Spider-Man: Far From Home Review
This review will contain Avengers: Endgame spoilers. You’d think that would go without saying at this point but considering the fact that Tom Holland can’t even promote the film he’s in without people declaring it the dreaded S-word, I thought it best to err on the side of caution.
The snap is over, the dust has settled, and we are now on the other side of the endgame. After such a monumental event, the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe this far, where do you go next? Well, in the case of Spider-Man: Far From Home they took the best route; deliver a fun, funny, and heartfelt film that showcases the best of what Marvel movies can be. It does everything a sequel should do. It raises the stakes, it builds on what has gone before, and it gives us an entertaining story in and of itself. On the Marvel sequel scale, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the top end, and Thor: The Dark World at the lowest, Spider-Man: Far From Home is absolutely at the upper end of things.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) wants a vacation, and who can blame him? After saving all of reality and losing his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he just wants to travel Europe, hang out with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and maybe finally tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her. Unfortunately, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has other plans as he enlists Peter’s help in combatting giant elemental creatures that are threatening the world. Also on the mission is the mysterious Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) a super-powered warrior from another dimension who has faced these threats before. But not everything is as it seems, and Peter will have a lot more than misplaced luggage to worry about before the end.
Right away with Spider-Man: Far From Home you know you’re in for a good time. The difference in the scope of the world is addressed but not dwelt on too much. You get enough of a sense of what people's lives have been like post-snap (or The Blip as it is now called) for the story, but you’re not over-loaded because we’ve got action to get to. Spider-Man is a character that really lends himself to agile and kinetic action, and we get a lot of that here in fights that make the most out of the international settings. It’s just great to watch him twist and leap and bounce through environments and attacks. The special effects are fantastic, easily some of the best the MCU has put on screen and it makes for some really creative set-pieces. There are plenty of jump-out-of-your-seat-in-sheer-excitement moments, and one that just might have you yelling at the screen.
It’s an exciting ride, but one that still has time for those character moments, both hilarious and dramatic. Peter’s dilemma in this film is one of wanting to protect his friends but also have experiences outside of the superhero world, and to question himself about how and if he can measure up to the Iron Man shaped hole in the world. Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire sped Peter through the high school years as soon as possible, Mark Webb and Andrew Garfield kept him there but was pretty firmly in the teen angst arena. With Jon Watts and Tom Holland though, we get to really enjoy Peter as a teen in a world of adult superheroes, trying to forge his own path. Holland has the smarts and earnest goodness, but also the goofy awkwardness that has made Spider-Man such an appealing and enduring character.
He’s up against some really heavy-hitters in the performance category though, as Samuel L Jackson gives us a slightly different Nick Fury sharing a dynamic with Peter that is unlike the back and forths we've seen between him and other heroes. However, it is Jake Gyllenhaal that nearly steals the show - he is intense and instantly likeable, you can understand why Peter would latch onto him, and it’s a really interesting take on Mysterio who some have seen as one of the sillier Spider-Man characters. Zendaya’s MJ also continues to be a breath of irreverent fresh air. She isn’t the seemingly unobtainable love interest for Peter of the past, she’s a sassy teen who is as awkward as he is in her own way, and Zendaya gets across that energy really well.
One of my few gripes with the film is to do with its mythos. When Spider-Man was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, it bypassed the origin story and went straight to Spider-Man as already being in action. A smart move, as Spider-Man’s origin is well known by multiple generations at this point. We all know about the radioactive spider bite, Uncle Ben’s tragic demise, and that with great power there must also come great responsibility. It made sense, but now the lack of even mentioning any of that feels a little weird because Tony Stark has become Uncle Ben; the death that hangs over Peter and spurs on his desire to do good. Sure it makes sense given this is the first film after Avengers: Endgame, but just a scene of Peter and May, or Peter and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, talking about how Peter has lost multiple people in his life and how that weighs on him would have been a natural and thematically fitting way to bring that part of the mythology in.
Also Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May still isn’t given much to do. In the previous film she’s supportive of Peter and someone mentions how hot she is, and it’s little more here although the latter has become some awkward romance with Happy instead. Her finding out Peter’s duel identity at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming opened the door to some interesting possibilities, but nothing is really done with it apart from her (off-screen) covering for him with his teachers at one point.
Despite a few issues, I cannot deny that the MCU has on the whole done for Spider-Man something that the Marvel comics have failed to let happen: change the status quo. Marvel comics at this point are downright notorious for the lengths they will go to in order to undo major life changes for Peter Parker, even to the point of re-writing reality. But here in the movies we really get a sense of Peter growing as a character and when it all ends it’s in a place that sets up some very exciting and dramatic possibilities.
The future of the MCU feels exciting and new with Spider-Man: Far From Home.