‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Review: Another Fun Spidey Tale of Power and Responsibility
The following review contains no spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home. It does spoil the hell out of Avengers: Endgame, though, so be aware of that.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is best viewed as the dessert at the end of an elaborate and overindulgent tasting menu. You’ve already eaten six courses, you’re totally stuffed and in no mood for more food, and then they bring out the cookie sampler with eight different kinds of homemade sweets and of course you eat it and you’re even more full than before but it was worth it because the cookie sampler is amazing.
That’s Far From Home. Just two months after Avengers: Endgame — literally the biggest superhero movie ever created — I’m not sure anyone is dying for another Marvel movie already. But the one that Marvel (and Sony, who holds the big-screen rights to Spidey and co-produces his movies) have produced is light and frothy and sweet. It’s a lovely capper on the 23-course meal that has been the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
It’s also significantly smaller than Avengers: Endgame, with Spider-Man (Tom Holland) heading out of his friendly neighborhood with just a few sidekicks and friends. It may be called Far From Home, but metaphorically at least, the film doesn’t stray too far from the tried-and-true Spidey formula, with Peter Parker torn between the stuff he wants to do and the stuff he needs to do as a result of his great powers and responsibilities.
In the aftermath of Endgame and the death of Tony Stark and several other Avengers, Peter’s greatest responsibility is picking up the superhero slack around New York City. At the end of the last Spidey movie, 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 little while longer). With Tony Stark gone, Peter may not have a choice in the matter, particularly when super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) needs help on a particularly dangerous mission.
Peter tries to duck Fury by taking a summer vacation to Europe with classmates Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), and MJ (Zendaya) — who he’s crushing on big time. But Fury follows Peter to Venice, and drags him into his quest to stop a bunch of monsters called “The Elementals” with the help of a hero from an alternate reality named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Peter keeps trying to beg off so he can spend time with MJ.
Although a lot of the key supporting characters have all changed, Far From Home continues exploring the same ideas and themes as Spider-Man: Homecoming — namely a young man struggling to figure out the “right way” to become an adult, as laid out to him by a variety of male role models. 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 business. In Far From Home, Peter gets bounced between Fury’s grow-the-eff-up attitude and Mysterio’s far more supportive approach. (He’s also got Tony’s best friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) who’s still around to help Spidey and maybe spark a romance with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May.) Director Jon Watts enjoys upending audience’s expectations; just because a character looks like the right role model doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. In the Spider-Verse, as in life, adults are so often disappoint us.
Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers keep most of this stuff subtextual as Peter and his buddies bounce around Europe — Venice to Prague to Berlin to London — getting into one scrape after another. There is a decided (and somewhat disappointing) lack of web-swinging; Spider-Man’s powers aren’t necessarily ideal, from a cinematic action perspective, for a place like Venice. But Far From Home might be the funniest Spider-Man film to date, and it builds nicely, culminating in a sustained, intense setpiece on and around London’s Tower Bridge — followed by what has to be the best post-credits scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Thanos first popped his ugly purple mug out at the end of The Avengers.
I wouldn’t necessarily say Holland is the best Peter Parker, or Zendaya is the best MJ. But together they might be the best lead couple in the series. With wholesome, wide-eyed Holland and smirking, deadpan Zendaya, they make a perfect opposites-attract couple, and even though the Elementals and Mysterio takes up a lot of screentime, the movie never forgets Peter and MJ’s relationship. The two stars get several outstanding scenes together. (So do Favreau and Holland, who make another appealing onscreen combo. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May needs more scenes in the next movie, though.)
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man comics often pitted their young, idealistic hero against cynical, greedy adults. Many of Spidey’s villains can be seen as cautionary tales for Peter Parker — like Spidey, most got their powers in science experiments gone wrong; like Peter, most were brilliant scientists. If Peter strayed down the wrong path, he could wind up like Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin. These stories were thinly-veiled fables about coming of age, enlivened with plenty of action, romance, and gorgeous artwork.
Watts and his team faced a tough task with this movie, following two gigantic Avengers and the dimension-jumping Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Their smart solution was to tell a classical story in that Lee/Ditko mold. While no one says “with great power comes great responsibility,” this is about as faithful an adaptation of those old Amazing Spider-Man fables as has been brought to the screen so far. And it sets the stage perfectly, with a shocking cliffhanger, for whatever Marvel has in store for us next.
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