Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

129 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Well, Endgame is all done. We’ve culminated the MCU to our hearts’ content. There isn’t anything else to say, right? Oh, there’s another one already? Oh. Hey, everyone! Spider-Man is alive!

It’s been eight months since The Blip was reversed, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage) is still reeling from the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. He’s been in the spotlight more and more since that time, scrutinized and studied, with reporters and people everywhere asking who will be the next Iron Man. Peter is more than happy to be leaving the country on a class trip to Europe for the summer, as it will give him a break from Spider-Man and allow him to have some more time with MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Duck Duck Goose). Peter quickly discovers that he cannot escape his responsibilities as Spider-Man, though, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) comes looking for him. Fury has a mission for him: to team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw), a hero from another universe that was destroyed by the Elementals, which have now found their way to our Earth. Can Peter juggle his class trip with his duties as an Avenger?

Kevin Feige was right when he called Far From Home the finale of Phase 3. In a lot of ways, it ties up a lot of the threads hanging on from Endgame in its own interesting way. It’s a more lighthearted finale to Phase 3 while also forever changing the MCU going forward. As a coda to The Infinity Saga, it is a powerful one, and it is a more MCU-centric film than a straightforward Spider-Man adventure.

Tom Holland is amazing as ever, this being his fifth outing as the web-slinger. He truly is the best version of Peter Parker I’ve seen. He embodies all that teenage high-school Peter Parker should, and yet, he is wise in some ways beyond his years because of all the things he’s been through in his short time as Spider-Man.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s work as Mysterio didn’t completely work in the movie. There were times I liked what he was doing and times I really didn’t. I think it boils down to the way his character was written because it did jump around a bit. I liked the way Mysterio translated from the comics to the film but I would have liked to dive into his character a lot more. It would have made his arc all the more powerful.

Zendaya’s version of MJ is much more fleshed out this time around and it works really well for the film, especially with how the possible relationship elements with Peter play out. She isn’t weird and quirky for the sake of it but just she finds interest in some of the more morbid elements of history and society. It’s a nerves thing, and you could call it out if you want, but there’s enough subtlety to give her a fascinating arc.

What’s so great about the film is how each character, major and minor, seemingly gets an arc in the film. It’s not extremely fleshed out, but there’s a lot going on and many of the minor characters get some sort of growth throughout the film.

I will say this. There are two post-credits scenes in the film and you have to see both. The first one is very important to Spider-Man’s story (it just should have been the end of the film and not a post-credits scene), and the other is major in the overall MCU story. You cannot miss these scenes!

Spider-Man: Far From Home juggles a lot of elements, and it works pretty well in that way. It does feel like it is cleaning up a lot of plot threads instead of focusing on Peter as much as I would have liked, but it does a great job with the classic Peter-doesn’t-want-to-be-Spider-Man story that all of the second installment Spider-Man films have done. I would have liked a better written Mysterio and a little tighter focus on Peter and company, but overall, this was an exhilarating sendoff to Phase 3, one very worth seeing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, click here.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Joss Whedon

141 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive content.  

2012’s The Avengers was something of an anomaly. A film which combined several superhero franchises into one mega-franchise shared universe successfully…that doesn’t happen. But with writer/director Joss Whedon (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Much Ado About Nothing) at the helm, it did. And it was good. Billion-dollars good. It jumpstarted Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and continued a winning franchise for years to come. Now, we see if the official sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, can continue that tradition.

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The Avengers have been looking for an end to the villains before they start. When billionaire genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge, Chef) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island, The Normal Heart) create Ultron (James Spader, TV’s Boston Legal, Lincoln), an artificially intelligent being created to be Earth’s mightiest defense system, but Ultron quickly realizes that the biggest threats to the world are humans and decides to do away with them. Now, the Avengers must assemble to defeat Ultron, who has allied himself with two very special twins: Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass, Godzilla) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha May Marcy Marlene, Oldboy).

Avengers: Age of Ultron had a bunch of set-ups. The biggest flaw comes from realizing that it has very little payoff. The entire film felt like its function was to tie up the loose ends of Phase 2 and start unpacking the storylines to Phase 3. Was it entertaining? Mostly, yes. But was it good? I really don’t know. I liked a lot of this film but I was scratching my head at times wondering why certain events were kept in the film while so many other moments were kept out. The film has Whedon’s classic dialogue, and its characters are further fleshed out, but the film felt like too many puzzles pieces from too many different puzzles that just won’t fit together.

As far as performances go, the films newcomers are pretty great additions to the shared universe, specifically James Spader’s menacing Ultron and the Vision, played by Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, Mortdecai) in a new role. The film also features a plethora of previously introduced characters back in the fray, like James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, Million Dollar Baby, Black or White). The returning Avengers cast have all grown closer and you can feel the comradery when needed. The Hulk and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) in particular have grown much closer since we last saw them together.

There are some particularly great sequences here, such as the moment when we are introduced to mind control due to Wanda’s abilities. We get a chance to dive into these characters’ psyches a bit further Joss Whedon even plays with our expectations that this film is going to be exactly like the previous film, opting to give more important screen time to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Kill the Messenger). We also get our first look at Hulkbuster (named Project Veronica, as a play on Betty & Veronica, the Betty being Bruce’s previous love interest from The Incredible Hulk).

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Avengers: Age of Utron is the first Marvel film that absolutely cries out for an extended cut. There is just too much missing here, and its noticeable. There are numerous plot threads that don’t get the resolution they need. The film is explosively entertaining, but perhaps the most noticeably flawed Marvel film yet.  

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe  

So what did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Did it assemble a perfect viewing experience or leave you wanting a different Vision of the superhero team? Let me know!  

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a powerhouse that needn’t even be tested right now. After DC/Warner Bros. release their own cinematic universe lineup to follow last year’s Man of Steel, Marvel Studios unleashed their Phase 3 plans involving more films from Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, along with a bunch of new properties that will likely destroy most other contenders. With all this news, it is tough to focus on specific individual films, which is a shame, because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect Marvel movie, as it not only tells a compelling story that works as both a genre film and a superhero movie, and it also stands alone while fueling plot threads for multiple avenues for Marvel to take on in future productions.

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The Winter Soldier follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Snowpiercer, What’s Your Number?) as he continues to adjust to life in the present, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) under the tutelage of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, RoboCop). Meanwhile, a plot to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. from within is unveiled and the addition of new foe The Winter Soldier adds multiple new threats to Cap. Rogers is going to have to use new help from Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker, Runner Runner) and fellow agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, TV’s How I Met Your Mother, The Lego Movie) to take down the Winter Soldier and save S.H.I.E.L.D.

This movie was awesome. It felt like a separate film much more attuned to 70s espionage and political thrillers than a superhero comic book adaptation. New to the Marvel Directors Club, Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree) saw the film through a unique lens and decided to forgo CG in favor of practical effects whenever possible (and it shows). The cinematography is engaging and the visual literally POP off the screen (even in 2D). The pacing is perfect. I never once found myself reaching for my phone.

We also get some incredible performances from new Marvel family members Frank Grillo (Warrior, The Purge: Anarchy), Anthony Mackie, and Emily VanCamp (TV’s Revenge, Carriers) as Brock Rumlow, Sam Wilson, and Kate, respectively.

I needed to take a moment to talk about Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All is Lost). He just knocks his role out of the park. He plays a very important character, Alexander Pierce, the man in the big office of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he just nails it. For a man without a ton of screentime, Redford makes this film official, and I loved every minute of it.

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In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier would be a great movie even without all the superheroics. It would be a great mystery on that alone. Add in all the Marvel greats that make this franchise what it is and you have a recipe for not only a great installment (easily among the high points in this franchise) but a damn great time at the movies. Better get two tubs of popcorn, because this popcorn flick is something not to miss!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Did you suit up or defect? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

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