Spider-Man: Far From Home Review
Spider-Man: Far From Home is light and sweet, a winning combination of high school comedy and superhero action. It serves as the dessert at the end of the six-course meal that was Marvel Studios’ third phase. I don’t think anyone is dying for another Marvel movie already, just two months after Avengers: Endgame. Fortunately, Far From Home is a lovely capper on the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
It’s also significantly smaller than Avengers: Endgame. Far From Home sees Spider-Man (Tom Holland) heading out of his friendly neighborhood with just a few friends. It may be called Far From Home, but the film doesn’t stray too far from the classic Spidey formula, with Peter Parker torn between what he wants and what responsibility demands.
Peter’s greatest responsibility in the aftermath of Endgame and the death of Tony Stark is picking up the superhero slack in New York City. At the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter rejected an offer to join the Avengers and instead decided to remain a small-time hero (and full-time teenager) for a bit longer. Since then, he’s been to space and brought back from the dead. And with Tony Stark gone, Peter is the one who has to pick up the superheroics for his mentor, especially when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) needs help with a mission.
Peter tries to ghost Fury by heading out on a summer vacation to Europe with classmates Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Flash (Tony Revolori), and MJ (Zendaya) – who he’s crushing on. But Fury follows Peter to Venice, and recruits him in a quest to stop some monsters called “The Elementals” with the help of a hero from another Earth named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Peter keeps trying to bail on his hero gig so he can spend time with MJ.
Although a majority of the key supporting characters have all changed, Far From Home continues exploring the same themes as Homecoming – namely a teenager trying to figure out the “right way” to become an adult. In Homecoming, Peter was caught between Tony Stark and Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, two different examples of what can happen to a man driven to succeed. In Far From Home, Peter gets bounced between Fury’s “grow the hell up” attitude and Mysterio’s more supportive and mentor-like approach. Peter’s also got Tony’s best friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) around to help Spidey out and maybe spark a romance with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. Director Jon Watts upends the audience’s expectations here; just because a character looks like the ideal role model doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. Much like in real life, the adults of the MCU often disappoint.
Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers keep most of this subtextual as Peter and his friends shuffle around Europe, getting into one scrape after another. There’s a definite lack of webswinging; Spider-Man’s powers aren’t exactly ideal for a locale like Venice. That said, Far From Home might be the funniest Spider-Man film to date. It speeds along at a nice clip, culminating in a sustained action set-piece in and around London’s Tower Bridge, followed by the best surprise post-credits cameo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Nick Fury first showed up in Tony Stark’s house back in 2008.
In my eyes, Holland is the best onscreen Peter Parker we’ve had. I wouldn’t say Zendaya is the best MJ, but together with Holland, the two are easily the best lead couple in the series. With wholesome, wide-eyed Holland balancing out Zendaya’s smirking, deadpan MJ, they make a perfect opposites-attract couple. While Mysterio and the Elementals takes up a lot of screentime, the movie never forgets about Peter and MJ. The two get several outstanding scenes together.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spidey comics often pitted their young, idealistic hero against cynical adults. Many of Spidey’s villains can be seen as cautionary tales for Peter. Like him, most got their powers in weird science experiments gone wrong; like Peter, many were brilliant scientists. If Peter strayed down the wrong path, he could end up like Doctor Octopus, Curt Connors, or the Green Goblin. These stories were thinly-veiled coming of age fables, enlivened with romance and action.
Watts and his team managed to follow two titanic Avengers movies and the dimension-hopping Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by telling one of these classic stories in the Lee/Ditko mold. This is about as faithful an adaptation of those old Amazing Spider-Man comics as has been brought to the screen so far. And it sets the stage perfectly for whatever Marvel has in store for us next.