Tuesday, July 30, 2019

We've Had Our Eye On You For Quite Some Time Now, Mr Parker

It took a few hours for the parallels between The Matrix and Spiderman: Far From Home to finally compute. Like all postmodern superhero movies, they have a conflicted lead character, with a mentor, an antagonist, a global threat, and a girlfriend. But it's the final showdown (spoilers follow) which seemed so familiar.

In The Matrix, the final confrontation happens in a corridor, with Neo at one end, and Agent Smith at the other. Neo is 'resurrected' (long story), and finally sees reality for what it is - a computer generated illusion. He can literally see the code, rather than the objects they are rendering. It's an ability only he has, and it enables him to see what is real, and what is not, and to defeat (sort of) Smith.

In Spiderman: Far From Home, the final confrontation happens in a corridor - the viewing gallery of Tower Bridge. Mysterio, the villain, has control of an army of drones who can project an alternative 'reality' so real that it fools everyone. The movie up to this point has referred a few times to Spidermans 6th sense, his 'tingle'. As Mysterio turns the corridor into a fake 'reality' projected by the drones, Spiderman uses his 6th sense, rather than what he can see, hear and touch, to combat what is really there, work his way down the corridor, and defeat (sort of) Mysterio.

Both movies are built on the same premise: instinct is a better guide to what is truly real than the senses. Spidey is on a class science trip across Europe, which is a great excuse for the movie to destroy several famous landmarks across the continent. One of the science teachers has an explanation for all the weird things that keep happening: 'witches'. So much for science, despite the fact that the whole scenario depends on a stack of high level science -drones, holograms, satellites etc.

But the big message is underscored by the two post-credits scenes. In the first, Spidermans defeat of Mysterio (recorded on camera) is re-edited to make it look as if Mysterio is the hero and Spidey is the baddie, and presented by the media to the world. Fake news - what can you believe? In a clever throwback (one of several), JK Simmons plays the Daily Bugle newscaster who presents the story, having played the editor of Tobey Maguires Daily Bugle newspaper back in the last reboot of the franchise. In the second post-credit scene, Nick Fury is shown to have been a shapeshifting alien all along, allowing the real Fury to have a holiday (on a beach which also turns out to be fake).

What is a more reliable guide to reality, instinct or sense perception? (and why does it have to be an either or?). What, if anything, can we trust?

If scepticism extends to everything we see, then lets go there: can we trust this film? Or my reading of it?

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