Spider-Man: Far From Home
Updated: Feb 9, 2020
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in an interesting position following the climactic events of this past April’s Avengers: Endgame. They had been building to it for over a decade. Its conclusion paid off the entire storyline, killed off several characters and left the franchise without direction. Perhaps the biggest question awaiting the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home is: What now? The short answer is “I have no idea,” but there is a much larger answer waiting inside Peter Parker’s newest adventure. I will not reveal any potential hints at where the MCU is headed, yet I will say Far From Home is really enjoyable, with the normal amount of special-effects action and a whole lot of charm.
Peter Parker, still coping with the emotional fallout from Endgame, goes on a class trip to Europe for the summer, where he hopes to finally confess his feelings to the girl he likes. His plans are derailed when Nick Fury appears, demanding Peter team up with a new hero to battle an otherworldly threat.
The superhero material is what we have come to expect from these movies. There is a lot of running, swinging, last second escapes and big explosions. What has always attracted me to Spider-Man is his relatability. He is a teenager dealing with regular kid stuff such as school, friends and young love. He also has the great responsibility of his great power thrust upon him. The trick in his stories is to not let the spectacle overwhelm the personal. Marvel’s first Spider-Man effort, Homecoming, mostly avoided that. Though it did have too much Tony Stark and an uninteresting villain. This time, the spectacle is grounded in emotion. In addition to being in mourning, Peter now feels the pressure to be Earth’s primary defender. That is a lot to put on a kid; even a super powered one.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (115 minutes, plus mid and post credits scenes) is the usual Marvel mixture of action, humor, humanity and superhero adventure. I think I enjoyed this more than most of their movies because the focus is mainly on what Peter is experiencing as opposed to what he is doing. He struggles with living up to the expectations put on him. The story is about how he resolves that internal conflict. It is also pretty funny, features some surprisingly cool visual effects (especially for someone like me, who is not easily wowed by them) and has far less of an emphasis on the villain (still, they certainly have their moments).
Its biggest strength is that Tom Holland is a fantastic Peter Parker. He is likable and awkward, with a true everyman quality. He definitely has the skill to be the lead in a romantic comedy. There is a long stretch at the beginning that is about Peter trying to settle in to a relaxing vacation. He hangs out with his best friend, Ned, tries to get close to MJ and strategizes on how to woo her with other people constantly getting in the way. It has the tone of a light teen comedy. Holland carries this portion in a way that does not allow it to seem out of place. This is Peter just concentrating on being himself.
Initially, it is kind of jarring when the plot interrupts it. However, the screenplay (by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, who both worked on Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp) finds a way to make the threat fit thematically with what Peter is going through on a personal level. Can he handle all of this on his own? Does he have what it takes to be a global hero? Or is he better off remaining a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?
Even beyond Holland, the cast is very entertaining. I will not list everyone; that would take up too much space. Instead, I will highlight Jake Gyllenhaal as Spidey’s new ally, Quentin Beck, and Zendaya as MJ. They represent the two worlds Peter is caught between. Gyllenhaal is the type of person Peter thinks he is supposed to be. Zendaya makes him feel like the person he wants to be. They are the second and third most important roles and both actors keep it simple without being shallow.
While I was surprised at the depth on display, the main reason audiences come to these movies is to have fun. So let me close by saying that Spider-Man: Far From Home is really fun. I am not sure if it is quite as good as Spider-Man 2 and it is not as inventive or exciting as the brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But it belongs in the conversation with them.
4 out of 5
Tom Holland as Peter Parker
Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck
Zendaya as MJ
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson
Angourie Rice as Betty Brant
Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington
J.B. Smoove as Mr. Bell
Directed by Jon Watts
Screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers