I always feel a bit sorry for the Marvel movies that directly follow an AVENGERS because of the expectation that they’ll be the same scale. They never can or will be, so they have to be different. Unlike last time where being a sort-of Avengers film hamstrung the Spider-fun, FAR FROM HOME neatly ties up any loose ends from ENDGAME in the first ten minutes then just gets on with telling the story at hand.
Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) school trip to Europe and plans to make his feelings for MJ (Zendaya) clear hit a snag as mysterious elemental creatures begin to attack major cities. Enter Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) a powerful potential ally for Spider-Man.
This is arguably most subversive Marvel film since IRON MAN 3. The first half of well-mounted superheroics and awkward teenage relationship stuff gives way to a second half that is an extended deconstruction of the superhero movie factory and its priorities in general. It’s never smug about it though; it’s clever and witty and I appreciated it. That’s not to say the film is stingy on what we’ve all turned up for, far from it in fact as there’s plenty of supersized fun to be found throughout.
The new Spider-Man movies are doing the right thing with regards to their villains (or antagonists if you feel like so far they’ve actually had a point!). Just pick one we haven’t seen yet and do something really interesting with them. Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is superb, and a take on the character that only an actor with his range and unpredictability could make work: he’s charm itself when he needs to be and…not when he doesn’t. If you’ve got even a passing knowledge of his main “deal” in the comics you’ll likely know the direction they’re going with him, but perhaps not to what extent. His character’s unique powers also allow for some vivid visual flourishes that makes me think the psychedelic madness of DOCTOR STRANGE 2, when it comes, will need to up its game.
Tom Holland is still a great Peter Parker, wrestling not just with great power and great responsibility but with girl troubles and the expectations of being Iron Man’s heir apparent. His party of friends on the most lethal of school trips are all great value for money especially in their reactions to the city-destroying dangers happening around them. Even as Peter is trying to steer them away from disaster hotspots, a recently de-snapped and unusually information-light Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) counter-steers them right back to get Spider-Man where he’s needed with the least amount of fuss. Jake Batalon, Angourie Rice and Zendaya in particular stand out among Peter’s class, the latter reaffirming that she was perfect casting for MJ with heart, attitude and self-awareness.
As entertaining as they both are, they could have probably dialled back on the comic relief teachers (Martin Starr and JB Smoove) a little. I would also hope nobody working in the education sector (not even in a comic book movie) is that trusting of really dodgy-looking bearded men in tactical gear.
The mid-credits scene sets up a giddily exciting next film, throwing Spidey’s world wide open and and putting him in a position we’ve never seen him in before. It also made me ludicrously happy in another regard with one simple act. You’ll know it when you see it.
Spider-Man: Far From Home has all the best aspects of Homecoming (charm, humour, great performances) and none of the drawbacks (extraneous plot, cameos from Avengers). It fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely but is allowed to be its own thing and tell a good standalone story built around character. The propulsive action and next-level reality-blurring visuals are just the webbing on the cake. This Peter Parker is here to stay, and despite being snapped out of existence and back again, his greatest challenges still lie ahead… SSP