Movie Review: Spider-Man — Far From Home

It is hard to conceive that Spider-Man, one of the biggest heroes in the world, was once not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now that Peter Parker is an integral member of the pantheon and the MCU is one of the most lucrative franchises at the global box office, it feels natural. Spider-Man: Far From Home officially closes out the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a sort of epilogue. It’s a fun movie, but most importantly it understands what makes its hero work.

Eight months after the “blip” brought half of the world’s population back from Thanos’ snap, Peter Parker (Tom Holland, Avengers: Endgame) is ready to take a break from super heroics and go on a school trip to Europe. Almost immediately upon arrival in Venice, Peter is enlisted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Captain Marvel) to team up with the alternate universe magician Quentin “Mysterio” Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Velvet Buzzsaw) to fight the Elementals that destroyed Earth-833.

Far From Home contextualises precisely what the fallout of Endgame was in a humorous way, defusing the trauma that people who had lived through the events would have felt; the opening scene is such a tongue in cheek tribute that makes it immediately feel good to laugh at Marvel again. Not everything has to be taken seriously, and the tone strikes a careful balance without ever dipping into the maudlin.

Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming) returns to direct, showcasing his understanding of Peter Parker and his friends. The film longs for the urbanity of Homecoming, and uses none of the obvious shots that one might expect from a travelogue film. For the most part Far From Home is content to look vaguely European rather than specifically so. Watts handles the transition from small stakes to world stage well and aptly prepares Peter for works on a global scale. There are nightmarish scenes that utilise special effects well but, most importantly, Spider-Man remains Spider-Man in and out of the suit, even if his Peter Tingle is a little bit rusty

Uncle Ben, although never cast and only barely alluded to, continues to permeate the character’s core. Peter is constantly searching for a father figure, first in Tony Stark and then in Mysterio. His puppy dog like need for validation is his weakness, and Chris McKenna and Eric Sommers’ (Ant-Man and the Wasp) leans heavily on this dynamic. The concept of Peter trying to distance himself from his Spider duties isn’t a new idea for the Spider brand, but any super hero template works when it’s done well enough (and isn’t Spider-Man’s origin story). Choosing to set this particular crisis of conscience in Prague works.

Gyllenhaal brings a special mania to the fishbowl wearing Mysterio, one of the more iconic Spider-Man characters, and he understands implicitly how to bounce off Holland. A glib and smooth narratologist, Mysterio is skilled at telling people what they want to hear, and knows that they will never question the gaudiness of his get-up. Peter’s statistical anomaly classmates are along for the ride, with special mention due to Angourie Rice (TV’s Black Mirror) as Betty Brant, hilarious as Ned Leeds’ (Jacob Batalon, Banana Split) summer girlfriend. As MJ, Zendaya (TV’s Euphoria) has to soften her initial performance slightly and it doesn’t entirely work; it is one of the few parts of Far From Home that feels almost exclusively like table setting.

With Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel has trusted Sony to be the rear and vanguard for its future plans. Featuring footage and callbacks to earlier MCU films, it could well be Iron Man 5, or Iron Man Junior, but Jon Favreau (Avengers: Endgame) is an effective bridge and centre for the passing of the baton from Tony Stark to Peter Parker. The Spider-Man franchise now truly feels at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a palate cleansing sorbet of a movie after the incredibly heavy course that was Avengers: Endgame. Making the shift from friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to globe trotting hero is a big decision from which there is no return, and it remains to be seen if it’s a peak arrived at too soon. Far From Home is good on its own terms, yet it works best as a prelude to whatever the next ten years of this undertaking holds.

Spider-Man: Far From Home opened in Australian cinemas on July 1, 2019.

Directed by: Jon Watts.

Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Bataillon, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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