Serving as the “official” end-cap to Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel in what it presents to viewers – but as a point of order, I don’t think that’s what Marvel wants or needs at this point in their decade-plus evolution of interconnected films. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers type of adventure, but by being so, it allows for a “breather” of sorts in the wake of the emotional roller-coaster that was the preceding film, ‘Avengers: Endgame.’
Make no mistake: the fallout of the events featured in ‘Endgame’ are very much front and center in this film. Opening with a very funny “special news report” produced by the students of Midtown School of Science and Technology for their in-school TV channel, we are given a very brief overview of what happened when Thanos’ “Snappening” was undone and half the world’s population was suddenly returned, unharmed and un-aged, five years later. The colloquial name of “The Blip” has been adopted, and as one might expect, the complications post-event are plentiful.
‘Far From Home,’ of course, focuses squarely on the impact The Blip had on Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates. With a little bit of the patented Marvel semi-confusing hand-waving, things get “back to normal-ish” as quickly as possible, to allow the primary plot of the film to progress: Peter and his classmates are off for a European field trip/vacation, and while Peter wants nothing more than to enjoy his teenage time by hanging with his friends and trying to figure out how to best tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her, he has a greater calling and obligation. There are world-threatening entities on the loose (isn’t that always the way), and with great power, as you may remember, comes great responsibility.
Spidey gets a visit from the cobbled-together remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. (at least, what the movie version of the MCU wishes to show us, as no one from the ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ TV show comes around to assist) – specifically, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), with an assist from newcomer Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal). Beck claims to be from an “alternate Earth,” ostensibly implying the existence of a multiverse for the MCU to play in. Beck tells us that he has come to the MCU Earth (specifically labeled as “Earth-616,” for us hard-core comic-book fans who are in on the joke) after his Earth was destroyed by the Elementals, ancient beings composed of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Cue the ‘Captain Planet’ jokes.
The Elementals have now made their way to Earth-616, and Beck would valiantly like to help save this world from them, as he failed to do with his. As with many of the situations presented throughout the eleven-year history of the MCU, however, things are not always as they seem.
This is the point where, in my opinion, it is actually a detriment to be watching ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ as a long-time Spider-Man comic book fan. You’ll have information in your head about certain characters and their motivations that the “average” MCU viewer won’t, and this will be guiding you directly towards a conclusion about situations and characters that feel inevitable from the moment you see them on the screen.
I’m trying to keep things spoiler-free for you, of course, so it’s hard to dive into too many specifics here. Perhaps I can share another, more spoiler-heavy review soon, to better discuss the nuances of the characters and their true motivations, but suffice it to say: ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ has some of the most comic-accurate characters that the MCU has ever given us on-screen. On this front, too, it’s no spoiler to say that the dichotomy of teenager and superhero – and the inevitable internal conflict that comes from trying to exist in both worlds – is one that Holland has been really excelling in showing to audiences, and he continues to nail it in this film.
Other standout performances are Zendaya, particularly in her interactions with Holland, and Gyllenhaal plays Beck – code-named Mysterio, of course – to damn near perfection. Jacob Batalon always delights as Peter’s goofy friend Ned, and his character’s out-of-nowhere romance with Betty Brandt (Angourie Rice) makes for a fun B-plot. JB Smoove and Martin Starr excel in their scenes as the not-all-together chaperones of the students’ trip across Europe. It’s more than clear that director Jon Watts has a firm grip on what works well for these Spider-Tales, and presents us the best version he possibly can on-screen.
Is it a perfect film? Of course not – and I think I have yet to see “the perfect film.” Certain action scenes feel a bit rushed from a production standpoint, and there is the typical MCU matters of “convenience” in relation to plot points and items tying together very conveniently. This is all easily taken with grains of salt, however, as ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ delivers on both excellent character development and a fitting mode of closure for what has come before in the MCU.
Last word, for those of you who still need to be reminded of these things: there are credits scenes, both mid-credits and end credits. STAY SEATED, especially if you are a fan of the larger MCU in general. The mid-credits scene significantly changes where Spider-Man as a character will be progressing from here, and the post-credits scene begins to hint at the setup for what fans can expect from the MCU in Phase 4 – and again, if you’re a comic-book fan, you’ll likely get a little more out of this scene than the average viewer. Exciting stuff!