Far From Home

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A moviemaking lifetime ago, before the dawn of cinematic universes and elaborate studio deals for comic-book intellectual property, Jake Gyllenhaal almost played Spider-Man. This was back in the early 2000s, when contract negotiations with Tobey Maguire got tense enough that Columbia Pictures briefly extended an offer to the hotshot young star Gyllenhaal to play the hero in Spider-Man 2. He never took the role and ended up having a much more interesting career (possibly as a result), turning in dynamic work in projects as varied as Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler, and Okja, and becoming that rare sort of character actor with leading-man looks. Which, of course, makes him perfect for a Marvel movie. Everything old is new again.

In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the second entry in the second reboot of the Spidey franchise (and that’s not even counting that pesky Into the Spider-Verse), Gyllenhaal plays Mysterio, a velvet-cloak-wearing warrior from an alternate reality clad in green armor and a fishbowl helmet who zips around the screen emitting verdant fog. In other words, he’s pretty weird—the kind of B-list villain screenwriters have to start digging out of comic-book back issues when superhero series drag on for this long. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say the weirdness goes several layers deep with Mysterio. Which makes Gyllenhaal ideal casting—he’s a funhouse-mirror take on a caped crusader here to question just how odd audiences are willing to let these movies get as Hollywood keeps offering them up.

Ostensibly, this is a regular old Spider-Man movie, one set in a Marvel universe still roiled by the aftermath of the almighty Avengers: Endgame, in which the 50 percent of people zapped into dust by Thanos’s cosmic snap suddenly popped back into existence. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was one of the fallen comrades who reappeared, as were his pals MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon), and here they all nonchalantly resume their sophomore year of high school. Though there’s a little effort to acknowledge the supreme bizarreness of this Rapture-like event (here dubbed “the Blip”), there’s much more material about the death of Peter’s mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who served as his gadget-loving surrogate dad in Spider-Man: Homecoming and assorted Avengers flicks.

As Peter wrestles with whether he could ever step into the metal boots of his beloved hero, he is swept up in an adventure of international intrigue by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Mysterio, who enlist his help to do battle with a bunch of elemental monsters across Europe. This plot gets rolled into a high-school trip, bundling Peter’s superhero inferiority complex with the more routine issues of his big crush on MJ and his efforts to keep his costumed identity secret from his classmates. The director Jon Watts, who also made Homecoming, relies on the same goofy kinetics that powered his previous film; these movies lack the grandeur of Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, but they do capture the hero’s motor-mouthed, wise-guy attitude best.

A tale of Spider-Man ping-ponging around cities such as Venice, Prague, and London, fighting beasts made of fire and water, would probably serve the Marvel Cinematic Universe just fine, but happily this movie has far stranger plotting in mind. I just can’t talk about its many twists without spoiling the fun. I’ll simply say that Gyllenhaal, who has a real talent for balancing charm, rage and utter ludicrousness, is excellent as Mysterio, using the hero’s left-field presentation to satirize the ongoing phenomenon of cultural worship for do-gooders in colorful spandex. Jackson, an old hand in the Marvel world, doesn’t quite have the zingy chemistry with Holland that Downey Jr. did, but as Fury he gets to be a little less stoic and self-serious than usual.

The biggest achievement of all remains that Marvel managed to introduce Spider-Man into its crowded universe just a few years after he’d been played by Maguire and Andrew Garfield in five movies and make him feel fresh. Keeping these films as relatively low-scale high-school capers (buoyed by Marvel’s fat visual-effects budget) has kept Holland’s hesitant, kindhearted Spider-Man from seeming like a fatuous flagship star. These movies still allow Peter to make mistakes, to bumble into heroism rather than boldly go, and to give his chemistry with MJ some time to properly simmer; Marvel movies are naturally episodic, but for Spider-Man that path is at least somewhat distinctive. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a bouncy addition to a bulging franchise, with just enough fringe zaniness to help it stand out from the pack.


Hotseat Silver Reef
More Film...
Gimme a lyft

An ‘80s-style action comedy whose mismatched heroes are a vengeful cop (Dave Bautista) and the timid man (Kumail Nanjiani) forced to drive him around Los Angeles, Michael Dowse’s Stuber bears that name because Nanjiani’s character is named Stu and he drives for a certain ride-hailing…

more »
Echo in the Canyon
Of Byrds and Beach Boys

Early in the fascinating documentary Echo in the Canyon, rock legend Eric Clapton describes why, at the start of his career, he gravitated to the hilly Los Angeles enclave of Laurel Canyon. “I was attracted to eccentrics,” he says, “and they were all there.”

The eccentrics to…

more »
Framing John DeLorean
Of madman and machine

An insightful documentary, a film within-a-film and a behind the scenes documentary on the making of that film within-a-film, Framing John DeLorean takes an appropriately robust and atypical approach to the tale of the grandiose, larger-than-life Detroit-bred automobile icon.


more »
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Stories in the Park

10:30am|Marine Park

Kids Can Cook, Dough Edition

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Cook It and Book It

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Paddline Whatcom County


Artist Workshop

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

History Sunset Cruises

6:30pm|Bellingham Bay

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Books on Tap

7:00pm|VanderYacht Memorial Park

Mama Caught Fire

7:30pm|Reverie Gallery

Trove Web
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Summer Noon Concert Series

12:00pm|Performing Arts Center Plaza

BFM Community Concert

12:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Photography Workshop

1:00pm|Sumas Library

Wednesday Farmers Market

2:00pm|Barkley Village Green

Ferndale Book Group

2:30pm|Ferndale Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Downtown Sounds

5:30pm|Downtown Bellingham

Mach One Jazz Orchestra

6:00pm|Seafarers' Memorial Park

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm| South Whatcom Library

Brewers Cruise

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Trove Web Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Guided Adventures


Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Bow Farmers Market

1:00pm|Samish Bay Cheese

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

Dig Deep

3:00pm|Deming Library

Blues and Brews

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Riverwalk Concert Series

6:00pm|Skagit Riverwalk Plaza

Pub Run

6:00pm|FrinGe Brewing

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Village Books

Atwood Beer Dinner

6:30pm|Old World Deli

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

The Birds

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Good, Bad, Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Web Support Vertical