Once upon a time, superhero movies were a natural fit for rubber and plastic products. Before the advent of affordable CGI (even if you don't have the resources of, say, Disney), those of the cape and cowl set often had to rely on molded props of one kind or another to sell the action. That's saying nothing about their use in the design of the costumes themselves.
But just looking like a polymer isn't the same as the real thing, which seems to be a theme for "Spider-Man: Far From Home."
As eternal anxiety-ridden teen Peter Parker tries to go on a school trip across Europe with friends, there are only a few opportunities for rubber and plastic products to take center stage. One early scene on the plane ride across the Atlantic centers around Parker's frustrated attempts to share seats with MJ, his crush, and offer a polymer-coated Y-splitter adapter so they can watch movies together. Even though things might not go how he planned, at least the splitter probably worked effectively during the long flight.
Some lower-tech plastic spends almost two full minutes on screen later as Parker is continuously interrupted with a plastic travel toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. And a little deeper into the movie, some brandless bus tires get a workout as the vehicle careens out of control through the mountains thanks to some interference by a weaponized drone.
But one of the big polymer stars in the movie is an overstyled set of high-fashion and high-tech augmented reality smart sunglasses designed by Tony Stark. Though they're probably lined with some kind of fantasy material like vibranium, the real-world equivalent has plenty of opportunities for rubber and plastic products. Check out something like the Google Glass, Vuzix Blade Commercial Edge or North Focals, all of which seem to use polymers in their construction. Aside from the flexible but durable materials needed to make wearable tech a reality, the projectors needed to aim light and images either onto the glass or retina definitely need lenses like the kind used in LED lighting. While the Stark tech glasses are used to manage a cloud of satellite-driven attack drones, AR smartglasses so far do things like take pictures, play music and a game here and there, similar to a standard smartphone.
The drones themselves are a wonderland of rubber and plastic potential, though the audience doesn't get enough time up close to figure out what exactly is at play. Just by deduction, the construction has to be tough enough to withstand the rigors of at least entering low Earth orbit and weapons delivery, which means some metals are definitely involved. Whatever adhesives and techniques are being used to bond those metals and polymers have to be pulling some serious weight to keep them from falling apart just during standard use.
Late in the film, Parker gets a chance to play around with designing (another) new Spider-Man suit in a Stark lab, using some holographic overlays to direct a 3D printer. The audience never gets confirmation on what exactly the new superhero suit is made from, but we have to assume that at least part of it is made of Kevlar, that superstrong fiber made with polymers woven tightly together, invented by chemist Stephanie Kwolek during her time at DuPont. The surprisingly expressive eye covers on the suit also look to be made of some kind of polymer, soft enough to shape but (hopefully) strong enough to take a punch.
The high-tech imagination for rubber and plastics products in the movie overall reaches a little past real applications and capabilities, but I applaud the effort. I rate "Spider-Man: Far From Home" at four rubber bands out of five.
Kyle Brown is a reporter for Rubber & Plastics News who watched a lot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 while growing up. Follow him on Twitter at @kbrownRPN.