glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | aug. 2019
'Spider-Man: Far from Home'
First off I should say that I find the current vision of Spiderman to be the best I've seen on the screen to date. I like Tom Holland in the role and it's good to see the spandex-clad schoolboy superhero appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This latest solo film picks up post-Endgame with Tony Stark gone and an overwhelmed Peter Parker being looked upon to fill the boots of a billionaire genius. Story-wise everything is tied in nicely to the continuing saga but early on into the film it becomes very obvious that this isn't quite the MCU. It looks like it, it sounds like it but there is a noticeably Sony feel to the pattern, amongst other things, that was less obvious in Homecoming, probably because Homecoming was set in the pre-Thanos MCU world, and it all too often feels like a goof where with most of the Marvel films the humor is more like natural banter.
The essence of the story is following Peter Parker trying to come to terms with his responsibilities that come into conflict with him having a normal life all while a new threat comes to the fore. Stark has handed him his legacy, Fury is trying to get him onboard as a fulltime Avenger and M.J. is in danger of being snagged by another guy and into this complicated life comes a new and powerful being called Mysterio.
Mysterio is an interesting character, he employs illusions to confuse and manipulate his enemies but in FFH there seems to be a confused approach to how he does this. In some iterations he used “special effects" to achieve his goals, in others he takes a more psychological approach, getting in the heads of those who challenge him and here there seems to have been a mix of the two. This is where the movie begins to struggle. Once the very effective psychological stuff happens, the straight-up special effects routine he used, and indeed uses, become oddly underwhelming. There's an inconsistency in what his powers are and how they're employed that undermines just how much of a threat he is. Granted, for most it'll not be that much of a problem but it certainly bothered me. What may be a real problem for some, when they get to think about it, is quite how badly this film treats Tony Stark, the Ironman. Mysterio's motivation lays in his history with Stark who “steals" a vital piece of tech and passes it off as his own and given Stark's heroic and selfless final act in Endgame, this feels like a terrible piece of revisionism on Sony's behalf (I assume). Whoever made that decision, well I think it's more than a bit off color. As for the “globe trotting" aspect of the film, the reason for the tag line, it's just baggage and not particularly interesting baggage at that.
It's a shame that it all feels a bit muddled in tone and direction, the films that Sony want to make are at least a little at odds with the MCU and it puts a strain on the film. It's certainly worth a watch, it's pretty enjoyable for the most part but put up against the MCU I'd say Sony still has some work to do.
The climate has been changing for horror films over the last few years with films like “Get Out" paving the way for slower-paced, less showy horror films and into this renewed market comes “Midsommar." Set in Sweden, a group of American students are invited to join their friend for his community's summertime ritual ceremony and, at first, it all seems quaint and colorful until the traditions become quite bizarre and deadly.
“Midsommar" is an unusual crossover of European and US style horror. On the one hand we have the Swedish locals and on the other the US students whose sensibilities clash heavily. The film balances out these culture differences quite well, mostly taking the students point of view whilst also questioning it and sympathies are shifted throughout the story quite nicely. The characters range from very interesting to astonishingly cliché, in a film like this at least, but the lead Dani (Florence Pugh) holds the story together along with a smattering of the supporting characters despite the oddly pitched inclusion of the crass and insensitive student Mark, a character that feels irrevocably out of place in a film where being outsiders is part how the film works.
“The Wicker Man" (1973) is clearly something of an influence here and frankly this could have happily been a spiritual sequel to that, but it does some interesting things with the explicit and implied elements of the story like personalizing the story's thrust towards Dani and her inner turmoil. It's quite ambitious with how it delves into a psychological skew and the film is infused with Dani's anxieties towards the situation they're in as well as how her peers behave towards the locals as well as her. The more explicit violence is sparing but all the more jarring for it, it's all the more effective because when it happens it's there for a point. Make no mistake, when this film gets gory it doesn't spare the attention to detail.
My only complaint is that the film does drift between being very smart and being very predictable. There weren't many surprises for me in this other than how well it generally handles the characters and as a result, the 147 minutes has stints of feeling indulgent and sometimes over extended.
I can't quite get to the place of raving over “Midsommar"; it sometimes wanders from the point and other times descends into cliché but overall it's different enough and smart enough to forgive the more commercial intrusions that poke in from time to time. I'm rather glad it got into mainstream theatres rather than at best being relegated to art house cinemas, it deserves to do very well.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.