DISCLAIMER: This review includes spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. I would attempt to avoid it as best I could, but the fact remains, the main plot of this movie can’t really be discussed in any meaningful way without talking about it. You have been warned.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the 23rd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the second Spider-Man film, and the end to Phase 3 of an 11-year cycle of storytelling. In this film, Peter Parker has returned from being snapped out of existence to discover that all the other students at Midtown High who were also snapped away have returned in an event known as “The Blip,” and are required to begin the rest of their high school careers by re-starting the year they were in when they disappeared. Following Tony Stark’s death, Peter is being called upon by all his fans and family to take up the mantle of Iron Man that was left behind, and he’s particularly being called upon by Nick Fury to answer to a dire new threat: weather phenomena, known as the Elementals, that are destroying different locations around the globe. But Peter doesn’t feel qualified to handle this new threat, wishing instead to go on a vacation abroad with his classmates and forget about his Spider responsibilities for just a little while. Unfortunately for him, his assistance is required by Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio), a rogue soldier from another Earth whose planet was destroyed by the Elementals before he could stop them. It’s only with Spider-Man’s help that the Elementals can be beaten, and so he and Mysterio have to team up and take them down, before they destroy our Earth for good.
After Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios reached a deal in 2015 that would allow the Spider-Man character to be used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Sony, meanwhile, would retain creative control of the character, all affiliate characters/locations, and his stories), fans were ecstatic, including myself. Finally, we would get to see Spider-Man, a character we’d all loved since 2002 (and whom many loved for years or decades before that) get to be part of our Avengers’ world, and as it turned out, it happened a lot sooner than we thought it would, with the web-slinger making his debut appearance in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. But how would he fare with his first solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming? As it turned out, pretty well, albeit not exactly as he was meant to be. Oh, Tom Holland was perfect casting to be sure; the whole supporting cast was stellar, and the movie itself was a really solid coming-of-age superhero comedy with one of the best villains in the entire MCU being played by Michael Keaton (I mean, who wouldn’t love that?), but it didn’t quite feel like a great Spider-Man movie. Key things were missing that were essential to the character, like the struggle between his normal life and his Spider-life, as well as any genuine consequences for things he might have messed up or missteps he took along the way. Everything seemed to work out fine no matter what he did. Plus, while the “mini Iron Man” thing was cool for the time, we all wanted to see what made Spider-Man special, rather than what made the MCU’s flagship hero special.
Suffice it to say, then, that it was somewhat of a relief when Spider-Man: Far From Home’s second act boots up, the movie really gets going along its mainline thrusters, and almost immediately Peter is torn between the responsibility of being Spider-Man and the things he wants to do the most, like telling MJ how he feels about her, and having a normal vacation with his friends. “With great power comes great responsibility” is meant to be not just the most famous Spider-Man quote across all of his movies, it’s meant to inform us, the audience, that this will be the primary struggle of the colorful, fun character we’re watching on screen. Sure, he could be a normal, smart high school kid, but the fact that he’s also Spider-Man means that he has to answer the call when people need a hero to look up to. Nowhere in the film is this struggle better embodied than in Peter’s struggle with everyone asking him if he’s meant to be the new Iron Man. At one point in the film, Happy even says that “not even Tony though he could live up to Tony,” and that burden is harsh on Peter, bear it though he must. It’s in that sense that Far From Home comes closer than any other Spider-movie before it to replicating what made those first two Sam Raimi films so great.
Another thing about this movie that I did genuinely enjoy was Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. His story goes pretty much exactly where you think it’s going to go, but I won’t say anything more on how that plays out so as to avoid spoilers. Gyllenhaal relishes this role, and you can tell he’s having so much fun getting to finally be in a Spider-Man movie, something he was originally in the running to do for Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. His rapport with Holland’s Peter Parker is nice, but it’s more in the second half of the movie that he really gets to shine as a performer, even with some of his more awkward dialogue during one the film’s two major exposition dump scenes that (while they don’t break the film for the most part) kinda stick out like two sore thumbs on otherwise serviceable hands.
In fact, the rapport between just about everyone is as solid as ever, adding new dimensions and layers to just about every supporting character in Peter’s life, particularly Zendaya’s MJ. She actually gets to be understood as more of an awkward teenager than an edgy re-iteration of the classic Mary Jane character, and it’s much easier to buy that she would be into Peter after watching Holland and her on screen together, as little as that might be due to circumstances beyond Peter’s control. At some points in the film, another student is attempting to get with MJ, and it’s really clear that Peter cares about her and wants to tell her how he feels, but then the Spider-stuff gets in the way. As far as other characters go, Ned is more used as a comic relief this time around than someone who actually does anything, but the sudden romance that develops between him and Betty on the class trip is a real treat, and the writing of it is easily the strongest comedic element of the movie. Even Flash Thompson gets some added backstory that could end up making him more of a tragic character later down the line, but I’ll save the speculation on that for the spoiler review. It’s safe to say that just about every element in this movie that needs to work works pretty well.
So, yes, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a good movie, with good performances, and some solid action set-pieces to boot (if not very interestingly helmed, apart from one or two sequences I can’t really talk about because spoilers). It’s tough to tell, though, whether Homecoming or Far From Home is better without directly watching the two back-to-back, because while Far From Home has more essential elements of the Spider-Man mythos and struggles that form the meat of what makes him a great character (as well as a climactic finish that puts Homecoming’s to shame), Homecoming seemed to do the pacing part better, largely in the first act. Unfortunately, Far From Home’s first act is pretty choppy, and while I get that we have to re-orient ourselves to the world and re-establish where we are in regards to time and “The Blip,” taking a long time after that to also re-establish Peter’s teacher as an awkward bumbling guy thing just kind of happen to, building up another teacher as what’s probably supposed to be comic relief (but really just ends up feeling forced), and throwing in an out-of-nowhere romance between Betty and Ned tends to take up a lot of screen-time that we could spend with Peter (no matter how much I actually liked the Betty/Ned B-story).
In the end, Spider-Man: Far From Home may not end up being the best of the Spider-Man movies (least of all one of the best in the MCU), or even better than Homecoming (I can’t say yes or no definitively yet though) due to some pacing issues and awkward comedic elements that don’t really fit as well as they should, but it’s a more than solid middle-of-the-line entry that most perfectly embodies why Spider-Man is so special in the first place, and is the first one since the Raimi films to really understand Uncle Ben’s famous “great responsibility” theme as a staple of the character. Plus, it features no less than two major bomb drop credits scenes, the first of which left my jaw on the floor. Stay for both.
I’m giving “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a 7.3/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.