Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen the new Spider Man: Far From Home film this post contains many spoilers from throughout the movie.
Spider Man: Far From Home struck a wonderful balance between traditional comic book elements and creative twists. I will discuss these later, but first I want to emphasize what I feel was the best part of the movie. The film hit a near bullseye by creating a storyline that metaphorically represented some of the most difficult challenges currently facing our culture. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m not sure, but it played out beautifully on the screen. The most dramatic element was Parker’s struggle with discerning truth from illusion. The world has experienced a rapid advancement of technology resulting in a sea of data that can easily be manipulated to create an illusion of truth.
The casting and portrayal of Mysterio was genius, and I would love to know whether it was originally the idea of Watts or Finn. Either way I was extremely skeptical about the possibility of liking Gyllenhall’s performance. He is one of my absolute favorite actors because of the dark and twisted characters he often portrays and I highly doubted that a part in a spiderman movie could live up to his past roles. I could not have been more wrong. Mysterio struck the balance I mentioned earlier by incorporating traditional comic book elements with a twist, and he powerfully symbolized the people and institutions in our lives today that we once trusted but now fear. These parties include journalists who have given into the temptation to sensationalize and friends who have shown their true colors through social media outrage.
But at a much deeper level he represents all of those people in our lives who were tasked with protecting the younger generation and instead chose to use children for their own self-gratification. This character resonates deeply with the current cultural climate we find ourselves in after the revelation of countless sexual abuse violations by religious and cultural leaders. As a subtle but equally profound symbolism can be seen in Nick Fury’s character who represents all those who should have seen what was happening but failed to notice or remained willfully ignorant. The fact that Beck was a former Stark employee at first seems like a glaring plot hole because there is no way Fury would not have known about him, but in light of the symbolism it highlights how often caretakers miss what should be obvious during a child’s adolescent life, that often passes by like a “blip” on the radar.
Despite the brilliant symbolism in the characters of Beck and Fury, I still think Parker’s development in the film is the most poignant. After two decades of dystopian films featuring young people struggling with mediocrity and finding their gifts, which often translates to youth in the broader culture as seeking any means necessary to set themselves apart, we get a character who has found his gift and is know wrestling with whether it is truly a gift or really a curse in disguise, preventing him from living a normal life full of meaning and value. And as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, he is facing this crisis of identity in the midst of a battle to differentiate truth from illusion. It is exactly this tension that leads him to re-discover his “Peter tingle.”
In the film Parker’s spider sense is filled with meaning. It symbolizes what I have often hoped will develop in future generations as a response to the confusion that saturates our culture. Many people in my life have expressed tremendous anxiety about the future of our society as it becomes harder and harder to distinguish fact from fiction. I believe that part of the reason it is so difficult for my generation (post gen x / pre millennial) to see the truth in the midst of illusion is that we were raised in an age where the truth was taken for granted. For us there was still a tremendous amount of trust in the people and institutions that have now come under intense scrutiny. The current generation of young people however are being raised in a society where they are forced to question everything.
This crucible of discernment has the potential to awaken a sixth sense in an entire generation that will allow them to passionately seek after the truth and distinguish between reality and illusion. It is my hope that like Parker they dive into the midst of the seemingly invincible illusions that now plague our world and use this new found power of discernment to help resolve so many of the failures that have been left behind by the leaders of the past half century.