Synopsis – Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.
My Take – Ever since his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 all the way back in 1962, Spider-Man continues to remain one of the most popular superheroes characters and franchises to have been ever created.
Moving from comic book pages to various animated series to video games to big screen appearances in the form of the Tobey Maguire led trilogy to Andrew Garfield‘s two Amazing Spider-Man films to MCU‘s Spider-Man: Homecoming to last year’s brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, fans have been continuously blessed with the presence of the web-slinger.
However, coming off the heels of massive epic, Avengers: Endgame, it was clear that this would be the first Spider-Man film that would truly feel different. And considering the dark cloud Avengers: Endgame has left us with, it comes as a relief how this Jon Watts directed film cuts through the gloom with a shimmering multi-colored laser beam of action, heart and a large amount of laughs.
Unlike recent MCU entries, the centerpiece of this film is not the superhero’s extraordinary world-saving, but the budding romance between the very ordinary human characters.
It might be more accurate to describe this film as a genre fusion of romantic comedy and action-comedy under the disguise of a superhero film, since the scale of the world-saving and the stakes for the final showdown are very much limited compared to what just happened in previous films.
For the record, this can be viewed as a 129 minutes long Endgame epilogue. And although it doesn’t deep dive into the repercussions of Thanos’s infamous snap, known here as The Blip, it does explore how the world is adjusting to the reappearance of half its population after a five-year absence.
While doing so it further enhances the characterizations of the people we first met in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and most importantly shows the growth of Peter Parker as a character. While I agree that this may not be the best Spider-Man film ever made (I think Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes the cake for that), this latest Marvel Studios film happens to be fantastic nonetheless.
Picking up shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the story follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) aka Spider-Man, who is still mourning the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) aka Iron Man, and is overwhelmed by having Tony’s legacy put upon his shoulders and the world’s expectations to in some way replace him.
Desperately wanting a break from his friendly neighborhood superhero gig, Peter decides to join his classmates, Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), and others on a summer trip across Europe, especially with a hope to spend some personal time with his crush Michelle “MJ” (Zendaya).
Unfortunately for him, all his plans go down the drain, as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) forcefully recruit him in their mission to fight the Elementals, a bunch of destructive creatures that take the form of water, fire, earth and air. Aiding them in this mission is Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a newly-introduced superhero who claims to come from an alternative reality which has already been devastated by the Elementals.
That’s only about half of the film, and due to the film’s twisty nature, it’s practically impossible to talk about what happens after the one-hour mark without spoilers. That said, the film does become a more interesting experience from this point, in the sense sometimes trippy.
I will be honest, I had an absolute blast watching this film. Sure, it does feel slow throughout the first act but in terms of being a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and the enormous events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, this film is near-perfect at accomplishing that.
With Thanos firmly in the MCU’s rear view, they’re free to focus on advancing Parker’s personal journey. For those who have found some of Marvel’s recent output to be bloated and self-serious, this will come as a welcome tonic.
Here, Stark’s absence, as well as that of several other Avengers, extends far beyond Peter’s purview. The entire planet is slowly but surely recovering from the shock of ‘the blip’, which saw half of all life in the universe vanish only to snap back into existence just as suddenly.
Yet while this momentary mass extinction event raises a lot of questions, returning series director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers don’t allow their film to become bogged down by the epic conclusion to Endgame and all its messy, earth-shattering ramifications.
I also like that even though Mysterio gets a fair amount of screen and story time, he isn’t ultimately the most important part of the film. He’s at the center of things, obviously, but the eventual circumstances behind who he is and what’s actually going on reorient what we think the film is about in such a way as to make it both more intense but also smaller and more directly about Peter’s personal development.
I was initially disappointed because it seemed like the playing hero angle was building to kind of a self-aware riff on Marvel’s own self-promotion machine. That might be funny but that’s not exactly what they do. I like that they’re instead continuing to lean hard on the idea of supervillains being dangerous even without the costumes and nicknames because they’re still criminals.
However, it’s the lighter moments where the film shines the brightest. The awkward shuffle of adolescent attraction and denial are moments of pure charm and utterly convincing. It also helps that the other trip romance, involving Ned and Betty is perfectly toe-curling. It used to be that sending characters on holiday signal sequel desperation. Here, it’s used to the best effect. Not one single “are foreigners funny” gag, unless you count how wonderfully accommodating and nice people are in the Netherlands.
The fight scenes are also stylistically very reminiscent of the comic book, in the sense very colorful. A large chunk of the film feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, which is great for kids and adults who appreciate slick superficiality, with one particular dream-like action sequence standing out of the most, but it may alienate viewers who responded more positively to the solemnity of the last Avengers epics.
Normally I don’t make it a point to talk about the post-credits scenes for these films during a review, but these scenes may just be the most important ones to stick around for yet. There are two of them and they really do require your attention. Seeming to open up the world more than it already has been throughout the years, in terms of connectivity, there are some jaw-dropping moments throughout these two scenes. I can’t wait to see what both of these mean for future installments.
Coming to the minor flaws of the film, which mainly reside in the potential plot holes incurred by the plot twist in the third act, the exposition provided by the film’s narrative might not be sufficient enough to warrant the suspension of disbelief for some viewers.
Also unfortunately, despite how unique his power set may seem like, in the end, Mysterio doesn’t seem that great of a threat to Parker, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture. While Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in his role, the character gets a bit dumb downed in the overblown climax.
However, as one would expect, the film’s biggest sell is Tom Holland, who continues to prove why he was born to play this character. His devotion to having fun with the character and also delivering an emotionally charged performance when it’s required, I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of his rendition of the character. On top of that, he shares quite an infectious chemistry with Jake Gylennhall.
The other impressive turn comes from Zendaya, who unlike most superhero love interest, does not play the typical dumbed-down background eye-candy, and manages to chew every scene she is present in. In supporting roles, Samuel L Jackson still clearly loves playing Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders is likable as always, Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau get to expand their roles.
Jacob Batalon and Angourie Rice also get more screen time and develop as real characters. In smaller roles, Tony Revolori, JB Smoove, Martin Starr, Numan Acar and Remi Hii are also good. On the whole, ‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’ is an excellent superhero blockbuster that is filled with an engaging story, thrilling action scenes, and a grounded heartfelt performance from its leads.
Directed – Jon Watts
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 129 minutes