WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Picking up from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker has to come to terms with a world irrevocably changed. After helping to save the world from Thanos and his minions, all Peter wants is to get away from superheroing for a bit by going on a school-sponsored, educational European trip with his friends and to declare his feelings to MJ at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately for Peter, Nick Fury and a mysterious new superhero from another Earth have other plans for our Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man...
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Warning: It’s impossible to talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home without spoiling the end of Avengers: Endgame. If you still somehow haven’t seen the biggest movie on the planet and don’t want to know what happens in it, do not read any further until you’ve caught up with it. If it’s not still showing at a cinema near you, don’t worry, it’s due to be re-released within the next few weeks!
For what is clearly supposed to be a low-key and far lighter epilogue-cum-reprieve after the epic climax of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home comes with a surprising amount of baggage. Not only is it the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to deal directly with the fallout of the world-changing events of Endgame, it also has to live up to two of the best and genre-redefining superhero films of recent years - both of which happening to feature Spider-Man. Along with being released with the spectacular Avengers: Endgame still in many cinemas (and with that re-release coming up), it also comes hot on the heels of the truly amazing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - that’s a lot to live up to for our favourite webcrawler. But then, it wouldn’t be a Peter Parker story without his having the weight of his world on his shoulders, so perhaps that’s appropriate.
Does it live up to such lofty expectations? Honestly, not entirely. It comes closer than it has any right to, though. It’s true, it could have gone into the whole “five years later” thing with a bit more depth, and it’s not quite up to either Endgame or Into the Spider-Verse (or the rather underrated Spider-Man: Homecoming, for that matter) but it’s still a massively satisfying Spider-Man film and ends up nicely setting the stage for both the next Spider-Man movie and the next phase in the MCU – though both of these mostly in the film’s two essential end-credit scenes. I can not stress this enough, do not leave the cinema until after all the credits have rolled. Even the second scene that comes at the end of all the credits, which is normally just a gag of varying degrees of success, is absolutely crucial.
It will also, no doubt, be a slightly different movie for those of us who are fans of the comics and know Mysterio’s story and for those who aren’t. Not so much because knowing the comics means you know exactly where the story is going to go – the MCU has often “faked out” comics fans, as with revelations of the true natures of the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 and the Skrulls in Captain Marvel – but expectations, or the lack thereof, will make this is a different experience, depending on your background with the characters.
Either way, though, the story is pretty solid, and whatever Mysterio’s deal is, he makes a terrific addition to the cast and, surprising no one at all, the constantly impressive Jake Gyllenhaal is great in the role. Like the best Spidey stories, though, the plot is much less important than the character stuff, and there’s plenty of great work done in this department, in both of Peter’s identities.
The death of Iron Man in Endgame and, for that matter, Peter’s own part in the fight against Thanos, has left Peter not just without his mentor but facing the reality that in a very short time, he has gone from being a kid superhero in training to being picked by Tony Stark himself as the torch-bearer of the Iron Man legacy. While most of his friends and family were unaffected by the five-year jump, so Peter doesn’t have, say, a kid daughter suddenly transformed into a young adult, but he has had to grow prematurely anyway, and much of his story here is about finding his place in a suddenly very different world.
Tom Holland, with his impeccable American accent, once again very much intact, is more than up to delivering Peter’s struggles, every bit as much as his joys. He represents yet another bit of pitch-perfect Marvel casting but that he is so much younger than the leads of every other Marvel movie only makes Holland stand out more.
And then there’s the fact that a young Peter Parker means the MCU is able to add teen comedy/ drama to the stealth list of genres it is able to tackle. Spider-Man: Far From Home is, when you get down to it, a PG13 version of Eurotrip with some superhero shenanigans thrown in. This means we get plenty of Peter interacting with the likes of Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds, Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, Angourie Rice as Betty Brant and, of course, Zendaya as MJ. All of these characters are radical reinventions of their comics counterparts, but they’re so charming, sympathetic and likeable that it’s hard to particularly care that they’re not comics-accurate. Zendaya, in particular, totally kills it as MJ (but not Mary Jane for... reasons?) and her relationship with Peter in the film is one of its many highlights.
Incidentally, the fact that all of these “teenagers” are – save for Angourie Rice who is much younger than her co-stars – played by actors of the same age (a respectable 22) is a particularly nice touch as it only gives their sense of camaraderie (and sometimes rivalry) a more authentic air.
In fact, the parts of the film that do focus on Peter and his friends gallivanting around Europe (under the supervision of two very different teachers, played by Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove to great comedic effect) are so much fun that it’s hard not to be at least a bit resentful when the focus shifts from them to the more straight-up superhero action in the film’s later sections. And that’s despite the fact that this is a) a Spider-Man film and b) the superhero bits are actually very well handled with a compelling character-driven plot and some pretty spectacular set pieces by returning Homecoming director, Jon Watts, and returning screenwriters, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.
And, frankly, when your biggest problems with a film are that you want to spend even more time with the characters than the already generous two-plus-hour runtime has given you, says a lot about just how good Spider-Man: Far From Home so obviously is. Though, if the end credit scenes are any indication, it’s only an appetizer for what’s to come.