Yes goddammit of course I have a Disney+ subscription. I may actually have already mentioned ponying up around here; I signed up a few weeks ago and have been waiting impatiently ever since for the damn thing to actually launch. The entertaining bit is that after those several weeks of impatience I actually forgot until an hour or so ago that the thing was launching today, and didn’t get everything signed in and hooked up until just before dinner.
What am I watching first? Captain Marvel, of course, but we will absolutely be watching the first episode of The Mandalorian before bed, especially now that I have confirmed that a certain thing I was worried about does not actually happen in the show. (No spoilers, of course.)
We spent a couple of minutes scrolling through the available offerings and my wife went entertainingly nuts over some of the possibilities, so I think our $6.99 for at least the first month or two are going to be pretty well-spent. For me, the Star Wars and Marvel content is gonna be more than enough to keep me busy for a while, and having all the classic Disney films, many of which my son hasn’t seen, is icing on the cake.
Spider-Man: Far From Home holds the dubious distinction of being the Marvel movie that it took me the longest to get around to seeing. I’ve seen nearly all of them on opening weekend, excepting only this, maybe one of the Thor movies, and Avengers: Endgame, which was derailed for a few weeks by the Ongoing Medical Calamity beginning on the day it was released. This one not only came out during the Calamity but also released on a weekend when I was at a convention and thus out of town. As we don’t really have family-based babysitters available at the moment, we just … never got around to it, until I abruptly remembered it existed and rented it from iTunes last night.
And … meh? Let’s go with meh.
That’s not entirely fair, as basically everything I liked about the first movie was also something I liked about the second, in particular Tom Holland and Zendaya’s performances. Holland is indisputably my favorite onscreen Spider-Man by an impressive margin, and Zendaya does a great job shifting as needed between a sort of forbidding cool and unwilling teenage awkwardness. Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan also probably has his best turn on-screen, and listening to him and Peter talk about Tony is one of the film’s highlights, especially the scene on the plane toward the end of the movie. No, it’s the story that falls down here, and about half of what I didn’t like about the movie is actually Avengers: Endgame’s fault.
To keep it brief, because this isn’t a review of Endgame, a post I never actually wrote: the basic plot of this movie makes no goddamned sense at all, because literally every second of time where Tony Stark knows Spider-Man is alive is on screen in that movie, and then Tony dies, and there is no time at all for him to set up even a single second of the machinations that this film depends on for its plot. My wife made the argument that he set everything up in advance believing that they would be successful and undo the effects of what this movie calls the Blip, and I suppose that’s an argument you can make but I can’t buy it. That’s not a Tony Stark thing, that’s Batman-level planning, and frankly “let me pin a lot of the future of my tech on this dead person coming back to life right before I die” is probably a planning stretch even for Batman.
(Frankly, I feel like the Blip is probably the worst possible way they could have solved the immense story problem that Avengers: Infinity War set up, but that’s a whole other post, and I never wrote it. I think the idea is heinously dumb, and Endgame had a ton of great moments but overall the movie was a clusterfuck.)
The other problem is that I either don’t understand how Mysterio’s powers work in this setting, at all, or I do understand how they work and they’re dumb as hell. So unlike the traditional comic book Mysterio, who actually is able to trigger hallucinations, all of Movie Mysterio’s abilities are linked to these Stark drones that are creating holograms, right? Real holograms, that have no physical presence and aren’t, like, made of hard light or some other fanwank type of stuff? And all of the destruction that the holograms cause in the movies is actually caused by the drones, which, I dunno, blew up the giant column that the hologram just supposedly punched, only without leaving any physical evidence (like, say, bullets) behind? I mean, at no point during the movie is it implied that these drone-things are battering rams. The hologram, which is pre-programmed except where it isn’t, punches something and it looks like it got punched to death, only what actually happened is that the robots shot it or hit it with a rocket or something, and doesn’t the fire monster melt a whole lot of shit? Was that shit actually melted or are we just not supposed to think about that? How much water during the water-monster’s attack was holographic? Did no one wonder where that water went?
(Also: Spider-Man’s powers are kind of fundamentally useless against giant monsters made of water or fire, which is why in both of those battles he doesn’t actually fight the monster, he just jumps around tossing (useless) rocks or trying his best to keep giant things from falling over. The final fight against the drones is awesome, but these were bad giant monster choices for a Spider-Man movie. And part of the reason they had to set it up this way– were the rocks he threw real, by the way? Where did they actually land, since they didn’t hit the monster?– was because if he had ever tried to punch the thing he would have realized it wasn’t real, because Mysterio’s powers in this movie are real real dumb.)
(Did no one notice the giant fire monster wasn’t hot?)
Anyway: they literally show Mysterio rehearsing one of the fights, for crying out loud. So this is all set up in advance. The holograms at times involve Peter’s clothing. And they make a big deal about how Peter uses his “Peter tingle” (I don’t think these films have ever used the phrase “spider-sense,” and I thought “Peter tingle” was hilarious) to fight the last batch of drones, only there should never have been a moment in the movie where the holograms activated his spider-sense and he should have noticed that. All of which could have been avoided if Mysterio’s abilities had been a combination of hard-light, actually physical manifestations of something or another and hallucinogenic gases like the comic book character’s are, which could have plausibly interfered with the, uh … Peter-tingle.
I dunno, maybe this is inside baseball comic-book geek stuff, but that’s what I am, and this film fell down in a bunch of ways that I’m not used to seeing from Marvel movies. I am, for the first time, not hugely psyched about a decent-sized swath of the upcoming MCU product, although there’s certainly a lot that I am, and, well, I set up my Disney+ subscription yesterday, so they’ve got my money. But this is definitely a lower-tier Marvel movie for me despite my affection for the cast. And you’ve already seen it, so chances are I’m not talking anybody out of it, right? We’ll see how long it takes me to get into the theater for Black Widow when that finally comes out.
EDIT, A FEW HOURS LATER: I’m apparently still thinking about this, and this is absolutely one of those movies that keeps falling apart more the longer you think about it. And what the hell is Mysterio’s long-term plan here? Because he keeps making noises about being a big giant (fake) hero like some sort of low-rent Syndrome from The Incredibles, only Syndrome’s gadgets gave him actual abilities and his plan to sell them to everybody made sense, and Mysterio just has his fake holograms, which he apparently wants to continue to use to be Earth’s Mightiest (fake) Hero and not, like, make a giant pile of money or something like that, which seems like a better use for the technology? Dude literally needs a scriptwriter because he can’t think on his feet fast enough, and the one time he has to ad-lib he blows the whole thing and Nick Fury figures out he’s a fake. Are we supposed to notice he’s an idiot? Was that the idea?
What’s this dumbass gonna do when Galactus shows up? Did Earth acquire no new heroes during the Blip? Is his plan to continue to just fake being a superhero, like, forever? How is this not the biggest Underpants Gnome plan of all time?
Also, and this will probably be dealt with in future films, and is more a Hmm That’s Interesting than a plot problem, but how long have those two Skrulls from Captain Marvel been running around pretending to be Nick Fury and Maria Hill? Was that actually Fury and Hill who got dusted during the Snappening, or the Skrulls? Because that would actually be kind of cool if the Skrulls have been letting Hill and Fury do double-duty all this time and Fury’s actually been chilling in orbit. My wife pointed out that Real Fury probably doesn’t let Skrull Fury have Captain Marvel’s beeper, which is a legit point, but it’s still fun to think about.
You, uh, may have heard that Marvel Studios’ SDCC panel was yesterday. I have some thoughts.
I haven’t actually seen Spider-Man: Far from Home yet, due to a vile combination of Ongoing Medical Calamity and raw timing making it difficult to get out to movies. I think this is the farthest out from release weekend it’s ever taken me to get to one of these movies. Hopefully sometime this week. But! I was on Twitter and io9’s live blog last night during their panel (why why why wasn’t it being streamed?) and … well, here we go:
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: MEDIUM-LOW. Not terribly psyched about this except insofar as it’s going to be a return for the MCU to lower-tech spy films in the vein of Winter Soldier except even more, which ought to be awesome, and it looks like Taskmaster is the villain, which is double awesome. High hopes, but I’m not jumping up and down over it.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: MINIMAL. I have been reading Marvel comic books since I was nine. I have never heard of a single character in this movie. I can tell you nothing. I’ll see it, because I don’t miss Marvel movies, but only to see how they tie it in with everything else. The cast looks great, but other than that if you’ve just heard about this movie reading about it just now you know as much about it as I do.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: MODERATE-HIGH. I don’t have any particular fondness for Shang-Chi as a character, but the notion of the real Mandarin making his way into the MCU has me salivating. I just wish it was in an Iron Man movie like it was supposed to be. That said, they’ve been talking about the Ten Rings since the first Iron Man, so there’s a lot to do here. Also, while I’d never heard of Simu Liu, who will be playing Shang-Chi, before yesterday, his Twitter feed has rapidly turned him into one of my favorite Internet people.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: EXTRAORDINARY. I’m not the biggest fan of Doctor Strange as a character, and I’m not the biggest fan of the first Doctor Strange movies– in fact, if I was forced to rank the Marvel films, it would be close to the bottom. But the notion that they’re selling this as a horror film, and the phrase “Multiverse of Madness,” and the fact that the Scarlet Witch is going to play a large role in it? Take my fucking money. All in.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: QUITE HIGH. It would be higher if I didn’t know that the Jane Foster Thor would be played by Natalie Portman, who I loved almost at an indecent level as a younger man and have grown increasingly bored with as the years have gone on. The fact that they’ve got her back for the movie after having to cut around Jane in Endgame probably speaks volumes about the quality of the script, or at least the quality of the check, but yeah, I’m looking forward to this one quite a lot.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: TAKE MY FUCKING MONEY. Literally the only thing I know about this– as far as I know, they didn’t even announce the release date– is that Mahershalalhashbaz Ali is playing Blade.
Mahershala Ali is playing Blade. Okay, technically this is double-casting, because he was Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage, but there is nothing I will not watch Mahershala Ali in. Nothing. I am all over this.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: VARIOUS. It remains to be seen if the Disney+ streaming series will be tied into the MCU any more thoroughly than the Netflix shows were, which is to say, not at all, and the fact that they recast Mahershala Ali shows how little respect they have for those shows. But they’re putting movie actors into these shows, and talking about them at the MCU panel, so they’re probably gonna be tied in pretty close. That said, this is probably going to sell me a (reluctant, annoyed) Disney+ subscription, because:
Fuuuuuuuuuhuhuhuck the fuck yesMonica Rambeau confirmed as an adult in the MCU. EXCITEMENT LEVEL: IN NEED OF TIME TRAVEL GIVE IT TO ME NOW. I don’t know that the name Spectrum or any of her other superheroic identities were actually confirmed at the panel (she’s my Captain Marvel and she always will be) so it may be that she doesn’t have powers at first, but her presence in the ridiculously named Wanda Vision means that I have to see it, which means I may as well watch all four. And, I guess, The Mandalorian while I’m at it.
Interestingly, while they said “they’re coming” about sequels to Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy and left with a vague allusion to “mutants” and an actual Goddamn Marvel Fantastic Four movie, no dates for any of them. So Phase Four is going to be mostly dedicated to expanding the MCU again, which I’m all good with.
Other, non-MCU stuff: I’m really looking forward to the Dark Crystal Netflix series and while I want to be excited about Picard I haven’t managed to watch the trailer yet, which … yeah. If there’s anything else I should know about it hasn’t penetrated the fog yet, so tell me about it in comments and I’ll react.
I don’t think I’m actually going to review it. It’s possible I’ll change my mind, but right now it’s just not that high on my priority list. Go read John Scalzi’s review if you like, which is close enough to what I’d have said as to serve as an adequate substitute.