An enjoyable flick with great characters, although the story beats felt a little derivative.
After “the blip”, millions of people are miraculously brought back to life and Peter Parker returns to school. Having had a harrowing experience against Thanos, Parker just wants to have a quiet summer vacation. Unfortunately Nick Fury really needs him to team up with a mysterious new ally and save the world.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe shaken by the events of the Avengers: Endgame double bill, audiences might find themselves a little perplexed by the continuation of the franchise. Of course, there was no doubt that it would, but after such a huge event it is surprising to see a continuation of the story three months later.
So Spider-Man: Far From Home has quite a big hurdle to cross, and for the most part it succeeds. The joint venture from Sony Pictures and Marvel/Disney wants to keep the Spider-Man films relatively light in tone, so we are introduced straight away to a baffling use of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, accompanying a high school-produced video honouring the lost heroes from Avengers: Endgame. It is a tone that the film never quite drops.
It should be said, and obvious, Spider-Man: Far from Home (and talking about it) has massive Avengers: Endgame spoilers.
Directed by the same man behind the previous Spidey flick, Jon Watts, the storyline follows Tom Holland’s Peter, his class, and his ridiculous teachers as they go on a summer school trip to Europe. A school trip that is quickly taken over in an aggressive recruitment strategy of Nick Fury’s, who is desperate to get Peter working with the Avengers to stop a world-ending threat. More specifically, to assist a new hero who has emerged, Quentin Beck, dubbed “Mysterio” by the local news channels.
There’s a lot of fun to be had on this trip to Europe. We have Peter Parker desperately trying have a normal life, win over MJ’s affections, and ward off other competing suitors, while his friends and teachers find themselves in their own antics, and Samuel L. Jackson is in full force tearing up the scenery as Nick Fury. We even have Jon Faveau returning as Happy Hogan, the late Tony Stark’s assistant, apparently getting comfortable with Peter’s Aunt May.
But beside all of this levity, the film does address the absence of Tony Stark, and the vacuum his departure has made. In fact, this Spider-Man film is as much about Stark as it is about its titular character. Peter is entrusted by Stark posthumously with special glasses with incredible technological abilities. These become vitally important to the plot.
It is safe to say that the characters are all excellent here, Tom Holland is most definitely settled as Peter Parker, and the writing is a lot of fun. Even though the screenplay at times feels derivative.
Spoilers for the film ahead: as Sony/Marvel actually managed to subvert audiences with the trailer rather than spoil everything! Well done guys.
The plot follows our hero meeting Quentin Beck, a traveler from another dimension’s Earth. He is hellbent on stopping the Elementals, four powerful entities from the core of the galaxy, from destroying Earth like it did his own. His suit’s enigmatic stylings has him nicknamed “Mysterio” by Italian press, and Nick Fury sees him as a potential replacement as the leader of the Avengers. This trust is shared by Peter. For the audience, Jake Gyllenhaal’s casting for Quentin is perfect; a big name star that could potentially be a new Avenger.
This trust is earned very quickly, and the threat they face is very generic; “elemental monsters”, and the Earth-saving showdown was apparently within the first act! This of course, is not true; Mysterio is a villain who is playing everyone for the sole purpose of being recognised as a hero.
This is clever, it does go against the MCU formula, but it also feels a little familiar. Quentin’s motivations are almost the same as Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, scorned by Tony Stark’s ego, lived in Stark’s shadow etc, while the betrayal of trust and reveal of the villain is not dissimilar to Sam Raimi’s 2004 Spider-Man 2. Here it certainly isn’t as well written; Quentin is accepted as a friend as quickly as we are told he is a villain. The lie is also evident in what the screenplay writers don’t show: no pre-title stinger showing Quentin’s backstory, he just shows up. All his motivations are poured into a heavy-handed expositional villain speech.
But, Mysterio on the whole is handed extremely well, and faithfully to the source material. Almost all issues with the film are weighted into the first act, with the film getting progressively better as the pieces fall into place.
With the characters all on track and performing well, from Peter, MJ, Nick Fury, Mysterio and others, it is strange to believe that the action is perhaps the least compelling part. Early battles with the Elementals fall into the problems that the first act has; they are weightless as the screenplay is only getting started, nothing dramatic will happen so early (and it doesn’t), while later on the action is a lot of smashing of robots. Reminiscent of Iron Man 2‘s finale.
Throwing a lot of nitpicks isn’t exactly fair though. Far from Home also has the guile to use the events of Avengers: Endgame to great effect. Mysterio’s ulterior motives are linked to those events, and his ethics are defined by them too. As a charlatan, it is understandable he would attempt such a feat.
There is also some awesome visuals within the second act. Visuals that Mysterio uses to confuse and defeat Spider-Man. These are nightmarish and potentially scary for younger viewers, but for the MCU they were gripping and excitingly new. This film’s story should have leaned more into this aspect.
If the story hadn’t wasted time with so much comedy, and given more time to develop Quentin and Peter’s relationship (or even just Quentin himself) it could have been even stronger for it. There is a sequence on a bus that is almost pointless, and another scene with a blonde Avengers associate asking Peter to strip that was absolutely unnecessary.
Perhaps not as strong as Spider-Man: Homecoming, but certainly a decent MCU movie. It performs well as often as it stumbles, although when it shines it really shines.