Spider-Man: Far from Home | Jon Watts | July 2, 2019
Spider-Man: Far from Home comes hot on the heels of Avengers: Endgame, and it’s tasked with following such a monumental movie while also closing out this phase of the MCU and also continuing Peter Parker’s story as Spider-Man for future installations of the overall franchise. One of the big questions was how Marvel would handle explaining how the world adapts to the return of everyone who was turned to dust following Thanos’ finger snap in Infinity War during the Endgame climax.
Ever in the spirit of Spider-Man, returning Homecoming director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers cleverly touches on this early on in the film in the context of the high school’s news channel referring to the event as “The Blip” and explaining how those students who returned were now the same age as those who were once 5 years younger than them – not to mention, they have to re-do their midterms. Little moments of lighthearted adolescent levity help immediate ground us in the smaller stakes that come with the high school world of Peter Parker, which is a breath of fresh air following the dramatic high stakes of the Avengers films.
Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is just glad to be back with Ned (Jacob Batalon) and hopes to use his upcoming class trip to Europe as a chance to finally profess his love to MJ (Zendaya). But he’s having trouble adjusting to life not only as a teen but also as Spider-Man, still understandably reeling from the loss of Tony Stark amidst the question of who will lead the Avengers now (mirroring the questions many corners of the internet have right now). Despite Aunt May’s (Marisa Tomei) pleading to pack the Spider-Man suit for the trip just in case, Peter wants to take a little vacation from being a superhero and, well, just be a teen.
Of course, that doesn’t last long, as trouble finds him in the form of elemental monsters upon arrival in Europe. He soon crosses paths with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) who turn to him for help, alongside Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose sudden arrival and aide to defend against the Elementals causes him to become a social media favorite, where he is dubbed Mysterio. Even the most casual fans with some knowledge of the character know where his character is headed, but Marvel is able to still find some interesting ways to spin the expectations, even if they do stumble on some of their usual Marvel-isms that sometimes lean in too heavily on humor when a more sobering dramatic reveal would have paid off more powerfully.
Peter also has to toil with elements of “with great power comes great responsibility,” only instead of a speech from a dying Uncle Ben, it comes in the form of a final gift that Fury delivers from Tony Stark posthumously in the form of advanced AI sunglasses named EDITH. These provide access to incredibly powerful Stark technology and weaponry, and Peter is quickly forced to learn how to use them appropriately when temptation comes to use it for his own personal gain.
Just like in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the strength of this latest interaction in the series is in the smaller moments where we get to see Peter just experience being a teen. The beating heart and soul of the film is in the relationship between him and MJ and the will-they-or-won’t-they subplot. We all know that it’s inevitable but Holland and Zendaya sell the back and forth so well and make it feel so real and authentic that you genuinely get swept up in the emotion of it all, becoming completely and utterly invested. In this respect, Zendaya gets much more to do this time around and knocks it out of the park.
The moments of Peter struggling to balance being a teen enjoying his trip with his friends are far more interesting than the MCU plot-pushing moments and the CGI action-spectacle that we have become completely numb to after this summer season (which of course isn’t the film’s fault). That’s not to say that Watts doesn’t allow for some great sequences, mainly some trippy Mysterio sequences that feel like they’re pulled straight from the pages of the Lee & Ditko comics and felt more like a scene from last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
While Far from Home doesn’t feel as tight as Homecoming, there’s no denying how effective this film is when it comes to portraying Peter and MJ’s romance, which helped combat some elements that bog the film down with the necessary Marvel boxes to be checked off. Credit goes to Holland and Zendaya, whose chemistry is undeniably strong as can be. Jake Gyllenhaal offers a strong take on both Quentin Beck and Mysterio, even though his presence is felt nearly as strong during the second half. Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, and Jon Favreau all find ways to inject life and humor into the picture as the returning Ned, Betty, Flash, and Happy Hogan, which adds to Far From Home‘s highly enjoyable nature.
With a pair of shocking end-credit sequences that almost change the entire way you see the movie, Spider-Man: Far from Home both closes things out in a seemingly lighthearted manner while also setting up some pretty high stakes for future films in the franchise and the MCU-at-large. If nothing else, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: Tom Holland has emerged as the definitive Spider-Man and he’s only just getting started.