Recently re-watched Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Far From Home. The former is generally regarded as the best Spider-Man movie, and not only that, one of the best comic book movies, alongside Logan, The Dark Knight, and Watchmen (just kidding). And the latter, I’d say the best among recent Spider-Man movies. Don’t fight me. I know there are only three. But Far From Home is better than the animated one from Sony. And I think with FFH, the MCU is finally able to match the thrilling set-pieces of the earlier Spider-Man movies.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 isn’t a perfect movie. But what is a perfect movie? A movie may be perfect in some aspects, but it could be flawed when viewed from different angle. Let’s say, the special effects aren’t that special anymore. In terms of characters, dialogues, acting, etc., Spider-Man 2 belongs to those old movies when things seems to be an exaggerated version of reality. It’s “hyperrealistic” as opposed to the more “naturalistic” approach employed in the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies and MCU movies in general. Some people would say, “people don’t speak like that in real life.”
Well, they’re not exactly wrong. Because people in real life don’t read scripts and say their lines trying to convey to an audience what they mean and feel. People in real life don’t use expressions or speeches thought up by some writers who thought those would impart something to the audience, whether it’s a message or the story’s overall theme. During the time of Shakespeare, the actors were made to use words and expressions not used by the audience or the general populace! Specifically words that were ‘made-up’ or invented by Shakespeare himself. And yes, my grandmother didn’t give me solemn little speeches like Aunt May does in the movie, but she told me to be good—probably more than once. Not necessarily be a hero, just be a good person.
And speaking of overall theme, just what the fuck is the overriding theme of Far From Home? Is it deception? Responsibility? If the overriding theme of Far From Home is that “People need to believe. And nowadays, they’ll believe anything,” then what message (if any) is the movie trying to tell? And what about truth-telling? Well, that is probably too big a topic for a superhero movie. But then of course, there’s always the sequels. So, maybe Spider-Man will tackle that next time.
Of course, as with most MCU movies, I doubt FFH was intended to have a firm overriding theme, much less a message. And so if we consider that comic book movies are aimed primarily at younger audience, is it always better for them to have something to say? Well, not necessarily. Sometimes, movies just need to tell their stories. Spider-Man 2 went with its not-so-subtle messaging. There’s Aunt May’s “I believe there’s a hero in all of us,” whether it’s corny or touching, I guess, depends on the viewer. And then there’s also Stan Lee’s “One person can make a difference.” On a side note, I like Stan Lee’s cameo back when they were blink-and-you-miss-it, or when they still didn’t feel obligatory, or tacked on.
Both SM2 and FFH are great entertaining movies. One of them takes the comic’s ‘great responsibility’, builds on it and is able to tell a story about being a superhero/everyman, responsibility, and sacrifice. The other tells you that ‘responsibility ruins your vacation, and keeps you from dating the girl you really like.’ And there are no difficult choices—just new cool Spider-suits to make.