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.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in an exciting state of flux post-Avengers: Endgame, with much of the existing table cleared and plans for Phase 4 still firmly under wraps. In a surprising move, Marvel Studios opted not to close out their titanic Phase 3 with The Big One, but instead a lighter-than-air Spider-Man sequel that feels more an epilogue to Endgame than it does a wholly new chapter. And you know what? That’s a good thing.
As Far From Home opens, the spectre of a recently departed Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) hangs heavy over Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who is still adjusting to returning from the five-year “blip” in which he was turned to dust by Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Moreover, Peter is looking forward to a two-week summer field trip to Europe where he can put the web-slinging shenanigans on the back-burner and focus on getting cosy with the object of his affections, MJ (Zendaya). But as Peter ventures off on his sojourn, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes a-calling, requesting his help to battle inter-dimensional monsters known as the Elementals, with the help of newly-minted superhero Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
It’s right to say from the outset that Spider-Man: Far From Home is absolutely not the MCU’s equivalent of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2; a sequel that thoroughly outclassed its predecessor in every way. This movie is just not on that level, but it is nevertheless a commendably consistent effort from returning director Jon Watts and scribes Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, nailing the very same style and tone that made Spider-Man: Homecoming such a breath of fresh air.
Like its predecessor, Far From Home is primary occupied with being a light-on-its-feet high school comedy in a superhero wrapper; the first act in particular is high on laughs and low on caped import, which is totally apt given Peter’s decision to sack off the heroism for two relaxing weeks with his classmates. Though McKenna and Sommers’ one-liners don’t feel quite as biting as in the previous film – which, in fairness, had a script assembled by six writers and miraculously didn’t feel messy – the charm level maintains a solid constant thanks to the exceptional ensemble cast.
And thankfully, most of Homecoming‘s supporting players are back; Zendaya is once again a terrifically droll MJ and her chemistry with Holland is taken full advantage of with a sweetly awkward romantic through-line. Elsewhere, Jon Favreau enjoys a nicely expanded role as Happy Hogan, himself still reeling from the loss of Tony Stark, and his relationship with Peter over the course of the film is ultimately touching in a sly way most similar movies would feel inclined to hammer home far more aggressively.
But the movie’s secret sauce is absolutely the canny addition of both Samuel L. Jackson and Jake Gyllenhaal – sadly, Cobie Smulders gets virtually nothing to do (yet again) as Maria Hill. As a thoroughly irked Fury, however, Jackson brings his signature insistent gravitas to every portentous line of dialogue, while knowing just when to pull back and milk a cracking one-liner for every drop. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is a major get for the MCU and absolutely lives up to the hype, delivering an expectation-defying rendition of one of Marvel’s most iconic antagonists, even if Mysterio’s arc lacks the intimate, menacing impact of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.
If Far From Home is certainly best enjoyed as a frothy palate cleanser – similar to last summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp chasing up Avengers: Infinity War – some may nevertheless feel that, like the Ant-Man sequel, the script does take a few convoluted shortcuts too many.
Without delving into spoiler territory, the mechanics through which the film’s central conflict emerges requires an epic suspension of disbelief that, even in a franchise with cosmic wizards and talking raccoons, might be stretching it close to breaking point.
There’s a very clear invitation for audiences to simply lose themselves in the colourful bombast, because if you give the logic more than a passing thought, it quickly begins to crack apart. Many of the film’s big moments are also predicated on characters carrying the idiot ball – some with satisfying explanations, while others totally defy reason. It’s easy to imagine, however, that for many, the mighty spectacle will provide fine recompense.
And in the action stakes, Far From Home is certainly a sizeable step-up from Homecoming, which touted far more modest and workmanlike superhero set-pieces for the most part. The nature of Spidey’s battles throughout this film allow – nay, require – Watts to get imaginative, and it’s extremely clear that he’s become a decidedly more confident tentpole filmmaker since his original outing. One of Spidey’s reality-bending fisticuffs in this movie isn’t just one of the most visually evocative of the web-slinger’s entire cinematic cachet, but one of the most conceptually creative the MCU has yet delivered.
Less compelling, however, is some of the more pared-down “action”; that is, the occasional over-indulgence in goofy slapstick, such as a wildly over-egged sequence on a bus that requires Peter in particular to act a little too klutzy for his own good.
One can certainly imagine how easily a superhero like Spider-Man could offer a webbed-up riff on the feats of Buster Keaton – a beat where Peter is desperately trying to web himself in place atop a crumbling tower definitely invokes it – but for the most part the physical comedy feels thoroughly outclassed by both the verbal humour and more delineated, elevated action.
Spidey’s sophomore solo outing in the MCU is ultimately a fairly standard superhero follow-up, which may disappoint some. It doesn’t really do a whole lot to build on what came before – outside of the admittedly riveting action – and resolves as a solid jaunt with some neat surprises, several glaring logic issues and a central villain that doesn’t quite reach its full potential. But as an interstitial entry while Kevin Feige and co. prep the next slate of superhero derring-do, it delivers a satisfyingly middle-tier MCU offering.
Though not the persuasively improved Marvel sequel many will be hoping for, Spider-Man: Far From Home delivers more of the wry humour, kinetic action and well-placed fan service the MCU has built its foundations on.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.