teenager trying to hook up with the cute girl in his decathlon team. Far From Home can't quite pull off the same trick. Again Peter has to juggle the social demands of being in school with the responsibilities of saving the world, but the two are drawn together more artificially here, with an awkwardly contrived emphasis on protecting his school friends from superhuman danger in an assortment of different European cities. That said, it'd be churlish not to give credit to Tom Holland and Zendaya for coping with the exigencies of the script with charm and poise. Ned and Beth, May and Happy are comedy couplings (as well as giving hope to men everywhere), but Spidey and MJ give you the genuine feels.

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