Ken Jones, Chief Film Critic
At this point, we’re now a little over two months removed from Avengers: Endgame and the mammoth achievement of that movie being a critical and commercial success, sticking the landing in a way that has proven elusive to so many stories told over multiple films. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but also to Endgame as well. The studio heads at Marvel have made a point of saying that it is the final film in Phase 3 of the MCU.
Picking up in the wake of the end of Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and the world are still picking up the pieces of what they call “The Blip” when half the universe returned five years after being wiped out by Thanos. Reintegration is one thing, but so is living with the ramifications of Endgame. The film opens with an all-too-earnest tribute video on the school TV station mourning the heroes lost and also reflecting on some of the difficulty of reintegrating people who had disappeared and reappeared.
There’s a Stark-sized hole (still trying to avoid spoilers) in the world in the wake of Endgame, and the world is wondering if Spider-Man is going to step in and fill that void. Peter is reluctant to be much more than a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He is also eager to take a break and enjoy his school trip to Europe, a trip he hopes will lead to him and MJ growing closer.
The smartest thing that Marvel did with the MCU was to graft their stories onto existing movie templates. Captain America: Winter Soldier is an espionage movie, Ant-Man is a heist movie, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is an 80s teen comedy, a la John Hughes. Spider-Man: Far From Home is an 80s teen rom-com, replete with all the appropriate tropes. There is the plan to woo the girl, the trusty sidekick (Ned, played by Jacob Batalan) who has reservations about the plan (and gets his own romantic side plot), the apparent rival for the girl’s affections, and ultimately nothing really going according to plan.
Part of nothing going right about the trip is in the form of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) wanting to recruit Spider-Man’s assistance in fighting alongside a new guy on the scene in the form of Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), aka Mysterio. Mysterio’s appearance is due to a disruption in the Multiverse, multiple version of Earth in different dimensions, something hinted at in Doctor Strange, and his arrival also coincides with malevolent forces known as Elementals appearing and wreaking havoc on cities. Mysterio seems equal to the task, and he also isn’t a 16-year-old kid, so Peter is strongly inclined to cede the mantle of protecting the Earth to him.
The use and execution of Mysterio as a character is mostly well done. He’s long been one of the better villains in the Spidey rogues’ gallery, known for his power of deception and illusion. It’s interesting to see him positioned as a potential hero when he is first introduced. For viewers in the know, there is a lingering question of whether he should be trusted at all or if there will be something that happens during the film to turn him into a villain.
I’m a huge fan of Holland’s performance as Spider-Man and Peter Parker across multiple films now, but Gyllenhaal’s performance really stands out to me. Gyllenhaal has always been a solid actor, but his big blockbuster moments have always been lacking (The Day After Tomorrow and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). This decade he has molded himself into one of the great actors of his generation, most memorably as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler. His arrival in the MCU, especially as this character and with some of the lines he is given about how you need to wear a cape to get people’s attention now, seem like meta commentary from the actor as much as the screenwriters. Something tells me that was part of the draw with the role for him.
Some aspects of the film were a bit clunky and not adequately explained; in particular, the tech behind the damage caused by the Elementals. Most of this film made me a complete fanboy all over again for Spider-Man, easily my favorite superhero growing up as a kid. There’s a running joke throughout the movie about what to call Peter’s “Spidey Sense” that starts with Aunt May (Maris Tomei) and continues with Happy (Jon Favreau); in fact, developing this Spidey Sense is an integral part of the storyline by the end. The film does a solid job of blending the personal stakes of putting Peter’s friends and classmates in harms way with the superhero stakes of defeating a foe and saving a city.
Overlooking the occasional misstep, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a fun continuation of the story of this iteration of Spider-Man. Tom Holland has pretty much cemented his place as the best Spider-Man we’ve had. Jake Gyllenhaal makes a great Mysterio. And there’s a well-executed romantic storyline between Holland’s Peter and Zendaya’s MJ. The film also ties into previous MCU movies and offers a glimpse in the post-credits of what could be ahead for the MCU. I’m looking forward to it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars