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A Marvel movie grounded in reality (even Mysterio, spoilers!!) with arguably the most human we’ve ever seen one of our heroes yet.
We see Spider-Man go on a school trip around Europe all the while struggling to take on Earth’s responsibilities seemingly alone, until he encounters Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio who looks to offer him the help he needs. While this closing film to Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t quite reach the heights of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, it does give us closure for the heroes we only recently said goodbye to in ‘Avengers: Endgame’, and certainly curiosity for the future of the universe going into Phase 4.
Going into the movie, I had thought that ‘Avengers: Endgame’ would be the last Marvel movie I really watched, mainly because along with a large number of other people, I thought I would’ve grown tired of them. And yet, especially with the aid of the post-credit scenes, I find myself looking forward to Phase 4 as much as I did for the first ‘Avengers’ movie.
Spoilers from here on out!
It goes without saying that the weight of the franchise post-Endgame really rested on the writing and the actors. And for the most part, I thought that they did a really good job in maintaining the balance between Peter’s developments alongside the world as a whole as well as focussing evenly on the side characters, especially Zendaya’s MJ. The relationship between Betty and Ned, and Aunt May and Happy were sweet comedic releases foils for the brilliantly developed relationship between Peter and MJ.
The relationship between Peter and MJ is a tale as old as time at this point so I found myself making a lot of comparisons between this iteration and the Tobey Maguire/Kirtsen Dunst duo and found Holland and Zendaya’s infinitely better. Where the 2000’s trilogy could feel toxic and forced, this one was organic and added to the recurring themes of humanity, family and growth throughout. MJ’s character is even better than it was in ‘Homecoming’, showing a lot of initiative and becoming a well-rounded, relatable character.
One of my favourite lines in the movie was, ‘I am Spider-Man- and I really messed up’; this is a Peter Parker who recognises that he can’t always do things alone, and that being open and honest with the people around him is what will keep him safe and lead to his happiness. And if that’s not a good message to tell the audience, I don’t know what is.
Mysterio was a lot better than I was expecting based off of the trailers. You can’t really go wrong with Jake Gyllenhaal and he definitely delivered as the classic villain. The moment he switched from being Peter’s friend to reveal his deception was so well done that even though I knew he was a villain, I was still swept up in the comedic shock of it. And he managed to make some pretty cliché villain lines a lot better than they probably read on paper. Once again they really got the casting absolutely on point.
The special effects for Mysterio I initially thought were… bad until we learn that the action was actually phony in the movie’s universe too. So what I initially took to be a detriment to the film was actually something quite clever, if you put that much faith into the effect artists as I am doing. The music was largely unnoticeable as anything great, the only time I really noticed it was when they played the familiar Avengers theme at one point- and it is a shame that the music twenty-three movies in is still so inconsistent in quality and memorability.
The ending of the movie with Peter and MJ together was fitting and felt well-rounded, and for about a minute until the credit scenes began, I wondered where it could go. J. K. Simmons back playing J. Jonah. Jameson (which goes with out saying was a brilliant moment) revealing Spider-Man’s identity reignited that same dread I had for such movies as ‘Civil War’. The Skrull reveal was a moment where I was half-glad to see the return of something I really enjoyed all the while thinking, ‘Wait hang on, they’re doing this?’
So all in all, the one thing that is undeniable about this installation was that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has given us a very relatable, human hero to get behind, almost up to the same level as ‘Into the Spider-verses’s’ Miles Morales. As we watch him grapple with his grief and identity, the legacy of Iron Man and his relationship with MJ, we realise along with him that the future is in safe hands and that, to paraphrase Natasha Romanoff he is ‘not alone’.’Welcome back, Peter,’ his dangerous AI grandma glasses say, and I happen to agree.