For every Marvel movie that comes out, beyond the big box office and throngs of fans that love every moment, there are those that like to ride their high and mighty horse, telling you that comics are for kids and that these movies are infantile. And that’s fine — look, we all have our own opinions — but when you’re fighting your way through life and just need a break that takes you away from your own cares — which is what movies are really for — these popcorn films do a great job of making you forget bills, work, dealing with fixing up your home and even your aches and pains.
Basically: Yes, we get it. You’re above comic book movies. Keep it to yourself, because these movies are modern myth and have never been better than right now.
The twenty-third film in the Marvel Universe — soon, you’ll need a whole shelf to hold all the blu rays — this film starts in Mexico, where Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) battle an elemental creature alongside Quentin Beck (a great Jake Gyllenhaal) who will come to be known as Mysterio.
Way back in the Sam Raimi days, Mysterio was to be the fourth film’s villain. He was to be played by Bruce Campbell and there had been cameos in each of the three previous films to set him up. Sadly, that never came to pass.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still learning how to adjust to life after “The Blink,” the five year period where Thanos wiped out half of all life, as well as the events of the last few movies like Avengers: Endgame. He’s reeling from the loss of Tony Stark, his father figure, and also dealing with a crush on his friend MJ (Zandaya of HBO’s Euphoria).
Nick Fury has plans for Spider-Man, but Peter Parker has better ones this summer. He wants to attend a class trip to Paris and confess his feelings to MJ. Standing in his way are a series of elemental villains who are trying to destroy this Earth in the same way that they wiped out Mysterio’s alternate Earth-833.
There are at least three major plot twists that I have no interest in spoiler, other than to say that this was the best possible way to introduce Mysterio as the major villain in the life of Peter Parker. The mid-credits reveal of J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson drew loud cheers and applause in the theater I saw the film in, which made me smile. That’s all the spoilers you’re getting out of me, other than it’s nice to actually be surprised by a film these days.
Continuing the tradition of members of Spider-Man’s Sinister Six showing up in minor roles — Mac Gargan (The Scorpion) and The Shocker were both in Spider-Man: Homecomng — one of Nick Fury’s men is named Dmitri Smerdyakov, the real name of The Chameleon, who is the first supervillain to ever battle Spider-Man, all the way back in his first issue in 1963. Plus, Peter Billingsley (Ralphie himself!) reprises his role as William Ginter Riva from Iron Man. While he worked for Obadiah Stane back then, now he’s part of Quentin Beck’s entourage.
Whether or not you appreciate this film depends on what camp you fall in as it relates to the opening of this piece. As for me, I’m pleased to report that the scenes where Mysterio manipulates reality are the best live action superheroics I’ve seen, a perfect spin on the visuals of the comic book world made wonderfully 3D. It’s still not as great as Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse, but that’s a movie that may never be topped.
Hurry up and see it. The ending that sets up the next sequel made me start counting down the days to the next sequel!