Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Peter needs a vacation…
Dealing with Peter’s desire to be a kid with his friends and with the heartbreaking loss endured in Avengers: Endgame, this is a satisfying follow-up to 2017’s Homecoming.
Starring Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, and Samuel L. Jackson
Released by Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
When Marvel’s most arguably iconic hero made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, it provided a crowd-pleasing moment that helped give just a taste of the potential that Peter Parker had in the shared world first established by Iron Man in 2008. That potential was further glimpsed in the next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, further embedding this vision of Peter in with the tapestry of the MCU and the character that ushered it in. Peter also turned out to be a wonderful and substantive addition to the events of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but that latter film ended up destroying what Peter thought was a rock of reliance in his world.
Now, Peter is back in his next solo adventure in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the follow-up to his original MCU outing and the first time we get to see exactly how the 16-year old superhero deals with the sweeping and disruptive events of Avengers: Endgame. Peter is now forced to live in a world without one of his most important guiding pillars, and the eventual result of his constantly being told that it’s time to grow up and accept even more responsibility than he already has is both human and understandable: he just wants to hold onto being a kid for a little while longer, and have some fun on a trip abroad with his friends.
Too bad that other people of both heroic and villainous persuasions have other plans for him.
Similarly to the way that Homecoming was executed in 2017, Spidey’s latest solo film isn’t totally a “solo” affair. While the team-up attributes in Far From Home aren’t quite as central to most of the new movie’s plot, the presence of previous MCU characters including Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) means that the leash isn’t totally off of Peter over the course of this film.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as Peter is still just a 16-year old kid (relatively speaking, at least, due to the events of Infinity War and Endgame). He could still use some guidance, but he also very clearly wants to be someone who can still spend time with his friends. When a group of ancient forces known as “Elementals” start invading the planet and causing potentially global levels of destruction, Peter has to put his desire to be a kid aside in order to serve at the behest of Nick Fury and partner up with an apparent hero from an alternate Earth: Quentin Beck, aka Mysetrio.
For those who are fans of the comics, this description may seem a bit odd for Mysterio. However, like a lot of previous MCU adaptations of characters from the source material, the movie doesn’t forget the function that Mysterio has often served in his comics appearances and takes the character in a direction that is technically new, but also feels very truthful to what we’ve seen from him before both in comics pages and in other media, while also snugly fitting within established events of the MCU. It’s because of that late-breaking truthfulness that Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a rather terrific performance as Quentin Beck, making for arguably one of the most inspired adaptations of a comics character to date in the ongoing saga of Marvel Studios’ grand cinematic experiment.
There are also just a lot of sweet moments that help to serve as a reminder that Peter is, effectively, still a kid, which is an important fact to be reminded of as we watch him deal with the impossible. While he has a great deal of added responsibility due to his identity as a superhero and as someone seen as an heir-apparent to a longstanding Avenger in this story, he also just wants to make a good impression on the girl that he has feelings for, MJ (played by Zendaya), and to spend some quality time with his buddy Ned (played by Jacob Batalon).
That’s what helps make Far From Home an effective Spider-Man movie: it continues from the lessons learned in Homecoming which helped show the melodramatic weight that can come from a teenaged superhero, something we’d never seen in Spidey’s major movies to this extent prior to 2017, which are also some of the things that make classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko issues of Amazing Spider-Man still so timeless.
There are some potential issues, though, including one brief scene that upends the table of Spidey’s status quo in a way that is strikingly reminiscent of a mistake that Marvel Comics itself made with the comics version of Spider-Man over a decade ago. Marvel editors at the time scrambled to undo their own mistake in a very sloppy way, so hopefully the filmmakers have a strategy planned out about how they can sidestep some problems that the comics ran into with a specific storytelling choice made pretty late in this film.
Overall, though, Spider-Man: Far From Home continues the fun exuberance we first glimpsed in Homecoming while also allowing Peter to grow and to come to terms with his place in the world after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Spider-Man will return, of course, and here’s hoping that the whole creative team behind his MCU adventures can stick the landing after two solid and fun outings.
But hey, as Spidey himself has known perhaps far longer than the rest of us, fake news can be a really dangerous thing.