(SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this review if you haven’t watched Avengers: Endgame yet, because the ending connects directly to this movie. However, if you waited this long to see Endgame, the Internet probably spoiled it for you already.)
Allow me to digress for a moment and say this—For everyone who religiously followed the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years and years, since Iron Man released in theaters in 2008, Endgame was, and still is, an event of paramount importance. Everyone whom galactic warlord Thanos snapped into dust with the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers: Infinity War was brought back to life five years later in Endgame. But it was a bittersweet ending—we lost Iron Man/Tony Stark, Black Widow/Natasha Romanov, and Vision, and Captain America/Steve Rogers gave up his shield and traveled back in time to be with Peggy Carter, the love of his life. After all that hullabaloo, here comes Spider-Man: Far From Home, both the third and final Marvel movie of 2019 and the last entry in Phase 3 of the MCU. While it can’t match up to the perfection of Spider-Man: Homecoming, it manages to shoulder the burden of helping the MCU move onward to Phase 4 after Endgame‘s heartbreaking conclusion and provides the audience with some good old superhero action and comedy via our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Directed by Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cop Car), Far From Home follows Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pixar’s Onward) as he travels abroad to Europe for the summer with his high-school peers, ready to take a break from his crime-fighting responsibilities. However, trouble dogs him there as former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable), after initially getting “ghosted” by Peter, tracks him down and partners him with Quentin Beck, or rather Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain, Velvet Buzzsaw), in order to save the planet from the Elementals—a quadruplet of primordial beasts made of fire, water, wind, and earth.
In Marvel comics and movies, Peter Parker has always been one of the best superheroes out there. Striving to do good for people while wearing his Spider-Man suit, he’s a relatable young man who constantly confronts life’s everyday anxieties and tribulations like the rest of the world. We empathize with him for his human vulnerabilities. This makes Far From Home an appropriate follow-up to Endgame, settling us down from the latter’s cosmic consequences with a relatively humble superhero story. However, because Peter goes gallivanting to places like Venice and London and ends up having to wrangle enemies as monstrous and absurd as the Elementals, the story suffers by straying away from his classic New York roots. Compare this with Homecoming, which concentrates on the friendly-neighborhood-superhero aspect of Peter and keeps the narrative localized in NY. It also takes a break from the trope of superheroes having to save the world, the galaxy, or even the universe from murderous megalomaniacs by featuring Michael Keaton’s Vulture as the main villain—a guy who has no tyrannical ambitions but merely wants to support his family by way of small-time weapons dealing. Granted, it’s not completely fair to make comparisons to something as amazing as Homecoming, but still, the overly fantastic approach of Far From Home is the primary issue for me.
It is a compliment when I express my surprise at the movie’s success at experimenting with the apparent constraints of its superhero-genre niche by interweaving its story with the upbeat humor and entertaining hijinks of a John Hughes-esque teen comedy. The tone may be most obvious during the opening scene, which is hilarious yet believable as it shows how the high school students are coping with half the world coming back alive—a pivotal event that somehow gains an innocuous-sounding moniker, “The Blip.”
Then there’s the budding romance between Peter and his offbeat classmate MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Euphoria), which is quite enjoyable to watch. Since his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Holland continues to play Peter with innocence and slight immaturity, yet convinces the audience that a teenager like him is capable of summoning the courage to fight crime. Whenever Zendaya is onscreen, she pretty much steals the show from Holland, spicing up their interactions by casually tossing out darkly humorous quips left and right, and ultimately making them a ship worth rooting for.
Of course, this is still a Spider-Man movie, so you’re going to expect webs splattering and zipping all over the place, tingling Spider-Senses, the latest Spider-Suit varieties (Far From Home offers the black Stealth Suit), and basically fun superhero action. Far From Home delivers on all those requirements, although the Elementals, as run-of-the-mill bestial enemies, aren’t anything to write home about. Fortunately, this gets offset by Mysterio, a new superhero who hails from Earth in an alternate dimension, introducing the concept of the Multiverse into the MCU. The thing is, Mysterio is actually a villain in the comics. Failing at his dreams for fame and fortune as a Hollywood visual effects artist, he resorts to using his unparalleled knack for holograms and other illusion-based gear to commit crimes. This is why I was taken aback by the trailers, because they presented Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio as one of the good guys, making me question whether or not he would turn out to be a villain. Without spoiling things, I will say that I’m glad Far From Home is able to take him beyond the comics and adeptly pull off the “twist,” if you can call it that, in his arc. I also appreciate how the movie stays true to his comic-book roots through his flashy costume. He retains the grand purple cape and the foggy fishbowl helmet, and although the green fabric of his outfit is replaced by golden armor, he keeps the green color scheme in the lasers and forcefields that he projects.
Keep in mind that, on top of everything else, the movie is a tribute to Tony Stark. It includes E.D.I.T.H., which is essentially his spin on Google Glass; his former bodyguard/confidante Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, Made, Chef), who is now assigned to Peter; the persistent pressures Peter feels to live up to his mentor’s expectations; and a cathartic scene in an engineering lab where Peter, suffice to say, becomes reminiscent of Tony. In my personal opinion, the movie even finds time to give minor commentary on the increasingly outrageous events of our modern world and the fact that people are willing to believe in the most preposterous things as a result.
Spider-Man: Far From Home, which recently hauled in one billion dollars at the global box office, proves to be yet another compelling adventure for the web-swinging superhero, and should keep you satisfied until Black Widow comes out next May. As always, stay till the end of the movie for the mid- and the post-credits scenes. Both of them will blow your mind.
Windup score: 90/100