Directly following the behemoth of Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home confronts the potential pitfalls head-on.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr and Marisa Tomei
Any film that had to follow Avengers: Endgame would come under a certain amount of scrutiny. After all, where do you go after a universe-obliterating threat unites ridiculous quantities of superheroes against it? How can any other threat seem credible?
Far From Home succeeds by following Peter Parker (Tom Holland) through his emotional trauma as a result of the events of Endgame. Peter is still reeling from the loss of father figure and mentor Tony Stark, and finds it difficult to escape his grief when the media are constantly harassing him over replacing Iron Man as head of the Avengers. In a stark contrast to Homecoming, Peter just wants an ordinary summer away with his friends. Instead of dogmatically contacting Tony, eager for a seat at the table, Peter desperately tries to avoid his superhero duties, in favour of professing his feelings for classmate MJ (Zendaya). However, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has different plans, and needs Peter’s help with an “Avengers-level” threat.
Hailing from an alternate universe, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) warns Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) of the Elementals, creatures representing the four elements who threaten to destroy the planet. He requires Spider-Man’s help in defeating the threat, though Peter is desperately trying to juggle randomly disappearing from his school field trip without being noticed by his classmates or teachers. Peter and Mysterio have a brilliant and supportive relationship that is at clear odds to Peter’s relationship with Nick Fury, but is an important piece of character work that this film is strewn with.
Tom Holland continues to be utterly delightful as awkwardly endearing Peter Parker. His version of the character remains faithful to the comics by continuing to be a high school pupil and, unshackled from the “dead Uncle Ben” premise that has plagued his predecessors is able to thrive with considerable less angst. His quest to have a normal summer with his friends Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya) is a highly relatable one, and Holland plays the part with great nuance and depth as he struggles to balance his teen life and superhero identity. He firmly portrays the role of a teenager trying to live a normal existence, while having to shoulder more than he is meant to deal with.
Holland is ably supported comedically by Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), whose pithy back and forth is delightful to watch. Jackson’s deadpan delivery is at stark odds to Holland’s demeanour, and it’s great to see the roles reversed with Spider-Man attempting to maintain his ordinary life, while the previous film examined him attempting to escape it.
Zendaya continues to be delightful as the charming and utterly terrifying MJ, who shows that she is highly intelligent and capable in her own right in this instalment. The storyline nicely tips the whole “woman wholly oblivious to friend’s obvious secret identity” trope on its head, and Peter’s quest to win MJ over gives the whole movie a lighter tone. Unfortunately, Ned (Jacob Batalon) was somewhat neglected in this film, spending much of the instalment on the sidelines and not enjoying the same close relationship with Peter displayed in Homecoming, which was one of its great successes. Also underused was Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), though her moments were clear comic standouts.
The film is slow to build, but is broadly paced successfully, with many twists and turns that the audience would have struggled to predict. It’s nice to see a well-developed and nuanced Marvel villain, who extends beyond mere pantomime. In an about-turn from Endgame, Far From Home attempts to have more emotional stakes at play and takes a leaf out of Doctor Strange‘s book in presenting mind bending and visually stunning illusion sequences as enemies instead of multiple faceless adversaries. This created a genuine sense of worry and dread for the safety of both Peter and his friends.
Additionally, the field trip plot allowed for a high variety of locations that keep the film from becoming stale, though there are some moments where the high school drama – while a refreshing change in Marvel movies – becomes more frustrating than anything else.
It’s a film that examines the lasting effect of the past upon the present. While honouring the events that have come before it, it is keen to show present developments and character moments for Peter as he comes to terms with Tony’s death. The entire film is strewn with subtle emotional moments in the midst of the action. Fury’s outbursts at Peter frequently scratch at the surface of deep insecurities that he has, that he manages to overcome and combat by the close of the film. Meanwhile, the mid-credits and post-credits sequences open our eyes to the future of the MCU, leaving a whole new world of possibilities to explore. What comes next for Spider-Man is uncertain, but this new plot development definitely hasn’t been explored in either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man films, but is certainly bristling with excitement and potential.