Audiences and MCU characters alike don’t know what to expect in the wake of Avengers: Endgame. Loss of any kind takes time to properly heal from and, while audiences didn’t get much (barely three months between the release of Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home), the characters appear to have had close to a year. While this seems to have been enough time for most to adjust to their new world, it hasn’t been enough for Peter Parker (Tom Holland). It’s here that Far From Home develops its heart, creating a through line which pushes Peter to decide if he’s truly ready to be the hero he believed himself to be in Homecoming. With returning director Jon Watts at the helm and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers back to write, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a strong second solo outing for Holland’s Peter Parker, delivering a fantastically good time for audiences and an incredible epilogue to the newly dubbed “Infinity Saga,” concluding the MCU’s Phase 3.
*Spoiler-Alert for Audiences Who Haven’t Seen Avengers: Endgame yet*
Life post-final-snap is not so easy for Peter Parker. Despite the school year being mostly over when Thanos attacked five years prior, all of the returned students are required to start their year over again. On the bright side, that means Peter, Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), Betty (Angourie Rice), and Flash (Tony Revolori) are able to go on a class trip to Europe together. After everything he’s been through, Peter’s excited to see the sights and might try to woo MJ, but when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appears in Venice, everything Peter hoped for takes a backseat to an oncoming, potentially world-ending disaster. Large sentient creatures made of earth, water, wind, and fire are slowly attacking points around the globe and, with no Avengers available to help, Fury needs Peter to suit up and take point. Aiding Fury is newcomer Quentin Beck (Jack Gyllenhaal), dubbed Mysterio by Peter’s friends, who offers expertise in battling the creatures – he calls Elementals – and guidance to the weary Peter. With the scars from old battles still healing and the prospect of new battles coming, Peter stands on the precipice: become the hero the world thinks him to be or stay the child he now believes himself to be. Writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski tackled the internal conflict of heroism in his character drama The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot in early 2019, and I have to applaud McKenna and Sommers for attempting to do the same here.
The films that follow major MCU events tend to be more light-hearted in nature. Avengers: Age of Ultron preceded Ant-Man and Avengers: Infinity War preceded Ant-Man and the Wasp. Each time, the Ant-Man films served as an aperitif, a respite, from the often grueling aspects of the Avengers films. This time around, Far From Home takes on the role, treating audiences to an unexpected adventure, one which balances the melancholy with the hilarious, the heartbreaking with the uplifting, and the meek with the audacious. McKenna and Sommers wisely use the opening act to establish the new world everyone lives in, answering questions which plagued some audiences post-Endgame. This opening sequence is but one of many moments which try to lighten the dark subtext within Far From Home, a film which addresses grief, growing up, and what it means to be a hero. Traditional theater audiences may be troubled by the fact that Far From Home feels like a memorial to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark even as the narrative is about Peter escaping Tony’s shadow. Comic fans, however, will find it right on point. The films in the MCU are rarely standalone in nature, just like the comics, as they are connected and contingent on the other films.
What will also surprise audiences is the approach to the story. It’s got the same teen comedy/superhero film that Homecoming delivered so well, just in a European setting. This time, however, it’s more of a slow burn. So much of Peter’s journey is processing the new world and his new responsibilities that there’s a lot of addressing Endgame fallout and lots of set-up for what’s next. This does create a bit of a drag within the first act, but, thankfully, the patient are rewarded by a fun and exciting second act, leading to an explosively entertaining third act. Whatever you’ve seen in the trailers is only a taste of what Watts delivers in Far From Home, including several sequences which will incite audible reactions from the audience in their shock, surprise, and unrepentant joy. In particular, there are two specific sequences which are guaranteed their own Oscar considerations for Best Visual Effects which trump other 2019 MCU releases Captain Marvel and Endgame.
None of this would feel as amazing as it does without the performances from the cast. Though Holland is the lead, so much of what makes the Homecoming series of films work is the chemistry in the ensemble. Batalon and Holland are convincing in their relationship as loving and supportive best friends; Zendaya is a modern MJ, smart and capable; and Rice and Revolori remain mostly foils, but do engage in real parts of the story.. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan, no longer Peter’s reluctant point man, but a supportive uncle-type, while Marisa Tomei as May steals every scene she’s in. No matter what’s happening, Tomei is effortlessly amazing. Newcomer to the MCU Gyllenhaal is perfect as Beck, offering a complexity usually reserved for characters present over a series of films, not their initial outing. As for Holland, Far From Home cements him as Peter Parker with a performance that’s not just cracking-wise and saving the day. Peter’s always been a down-on-his-luck character, a trait that frequently endears readers and audiences to him, and Holland balances the hurt with humanity, never pushing too far into emo territory. Peter’s grappling with the loss of another father figure (Uncle Ben being the first) and with whether he’s ready to be a globe-trotting Avenger. This is in stark contrast to his arc in Homecoming which presented Peter as someone desperate to escape childhood for grown up responsibility. Narratively, this makes Far From Home far heavier than Homecoming, but Holland’s performance keeps everything grounded.
Some are already hailing Spider-Man: Far From Home as the best live-action Spider-Man film yet, which is a strong statement. Frankly, it’s the best representation of Spider-Man in the MCU – solo feature or appearance – as it gives Holland a chance to make the character his own and opens the door to an inventive and enterprising future for the MCU. Spider-Man: Far From Home is about possibilities and with the most spectacular end credits yet, the possibilities seem endless.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.