With the climax of Avengers: Endgame, the swan-song of a couple of the Avenger superheroes, and Spider-man still going strong, thus ends Phase Three and the beginning of Phase Four of the MCU juggernaut. Looks like Peter Parker and his alter-ego have alot more responsibility this time around in this sequel.
Taking place just after the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, (required watching, BTW), it’s pretty much standard school stuff for Parker (Tom Holland), his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon), and his wanna-be girlfriend, M.J. (Zendaya). But it’s summer time and that’s mean road trip! Parker and his classmates are no sooner off on a relaxing vacation to Venice, Italy when something terrible happens: a gigantic water-creature attacks the city! But as Parker attempts to help, another superhero suddenly shows up to defeat this liquid menace… and he’s not on the Avengers playlist.
Meet Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a mysterious domed-headed hero that’s from an alternate Earth and here to fight The Elementals: four powerful creatures of Earth, Wind, Air, and Fire that have somehow arrived on our planet. Thrilled that he’s on our side, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) of SHIELD have Spider-man join forces with Beck (aka Mysterio) to fight off the Fire monster in Prague. But Parker isn’t too keen on the whole team-up situation; his idea was to woo M.J. and just enjoy his only vacation in years. Not to mention keeping his secret identity intact and saving his friends when things get dicey.
Parker, still grieving Tony Stark’s death, gets an 11th hour surprise gift from his mentor: E.D.I.T.H. These eyeglasses let Parker tap into all of Stark resources, but after feeling unworthy of what they can do, Parker gives them to Beck. Oooo, BIG mistake there, Peter! Y’see, Beck is alot like Syndrome from The Incredibles or Adrian Veidt from Watchmen; a villain disguised as a true superhero to gain trust until the hammer falls, and then it’s too late.
A megalomaniac and a master at mind-manipulation, Beck/Mysterio sets out to reign havoc in London, but will Parker be able to stop him in time? Oh, and be sure to stay for the post-credits scene, it’s not only a shocker, but welcomes back a very familiar face! Chris McKenna (Lego Batman Movie) and Erik Sommers (Spider-man :Homecoming) have written a terrific sequel that, although it starts off slow and plodding, really kicks off into high gear in act two. Unlike the first movie, which was all about the action, this one gives us time to see Parker face his fears as a teenager and all the angst that goes along with it. The humor is still there, along with some early bromance between our two lead super’s.
Jon Watts, who also directed Spider-man: Homecoming, really has a handle on the flavor of all things Spider-man and action films. Holland and his incredibly hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreu), and the others are obviously having fun here and it shows. The action scenes aren’t rushed or choppy, therefore you get to enjoy what’s happening, plus his camerawork is fluid, like at the end as Spider-man is whizzing around downtown. The only problem is the tacked-on opening and exposition, which is lengthy and forced. True, it does serve as a starting point to get from A to B, but it could been handled a little better. Still, as far as sequels go, this is no doubt a winner and leaves the door open for who knows how many more Spidey films.
A graphic novel said impossible to be filmed, director Zack Snyder took a crack at it and got his ass handed to him with a wave of both applause and hatred. Novelist Alan Moore condemned it, critics either loved it or tore it apart, and fans were split. Personally, I think it was a cinematic gold. But hey, that’s just me.
Multiple storylines about superheros, both good and bad, converge into a shocking climax that deals with a horrific practical joke and the detective work that some supers lead to figure out before it’s too late. With alternate timelines and the U.S. in a weird funk, we see in a flashback the history of The Minutemen, a league of several superheroes. Many now retired, many having kids that became supers themselves, others just came out, and others who went into hiding and become vigilantes. In any case, nobody really likes them anymore. They’re also illegal.
But a few resurface when The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is murdered. But who could kill a superhero? Immediately, the psychotic and unhinged masked Rorschach (Jackie Earl Haley–brilliant) starts to investigate along with his sometimes friend, Night Owl II (Patrick Wilson). Meanwhile, Night Owl 2 is hooking up with the beautiful Silk Specter (Carla Gugino) who is trying to break off her relationship with Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) a superhuman entity that is beyond infinite. Also thrown into this mix is Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), a brilliant man who has ‘come out’ and gone into business. But could it be that Veidt had something to do with the Comedian’s death?
The stories ping-pong back and forth as each character’s arc is explored, along with their backstory, and their relationship to greater good. Rorschach gets arrested and thrown in prison, prompting his breakout by Night Owl & Specter, Dr. Manhattan’s time-jumping and emotional break down on TV, the whole Minutemen backstory, and so many other stories, events, and side-stories it’s a wonder how you can follow it at all. In the end, the ultimate reveal by the villain is done and, in a shocking twist, the villain actually wins and ends up saving the day!
The screenplay adaption of Alan Moore’s graphic (and I DO mean graphic) novel by David Hayter and Alex Tse must have been daunting. Many others have tried before them and failed, most notably Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, and Paul Greengrass. Nevertheless, what they did was a brilliant juggling act, taking the “unfilmable” and making a viable screenplay, complete with a cohesive story(s), backstory(s), and narration. AND, for all you people with no life out there, there’s also the extended-cut version of the movie which is not only longer, but gives you even MORE stories to ruin your sleep!
Snyder’s direction is flawless and sucks you into the movie, giving you the untold tales of these ordinary people who just want to seek justice in the world. Patrick Wilson and Gugino are excellent as the star-crossed lovers, a pre-Neegan Morgan is outstanding, but this movie belongs to Jackie Earl Haley. His brutal, tragic, and mesmerizing performance as the cloth-faced Rorschach is the highlight of the film. Seriously, he should have been given a stand-alone movie. Again, Watchmen ran the gamut amongst the fans from pure hatred to sheer love, depending on your take on it. BUT, you’ll have another chance to either love or hate it, as HBO is bringing it back as a mini-series this Fall.