Spider-Man: Far From Home

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Jon Watts

Starring

Jake Gyllenhaal Tom Holland Zendaya

Anticipation.

Always happy to spend a couple of hours in Tom Holland’s company.

Enjoyment.

As bouncy and breezy as a Spider-Man film should be.

In Retrospect.

A fun sojourn for the most part, but a rather awkward transition for the series as a whole.

After the events of Endgame, the world needs a new hero. And Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is ready to answer the call.

At the end of 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was right where he needed to be. Not just living in Queens with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) but also in the sense of having made a promise to himself to not let his responsibilities as a superhero prevent him from leading a normal teenage life. At the Avengers’ newly remodelled upstate HQ, Parker’s mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), offered to make him a fully paid-up member of the team. Instead he pledged to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

Since then, everything and nothing has changed. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Parker’s world looks much the same as it did two years ago. He’s still figuring out what it means to be a high school kid with special abilities and a secret identity, still waiting for the right moment to tell MJ (Zendaya) how he really feels about her, still mortified by May’s evidently active sex life. Only now he’s minus a father figure again, Stark having bitten the dust last time out through a sacrificial act that finally saw the Infinity Stones destroyed (belated spoilers).

Stark’s absence, as well as that of several other Avengers, extends far beyond Peter’s purview. The entire planet is slowly but surely recovering from the shock of ‘the blip’, which saw half of all life in the universe vanish only to snap back into existence just as suddenly. Yet while this momentary mass extinction event raises a lot of questions, returning series director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers don’t allow their film to become bogged down by the epic conclusion to Endgame and all its messy, earth-shattering ramifications.

With Thanos firmly in the MCU’s rearview, they’re free to focus on advancing Parker’s personal journey. For those who have found some of Marvel’s recent output to be bloated and self-serious, this will come as a welcome tonic. Because if the prospect of two plus hours of ‘Spidey Takes a Vacation’ seems somewhat frivolous, in many ways this is a necessary palate cleanser – a chance for the studio to get back to doing zippy spectacle on a more modest scale. Given everything that’s happened to Parker, however, it’s reasonable to expect him to have done a bit more growing up by now.

As Parker and his classmates – including Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice) and Brad (Remy Hii), the latter a blipee whose accelerated physical growth serves as both the film’s strongest recurring gag and a reminder that real maturity comes from within – set off on their Euro jolly, a massive sand monster wreaks havoc on a Mexican village. It’s one of four “Elementals” which have arrived on Earth with the sole aim of causing as much destruction as possible, and you can guess where the next one is about to spring up.

With Thor off-world and Captain Marvel unavailable, S.H.I.E.L.D hype man Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) implores Parker to take action. The world needs the next Iron Man to step forward, and with Stark having passed the torch to his plucky young protégé both figuratively and literally in the form of a piece of wearable tech with awesome capabilities, Parker is left with seemingly no choice but to park his crush and suit up. That’s easier said than done though, as his intuitive extra sense is currently being clouded by another kind of tingling sensation.

Enter Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a caped do-gooder with an up-and-at-’em attitude and vaguely defined cosmic powers (whose backstory differs markedly from the comics). Beck looks legit, but there’s a suspicion he’s merely playing the part of a superhero. At one point he even feeds Parker a stock line about how saving the world requires sacrifice, how sometimes people die, as if he didn’t already know that. It’s surprising, then, to see Parker accept Beck at face value, no questions asked. Did Stark not teach him to be sharper and savvier than that?

Ultimately, Mysterio doesn’t pose all that great a threat to Parker – like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, he’s little more than a pesky distraction from the other urgent matter at hand. And yet for all that Holland has brought the character on leaps and bounds from the Maguire/Garfield eras, Parker’s coming-of-age arc is stuck in a familiar holding pattern. Wanting to be the best friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man he can be while also just being a kid is all well and good, but after Infinity War and Endgame the whole lovesick teenager routine feels inconsequential in the grander scheme of things. As Fury quips, “Bitch please, you’ve been to space!”

Published 2 Jul 2019

Tags: Jake Gyllenhaal Jon Watts Samuel L Jackson Tom Holland Zendaya

Anticipation.

Always happy to spend a couple of hours in Tom Holland’s company.

Enjoyment.

As bouncy and breezy as a Spider-Man film should be.

In Retrospect.

A fun sojourn for the most part, but a rather awkward transition for the series as a whole.

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