Spider-Man: Far From Home, 2019.
Directed by Jon Watts.
Starring Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Jon Favreau, Tony Revolori, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, Remy Hil, Numan Acar, Hemky Madera, Toni Garrn, and Marisa Tomei.
Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.
It’s all but guaranteed that wherever you think Spider-Man: Far From Home is going (and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large), well, as they say in the wrestling business, you are getting worked hard by the higher-ups dangling hints. For some perspective, Marvel is instructing critics to not reveal basically a damn thing about Mysterio, a move I haven’t seen a studio pull on writers for around two years now (the movie in question was anything but bad, so it’s not a tool to hide shoddy writing or anything like that). Some of the revelations will have a greater impact on the universe moving forward (the end credits stingers are some of the most important yet of this ongoing saga and undoubtedly among the best), but a few of them are self-contained and still justify the extremities of keeping them under wraps.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about Mysterio other than his fishbowl helmet appearance and that he’s obviously a villain (he traditionally is in various comic books), which is limited knowledge that works in favor of the film. No one should really be explaining his powers, his motivations, and his actions; the mystery of Mysterio and plentiful surprises alone stuff this entry with intrigue. All I will say is that Mysterio is handled in a subversive manner where the weight of these events just keeps escalating, his combat evolves (anyone that has played certain parts of the recent Batman games will find some of the trippy visuals as inspiration for the sequences), and Jake Gyllenhaal gradually gets more intense in the role as the story unfolds (for anyone that was worried he might take a Marvel project less seriously than his other endeavors, he is not in paycheck mode).
Returning director Jon Watts (a filmmaker who still deserves credit for being able to make the jump from independent cinema to mainstream blockbusters with much skill and success) is once again bringing to life a script from Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, all of whom are back in top form when it comes to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and his high school experience while doubling as the friendly neighborhood spider. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the question isn’t so much about how much dedication a regular teenager should be giving to saving the world, but one far heavier; is Peter Parker fit to become the next Iron Man?
Spoiler alert for the seven people that have not seen Avengers: Endgame, but a fictional superpowered world without Iron Man is felt by all, and by none more than Peter Parker. Not only has the billionaire tech genius left behind advanced gadgets such as glasses capable of doing anything from hacking into nearby technology or calling down drones, hand-chosen the web-slinger to carry on his legacy, and left behind an imprint on the fate of the universe (even on the European summer vacation flight Peter can’t escape the memory of Tony Stark, confronted with the option of viewing a documentary on the plane), the world is now relying on him to step up and serve as a savior. Peter may have started out protecting Queens, but as time goes on it’s becoming clear that his duties go beyond keeping home safe.
Meanwhile, Peter is running from these impending obligations; he’s ghosting Nick Fury (a dynamic Samuel L. Jackson handles hilariously), asks relevant questions about why the other superheroes can’t deal with the towering elemental monsters terrorizing all of Europe (Peter can’t even get away from fighting crime on vacation), and is fixated on wooing Zendaya’s inquisitive and intelligent depiction of MJ. And even though that section of the material is a fairly traditional Spider-Man story, being surrounded by the aftermath of Endgame gives familiar territory new angles and meaning. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also coming to terms with one of the more bizarrely funny plot threads, Happy (Jon Favreau) having a summer fling with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, proving that these movies know how to tap into a variety of awkward life situations for teenagers in funny and relatable ways.
With that said, it’s important to note that roughly the first half of Spider-Man: Far From Home is centered on comedy and the notion of finding peace and relaxation falling apart. As Peter worries about MJ possibly being interested in another classmate, his best friend Ned inadvertently makes a girlfriend on the plane in Angourie Rice’s Betty, quickly becoming stuck on each other adorably and amusingly. The other highlight is the goofball school faculty supervisors played by Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove messing up simple planning from rambling to each other about what the elemental figures really are. In other words, the proceedings are really light and breezy (even the opening passages that explain away the aftermath of The Snap come by the way of some clever jokes) until a turning point. It’s impossible to not know what scene I’m referring to when you see it, and when it occurs, prepare for the second half to ramp up the stakes to an unexpected level that, when the dust settles, will forever change quite a few things about this ongoing franchise.
Even without shocks, the globetrotting around Europe is just too damn fun to not fall in love with this movie. There is a chase sequence in Venice where Peter has to go about things without his costume, hopping across wooden stumps sticking out of the water that is photographed with enough room and precision and thrilling agility, it feels like everything the Assassin’s Creed movie should have been. Prague is bustling with parties and parades, the Netherlands briefly provide comedic relief, and London makes for a fitting final showdown location (I assure you, more than the bridge comes down). And although the destruction of famous landmarks is exhilarating to watch, it’s also a necessary distraction from the actual battles against the elemental demons that are nothing more than a barrage of special effects with no gravity to anyone’s attacks. Sure, the vibrant colors are all aesthetically pleasing, but I will remember more about the endangered civilians and various buildings that come crashing down (Spider-Man is tasked with holding to of them upright while standing from a bell tower, which is easily one of the most beautiful and tense sights to take in from any superhero movie) than about what brought the water monster down. It also feels wrong not to mention the mystical and suspenseful score from Michael Giacchino, delivering some of the better work in his accomplished career.
The action is visually arresting and the laughs come flying in faster than Spider-Man himself, but the strongest aspect of Far From Home is its craftsmanship. It knows that has the heavy burden of dealing with some Endgame leftovers but does so without sacrificing a lick of its own wildly engaging narrative. It knows it has to function as both a movie within a larger franchise but also one that is pushing the reset button on a number of things and is free to not set up too much for the future. Essentially, it’s juggling the past, present, and future of the MCU, and does so without skipping a beat; it’s one of the finest movies in the universe. Good luck not craving more Spider-Man (or Marvel in general) following the first end credits teaser cookie, but really, the entire movie is spectacular from start to finish.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com