July 13, 2019

“Far From Home” is very close

Spiderman:  Far From Home has two very big themes:  (1) “fake news” is a very real thing, and (2) youth, and in particular millenials, with their skepticism and disbelief, can save us from it.  If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, don’t read any further because there are huge spoilers ahead.  If you’ve seen it or don’t plan to, feel free to read on.

Far From Home is all about a villain who creates an alternate reality, sometimes multiple of them.  He shows himself as one thing to our hero, Peter Parker, and then turns out to be something else.  He demonstrates one reality and then substitutes it for another.  Put simply, nothing he says is trustworthy, and nothing that shows up on the screen can be taken at face value.

Quentin Beck (aka “Mysterio“), played masterfully by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a disgruntled Stark Industries employee in this version of events, out to get revenge for what he perceives as the misuse and trivialization of his masterpiece creation—technology that creates detailed three-dimensional illusions—and convinces  Parker to surrender extraordinary technology bequeathed to him by Tony Stark, Parker’s mentor and the original “Iron Man” of the first Marvel Studios movie.  Beck, of course, has nefarious ideas in mind, and it’s up to Spiderman to stop him.

Beck is a purveyor of “fake news.”  He’s an illusionist; one who traffics in made-up images that press the appropriate buttons in the audience.  In this day and age of media, it’s hard to see him as anything else.  What he puts up is invented in order to draw a response and produce a result (and, indeed, the movie makes clear that this is his motivation—to create fear and the perception of threat in order to become “the next Iron Man.”).

It’s probably no spoiler to say that Spiderman ultimately defeats Mysterio, but it’s a big one to say how he does it:  with Spider-sense and common sense.  That is, with perception and intelligence.  What Peter Parker—a millennial “every man” (even with superpowers)—ultimately uses to defeat Mysterio are the senses he has within him and his own fortitude.  Mysterio’s downfall, ultimately, is the sensible perception Parker has that allows him to see through the illusions, to ignore the outside noise, and to focus on where the real enemy lies.  Thematically, the movie is a vote of confidence in a much-derided generation. It recognizes that skepticism is no bad thing where it sees through fakery, although one victory doesn’t mean a total win.   (There’s much more for Mr. Parker to take on, as made clear by the mid-credits scene, where J. Jonah Jameson, newly resurrected as an Alex Jones act-a-like, turns Spiderman into a villain, but let’s hope that commonsense and millennial skepticism prevails.)

That said, it’s a reassuring outlook and one that’s needed in our day.  Too much fake information is driving our governing decisions, and healthy skepticism, coupled with discernment, is desperately needed.  The youth will save us, and this, I believe.  Youth of America, embrace your superpowers.