Spider-Man: Far From Home

June 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Jon Watts (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”)
Written by: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”)

Here we are, in the first visit back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” namely the return of everyone disappeared in “the snap” and death of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and we’re spending that time with his protégé (and heir apparent?) Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” With Iron Man gone and Captain America now a nonagenarian, who’s left to lead the Avengers?

Eight months after the reversal of “the blip” where half of all life in the universe disappeared, the public seems to think the answer is Spider-Man. Though after being re-blipped into existence, all Peter wants to do is take his school trip to Europe and, hopefully, profess his love to his snarky crush MJ (Zendaya) atop the Eiffel Tower. But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other ideas for the web slinger, with the arrival of monstrous creatures known as Elementals, who are wreaking havoc across the globe.

Fury hijacks Peter’s trip, pressing him into service with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hero from another version of Earth who lost his family in a battle with the Elementals. Dubbed Mysterio by Peter and the media, the noble Beck is seemingly the perfect person to step into the vacant Avengers leadership role, and to take the pressure off the unsure Spider-Man. But things aren’t always what they seem.

Less of a standard superhero adventure and more of a Marvel spin on “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” or “Eurotrip,” “Far From Home” leans heavily into comedy more so than perhaps any other movie in the MCU so far. The film, tasked with rebuilding a sort of normal after “Endgame,” plays most everything for laughs, from the logistics of what happened when “the blip” was reversed to the technological legacy Stark leaves behind for Peter. Holland’s Parker holds it altogether as the awkward teenage straight man, though the film’s somewhat lumpy narrative and too-long runtime suck a little fun out of the whole thing. And as the MCU looks to pivot to focus on the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for phase four, “Far From Home” can’t help but do a little table setting in its two post-credits sequences. The first one, featuring a delightfully perfect cameo, makes for an interesting cliffhanger that will leave you tingling for what’s coming next.

Dark Phoenix

June 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
Directed by: Simon Kinberg (debut)
Written by: Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Apocalypse”)

Here we are at the presumptive end of Fox’s X-Men series, and it all seems to be happening with a relative whimper. What started 19 years ago as part of the Big Bang of modern superhero movies draws to a close with a shrug in “Dark Phoenix,” the latest (and final?) film in the longest-running comic-book movie franchise ever—so far, anyway.

While all eight of the X-movies proper maintain a loose continuity with their immediate neighbors, the series has always been ready to throw it out the window at a moment’s notice. Which means to say, if the gist of “Dark Phoenix” seems a little familiar, it’s because this same storyline—based on a classic comic book arc—was sort of done back in 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Following the world-shattering events of the franchise low point “X-Men: Apocalypse,” things seem … sort of normal? It’s 1992 and the newly-launched Space Shuttle Endeavour has suffered some sort of problem on its maiden voyage by way of a mysterious solar flare. It’s up to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his X-Men to save the day. Led by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, who proves in this film to be completely over playing the blue-faced mutant) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), the team flies into space to save the astronauts. In the process, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) gets caught in the explosion and the mysterious solar flare enters her body, sending her power off the charts.

Meanwhile, some aliens that are also after the power in the flare land on earth and mimic the humans they kill. One takes the shape of a woman (Jessica Chastain) and seeks out Jean, who has now discovered Charles has lied to her about her past, sending her over the edge.

In the age of world domination by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these first-cousin-once-removed X-movies come across as downright cheapo and quaint. I mean, they’re full of physical stunts and JLaw is just wearing blue makeup and an unconvincing wig to play a shapeshifter, and Hoult has fake blue fur glued to his face. The goddamn Black Panther’s suit is CGI, even though there’s a real one on set! All in all, “Dark Phoenix” is entirely perfunctory, with confusing fight choreography, confounding character arcs, and completely unearned sentimentality. And even still, there are at least two worse X-Men adjacent movies. Now that Fox has been absorbed into Disney, all signs point to this being the wrap on a series that laid the groundwork for where the genre is today and created a bonafide movie star in Hugh Jackman. Thanks for your service, X-Men. We’ll see you in MCU phase 5, probably.