The grand pop culture experiment known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) reached its first true conclusion with the epic blockbuster Avengers: Endgame. In the aftermath, fans were left with one question: What’s next? Marvel has been tight-lipped about what’s to follow in Endgame’s wake with a slate of movies with release dates but no titles released except for one – Spider-Man: Far From Home, the sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Far From Home is at times a rather uneven sequel but when director Jon Watts’ film is working it’s works great, building the foundation for the next set of Marvel adventures and presenting some fresh new wrinkles to the world of Spider-Man.
The sequel opens in a devastated Mexico village. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) arrive to survey the damage when a powerful mysterious force appears out of nowhere only to be defeated by an equally mysterious figure later identified as Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal). In the wake of Thanos’ unprecedented reign of terror and destruction, Nick Fury sees a whole new threat that endangers the peace that so many sacrificed all to obtain.
In Queens, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to high school in a world after “The Snap.” The moment when those who turned to ash returned is known as “The Blip,” and the film gives us a look at the bizarre happening that returned everyone to the world of the living in a rather comical fashion. These details also help answer some of the lingering questions from Endgame.
Peter and his classmates are headed on a European summer trip, one where Peter plans to let MJ (Zendaya) know about his love for her. While in Venice, Italy, another one of those mysterious creatures, later dubbed Elementals, creates a horrific disaster and Peter teams with Quentin Beck to defeat the watery beast from beyond. It’s then revealed that Quentin Beck, named by the news as Mysterio, was from another Earth – the Earth of this film is from Dimension 616 and Beck is from Dimension 833. These Elementals destroyed Mysterio’s Earth and he hope to prevent another cataclysmic event on this Earth with the help of Peter Parker as Spider-Man. In order to make this happen, Nick Fury basically hijacks Peter Parker’s summer vacation, rerouting the trip to wherever he needs Spider-Man.
As scripted by Marvel veterans Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, Spider-Man: Far From Home doesn’t hit the ground running. Some of the stuff in the first half is interesting as it’s setting up its post-Endgame world, but much of the comedy that the film leans heavily on falls rather flat and the action doesn’t have much in the way of stakes. It’s in this first half that I was reminded of the weaker aspects that plagued past Marvel movies – laying the foundations for the next set of movies. However, once the film gets to peeling back the mysteries at the heart of its story the film pick up and start to swing. The two big battles that conclude the film are wildly inventive visually, giving the audience something they’ve never seen before in a Spider-Man movie.
A number of subplots in Spider-Man: Far From Home add little to the film as a whole. A supposed romance between Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) is meant to inject a bit of awkward humor to the relationship between Peter and Happy but it fails doesn’t connect. (I wanted to scream at the screen “You can do better, Aunt May!”) The youthful romance between Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Betty (Angourie Rice) is a mild diversion, never more than comically cute. Perhaps no actor is more egregiously wasted in the film than the typically hilarious JB Smoove, who really is given only a handful of lines and few of them deliver the laughs as intended.
Once again, Tom Holland proves that he’s the total package in his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, able to capture that youthful innocence and awkwardness when he’s being himself and that gabby swagger when he’s behind the mask. He’s so good he’s made everyone forget that Andrew Garfield was behind the mask just five years ago. There’s real chemistry between Holland and Zendaya, and though the film isn’t in a rush to form their romantic union the two capture the nervous energy of youthful infatuation. While Holland, Zendaya, and others deliver some strong work, the MVP of Far From Home is Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. The veteran actor brings layers to his mysterious character, and as he reveals more and more of himself he becomes more and more of a captivating character; perhaps one of the most fascinating in the MCU’s rogues gallery.
Thematically, Far From Home gets really interesting when it’s exploring the nature of its hero in a world without Iron Man. The events of Endgame and Tony Stark’s sacrifice looms over the events of the film as the world asks “Who will be the next Iron Man?” In some regards, it seems as if the film is trying to make Spider-Man the next Iron Man, and it’s when Peter Parker has to confront this question that its themes of personal identity in the shadow of a mentor and/or father figure that the film resonates.
Be sure to stay through the credits as there are two incredible post-credits scenes, maybe two of the best that Marvel has ever done. It’s in the post-credits scenes that it becomes apparent what works best about Spider-Man: Far From Home – this isn’t a great standalone Spider-Man adventure but it is a fun piece into the puzzle of Marvel’s potential future. Far From Home is another episodic Marvel adventure, one that teases a bit of what’s to come but renews the lingering question left from Endgame: What’s next? The only answer that Kevin Feige has for you is “Stay tuned, true believer.”
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Far From Home explores a post-Endgame world with fascinating results, but the film doesn’t always work best as a standalone Spider-Man adventure though it does work as a fun piece of entertainment laying the foundation for the future of the MCU.