This week I readied my lazy self to once again to venture outside into the harsh world and seek out the magical oasis that is the cinema. My goal was simple: watch Spider-Man: Far From Home. And eat a crap-load of Haribo. So, two goals, but you get the point. And drink a load of Coke. Okay, three goals.
In case you didn’t read the title of this here ramble then let me give you an extra warning: this will be a SPOILER filled review of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and does also included SPOILERS for The Avengers: Endgame.
Firstly, in case you’re reading this without having watched the film let’s quickly run through the premise. Far From Home picks up after the events of The Avengers: Endgame. Peter Parker has been willed back into existence after being snapped out of existence for five years, helped defeat Thanos and now finds himself in a world without Tony Stark. He’s heading out on a school vacation and decides to leave the Spider suit behind, but of course things never work out like that. Nick Fury finds him and informs Peter that there’s a new elemental threat in town, and so Spider-Man must work together with the mysterious Mysterio to save the day. Oh, and maybe try to get the girl.
The snap that wiped half of the universe out of existence for five years was a pretty big deal. Going in to Far From Home I was intrigued so how the ramifications of that event would be handled, so I was a little annoyed to discover they it was largely glossed over. The film very briefly addresses it, flies over the convenient fact that Peter, all of his relevant classmates and his aunt were snapped away so that there’s no sudden age differences, and that everybody apparently came back exactly where they vanished, which must have caused some serious problems.
I get it. The Spider-Man films have a lighter tone, and for Peter the snap didn’t have a massive effect since everyone he closely knew was also snapped away. For him the world hasn’t changed that much, even in five years. But to me the snap and return of half the population of Earth was such a momentous thing that for the very first movie after Endgame to mostly ignore it felt wrong. I wanted to see the impact on the world, how people are handling it all. Ah well.
Homecoming spent a lot of time setting up the relationship between Peter and Tony Stark. While I’m still not entirely convinced about Tony playing a larger role in Peter’s life than Uncle Ben it was good to see the writers taking a different route the standard Spidey story while also tying him into the MCU more thoroughly. With Tony gone Peter is left feel not only devastated but also like there’s pressure on him to become the next Iron Man, even while he’s still trying to wrap his head around just being a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
The film plays with this whole concept brilliantly, I think. One of the core tenants of Spider-Man is that he always feels like he’s being pulled in different directions. The words of his Uncle Ben push him toward being a hero because he has power, but doing so typically puts his friends and family at risk. The other part of him just wants to live a normal life, fall in love, look after his Aunt and enjoy his friends. In Far From Home they play this up nicely, and adding the pressure of Tony’s death ramps those feelings up nicely. Peter is just a kid and so far out of his depth that it’s almost laughable.
I’m still a little torn on how I feel about the AC/DC scene, though. Basically Peter starts building a new costume using Tony Stark’s tech in the back of a plane, even putting his hand into a holographic glove just like Tony did in Iron Man. Happy Hogan slaps on AC/DC’s Back in Black, and it’s a hell of a moment. But perhaps it makes Peter out to be the next Iron Man after all which is a direction I don’t want them to go in. Spider-Man is Spider-Man, and Iron Man was Iron Man. Hopefully they do exactly what Tony once said and make Spider-Man’s journey be one about becoming better than Tony was.
A bit like Homecoming there’s a twist when it comes to who exactly the villain is. It doesn’t work quite as well here simply because even a casual Spider-Man comic fan is aware that Mysterio is historically a villain, so learning that he’s bee secretly manipulating everyone isn’t exactly a shock. However, for people who only know Spider-Man from the movies, especially the MCU films, I imagine this was a fun twist, albeit not quite as cool and sinister as Homecoming’s.
But I didn’t like how the twist actually played out. Mysterio reveals his nefarious plan in a pub. He was previously an employee of Tony Stark who developed amazing holographic tech that Stark didn’t think much of. Helping Mysterio is a bunch of other former employees. It’s a cool idea, but everything gets explained in an awkward scene that fires off exposition like a machine gun that’s become sentient and despises humans. At first the way Mysterio is standing on the table and reeling off every single person’s history and role in the illusion is kind of funny, but then it quickly becomes…stupid. It’s like a schlocky comic-book scene, and not the good king.
Thankfully that didn’t ruin how much I enjoyed Mysterio in this movie. Until the reveal Jake Gyllenhaal plays him with such charm and likeability that I actually found myself wanting him to be a good guy, for the twist to be that for at least this one movie Mysterio was going to be Spider-Man’s friend. Of course, things don’t play out like that and Mysterio is truly the bad guy, but I got the sense that he did genuinely like Peter and didn’t want to hurt him. They should have played that up a little more.
Once the secret is out I think it’s fair to say that they struggled to make Mysterio feel threatening. This was always going to be a bit of a problem since underneath the clever use of special effects Mysterio is just Quentin Beck, a perfectly normal human incapable of going up against Spider-Man in anything resembling a direct fight. To combat this in the film they give Mysterio an army of drones, but these are nothing more than a bunch of floating machines for Spidey to smash to pieces. It’s the same problem that many of the MCU films have: an army of generic things for the heroes to fight.
Still, Gyllenhaal continued to play him brilliantly, bringing in a more manic, unhinged side to the character now that the audience could see behind the curtain.
Because Mysterio is all about his illusions it was fun to see Far From Home try to tackle the topic of Spider-Sense which has been…er, vague in the previous films. Since Spidey’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War its been hard to say whether they wanted Spider-Man to have his spider-sense or not, which is kind of understandable because it’s a difficult thing to visualize on screen. In Civil War and Homecoming he didn’t seem to have it, but then in Infinity War he does. In Far From Home they address the fact that he does actually have a special “Peter Tingle” but it hasn’t been working because of…reasons?
That brings me to the best sequences in the entire movie: Mysterio’s illusions. They’re conceptually a lot like the trippy sequences from Doctor Strange, and make for a perfect excuse to have a scene where Peter finally gets control of his Spider-sense and uses it to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. Visually these sequences are spectacular and I utterly loved them. Now they just have to remember that Peter has his Spider–sense working in future movies.
I also loved how early in the movie Mysterio moved and fought suspiciously like Iron Man. The way he flew, for example, and the blasts he fired from his hands resembled Iron Man and I wonder if that was a deliberate idea formed by Mysterio to help the world connect to the character, and to make Spider-Man subconsciously more trusting of him.
Outside of Spider-Man and Mysterio the supporting cast do get a little buried this time around, but the writers give them some stuff to do. Poor Ned doesn’t get to be Peter’s man in the chair this time, so instead he gets a whirlwind romance with Betty Brant that spans a couple of days and is bloody hilarious. The way he and Betty have broken up by the end on perfectly amiable terms made me genuinely laugh.
And then there’s MJ, a character I had mixed feelings about in Homecoming. The problem for me was never that she was so different from her comic-book counterpart, but rather that because she was so different I just didn’t seen the point in calling her MJ. She isn’t MJ, and as far as I can tell doesn’t share a single trait with the hyper, red-headed firebomb from the comics. So what was the point in calling her MJ? Just make a new character since that’s what you’ve essentially done anyway.
With that little rant out of the way, though, she came into her own in this film. Like Peter she’s socially awkward due to constantly blurting out stuff about conspiracy theories or dark facts, and she has superb chemistry with Peter. I liked that she figured out that Peter was Spider-Man and unlike Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane in the Raimi trilogy she never wound up being a damsel in distress. With that said, she didn’t get a whole lot to actually do. Say what you like about the Amazing Spider-Man movies but at least Gwen Stacy felt like she was proactive. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing things play out between MJ and Peter in the future, and hope they avoid going down the teenage angst or love-triangle routes too much. MJ needs to be a partner for Peter, someone who may not have powers but can stand with him.
It was also great to see Happy Hogan getting some screentime. In Homecoming I loved the way he found Peter a bit annoying and tried to act like he didn’t give a damn but did actually genuinely care about the kid from Queens. With Tony Stark gone he doesn’t try to hide things as much in Far From Home and is more openly caring about Peter. Mind you, that could just be because Happy is getting some happy time with Aunt May. Eh? eh!? EH!?
Finally, there are two scenes during the credits that set up some interesting stuff for the Wall-crawler going forward. The first is that Mysterio is in dying (?) moments filmed footage that blamed Spider-Man for the drone attacks and that framed Spidey for the death (?) of Spider-Man. Going the extra step Mysterio also revealed Spider-Man’s face and identity. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! And if that wasn’t enough good old J. Jonah Jameson makes his MCU debut played by none other than J.K. Simmons, the legend who played Jameson in the Raimi trilogy.
Okay, I love this setup. Spidey being public enemy number one has long been a staple of the comics, and there have also been a few times when his identity has been public knowledge, like when he revealed it in the Civil War books. I’m just really hoping they don’t ditch this angle, a bit like how they did with Loki impersonating Odin in Thor Ragnarock. There’s a lot of good story potential here that ties in with Peter’s fears about endangering those he loves. While I’m sure the Avengers won’t be dumb enough to buy into Mysterio’s video and will likely vouch for Spider-Man, the public should be kept mistrustful of Spidey to create a more interesting dynamic. With careful writing this really could make Spider-Man’s place in the wider MCU so much more interesting.
The last scene of course reveals that Nick Fury and Mariah Hill are currently being impersonated by two Skrulls, while the real Nick Fury is on a Skrull ship somewhere in space. This obviously acts as a convenient explanation as to why the Nick Fury we see on Earth is unusually trusting of Mysterio whereas the real Fury probably would have had some more doubts. Now, I’ve still not bothered watching Captain Marvel so the implications here are harder for me to grasp, so I’m not gong to speculate.
Before I wrap up this rambling mess of words I want to speak in more general terms about the action, tone and all that malarkey. Overall, the pacing of Far From Home felt really nice with a good balance of time between Peter Parker and his problems, and Spider-Man. Perhaps the movie rushed to get Peter on his vacation, which is why that hilarious cop scene from the trailers was presumably cut out, but for the most part it nipped along at a nice rate and managed to fit a lot while never feeling bloated or too long.
The action was pretty good, too, if maybe a little lacking in true tension or a sense of consequences. There was one sequence with Spider-Man trying to hold up a tower that would have been more impactful with innocent people shown trying to get out of the way, for example. Some more practical work would have also been nice throughout the movie and especially the action scenes, but then again considering the way Spidey needs to move it’s understandable that CGI is used so heavily.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Homecoming I thin Far From Home surpasses it. Keaton’s Vulture felt like a more intimidating foe, but Jake Gylnhall does a great job of bringing Mysterio to the big screen, while Tom Holland continues to kill it as Peter Parker. Fun action, good comedy and some fantastic character beats were the cherries on top. Then the film went the extra mile and left me excited about seeing what the future holds for my favorite comic-book hero. I want to know how things play out between Peter and MJ, I want to know how the world will react to Mysterio outing Spider-Man’s identity and more than all that I want to see Peter Parker become the Spider-Man we all know he can be.