Can Peter Parker be a normal teenage guy? Eve Franklin and I tag along with him and the rest of his high school class as they head to Europe for an education they won’t soon forget.
It’s been 8 months since the reversal of the SNAP, an event they are calling “the Blip.” Spider-Man is putting on a brave mask, but feeling overwhelmed by calls for him to take up the mantle—and responsibilities—left behind by the death of Tony Stark. Meanwhile, Peter Parker and the rest of this class are heading to Europe to see some of the sights and gain a little bit of a classical education in art and history. What they find, though, is mayhem as Peter stumbles into a situation that requires Spider-Man’s special abilities.
Spider-Man: Far from Home continues to sound the depths of superhero philosophy. How can a hero have a personal life? Where is the line between hero and citizen? What happens when great power falls into the wrong hands? Far from Home is directed by Jon Watts and the exceptional-as-usual score is provided by one of the most prolific composers in the business, Michael Giacchino. It is appropriately rated PG-13 as it contains some language and a fair amount of teenage locker room style insults and some minor language. For details on the type of content you can expect to find, please check out Focus on the Family’s Plugged In review here.
Likes & Dislikes
There wasn’t a lot to dislike about Far from Home. It was a really good movie. Eve thinks Far From Home might be her favorite MCU movie right now. But there was one major disappointment for both of us—Spider-Man: Far From Home did not give the return of half of all living creatures, after a five year absence, the impact and gravitas it deserved. Doing so might well have been a conscious creative decision, though. The MCU would still be a pretty dark place if they showed even a fraction of the problems that would still be afflicting the post “blip” world . . more “support group” than “school trip.”
Tom Holland continues to rock it as the believable high school Peter Parker. He “feels” like a kid dealing with kid-level problems—minor in the grand scheme of things, but totally believable that he and his schoolmates find them to be critical to their very existence.
The computer generated imagery in Spider-Man: Far From Home is better than it ever has been, and really speaks to how believable it will continue to be. Changes between real actors and CGI actors are becoming nearly impossible to tell, until you start considering physics, and sometimes not even then.
The writing continues to excel, especially the dialog. It’s smart and speaks on multiple levels to the audience, so everyone gets things they can enjoy. They weave elements of the plot masterfully, leading to the “ah-ha!” moments that are so critical to really good story-telling. The writers give everyone some love, and even the villains continue to be sympathetic and relatable. Many times, you can look at the bad guys and say to yourself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
From this point on, we discuss all the elements of the movie, and our discussion definitely, positively contains spoilers for the movie as a whole. Spider-Man:Far From Home contains a fair number of twists and tricks that are really enjoyable, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, we strongly recommend you stop reading/listening now and pick us back up once you’ve enjoyed the movie. That said, back to likes & dislikes!
For me, the writing shines through in even the most stereotypical moments. There is a scene where the bad guy monologues to all his cohorts and reveals the elements of the heist that got them to where they are. I came out of that scene thinking, “Hey, that’s a movie I wouldn’t mind seeing!” It’s got to be better than Oceans 8!
The twist of Mysterio not being a magical character was very well delivered. Given the rest of the MCU with the existence of Dr. Stephen Strange and the Iron Fist, we were ready to accept that Mysterio was also a magical character. But the way they pull the rug out from under the viewers feet, revealing that it is actually Stark holographic tech rather than magical mental manipulation, had us enjoying the fall.
For one of my dislikes, Spider-Man:Far From Home comes across very heavy handed when it comes to force feeding Peter the “step up and be the hero” line. I was literally uncomfortable with how they were trying to force this child to give up his dreams of teen love and growing up in a semi-normal manner. My only problem was that I couldn’t think of a different way they could have done it. Eve is convinced that the heavy handed delivery was 100% intentional. We are not supposed to like it. We are supposed to feel uncomfortable with Peter and on his behalf.
For me, one of the elements that fell flat was the humor of the whole stage production was this apparent vanity that Beck brought to his performance, in particular with the way they kept bringing up his costume for meeting the queen. I understand it was all serving a purpose, but it felt out of place.
Iron Man Parallels
The story of Spider-Man: Far From Home specifically, and the MCU Spider-Man’s story in general, has been following a rough parallel to the origin story of Tony Stark. Both lost their fathers when they were younger, and it helps shape their developments. Both heros-to-be simply want to be the children they are. Both Stark and Parker sought the help and approval of an experienced mentor that betrayed them, over possession of a specific technology, in a surprise twist. Both go “back to the drawing board” to design and build a better suit in order to oppose that betrayal. And in the end, both of their secret identities are revealed to the world.
For me, the way that Peter comes to rely on Happy as a father figure and guide was a chill-inducing parallel. Tony was lost without Happy in Iron Man 3. The way the relationship develops between Peter and Happy in this movie shows how Happy can really be a guiding force in Peter’s life as both growing young man and global super hero. It’s our hope that the inclusion of a loving set of parental types will allow Peter to grow into the man that Tony Stark wasn’t. Tony’s maturity was stunted by the lack of a loving set of parents. It would be nice if they continue the parallelism to use Peter to show how Tony might have turned out differently.
I Want to Believe…
The reality of the MCU has seens a great number of earth-shattering events over the last fifteen or so years. Aliens invaded New York City—TWICE. A supervillain dropped a city out o the sky. The mythical god of thunder came to Midgard . . . er, Earth, and fought a fire-breathing robot, destroying a small Texas town in the process. Oh, and half of all living things disappeared in the snap of Thanos’s fingers, only to return unchanged five years later. The inhabitants of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are really primed to believe anything. This unexpected malleability of normalcy sets the stage for Beck and his crew to pull of a literal global con-game.
Deception is a major theme in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Beck and his crew pull off such a huge deception. Peter dons a black suit to hide the presence of Spider-Man in Europe. To the kids of the field trip, truth is relative, and they half-jokingly refer to the “if it is on the news/internet, it must be true,” idea. Even on a personal level, MJ acknowledges that her persona is crafted to keep people at arm’s length. “‘Boh’ is my superpower.”
One last deception is Spider-Man: Far From Home is one that almost no one saw coming: Nick Fury and Maria Hill are not Nick Fury and Maria Hill for reasons that are not made clear in the movie, Fury and Hill are actually Skrull shapeshifter husband and wife team, Talos and Soren. Everything that we see and hear from Fury and Hill throughout the entire movie becomes suspect—and makes a little bit more sense.
Deception is the desire to conceal the truth. While it is fun in movies, and critical to stories, we should remember that we are never called to conceal the truth. The Bible warns against deception, using it as a way of identifying false teachers:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:2-5)
Deception is almost universally referred to as a sign of someone or something that is antithetical to God’s truth. In our daily lives, when we encounter deceivers, we can count on their motives being less than holy. Yet, in our world, even among the believers, there is so much deception. Like the people of the MCU, we sometimes buy into the deception because we expect it—or want it to be true. The prevalence of the so called prosperity gospel is a perfect example of this. We have to be constantly on guard against deception. We are called to always test against the Word to determine truth versus lies.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-15) [Emphasis ours]
For much of the movie, faux Fury and Hill were really shoving the idea of stepping up down Peter Parker’s throat. Peter just wants to be the kid that he is, doing things that kids do. Fury and Hill though are constantly harping on him, even manipulating events, to get Peter to step into the void left behind by Tony Stark’s death and the absence of the Avengers. It is a sign of the good writing that we find ourselves squirming in our seats on Peter’s behalf. Even getting a little miffed at Fury for his lack of empathy.
Peter Parker is still a child. In the storyline, he’s fifteen or sixteen years old. At that age, you are reaching the point where you are physically able to do everything a full grown adult can do, but you still have another decade of physical growth ahead of you. Mentally, you are not only unprepared for the requirements of real life, you are hindered by your own biology. While you have a decade of physical growth ahead of you, you are looking at decades of maturation yet to go. Peter Parker just wants to be the kid he is, and more than most, he has earned a vacation.
The process of growth and maturing is part of God’s plan and important to the development of healthy adults. Scripture makes clear the importance of children and their childlike ways as a metaphor for the spiritual maturing that is essential for every Christian.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Still, we are expected to grow into healthy mature Christians who put aside our childish ways:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Even Christ went through the process of growth and maturity that we all face:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. (Luke 2:52)
And just like innocent children, the spiritually immature are extremely vulnerable to false teaching:
Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. (Ephesians 4:14)
Peter’s immaturity, his desire to have a mentor and a father figure, leads Peter to give over control of EDITH to Beck—he had been “blown around” by the winds and, “cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” It is the lack of maturity that encourages people to see their own “truth” and to despise God’s Word. Spiritually mature Christians must be diligent to disciple baby Christians so they don’t fall prey to deceit.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3)
The events Avengers: Endgame are in the past. The Avengers have either died scattered to the four winds. Humanity has witnessed the horrors that are really out there and suddenly realize that they are without the protection that they took for granted—even harassed. When the surety of the Avenger’s protection was a given, Humanity banded together to try and control it and make it in their image. Then the Avengers, despite being persecuted, came to the rescue after the greatest catastrophe in all history. Afterwards, they themselves were devastated. Many were dead, some were out of action, and some left for parts unknown. It was after this that humanity began to realize the importance of the protection they offered.
This metaphor is a pale reflection of what God offers real humanity through Christ. He is the Savior, and continues to be, despite constant rejection and persecution by those He seeks to save. He calls on us, as believers, to spread the word and point to Him as the answer to the all the evils of this world. He will save us from ourselves. He takes our own failings upon himself and makes us presentable to God by attributing His holiness to us. That message of salvation is one that we are called to share with everyone.
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