To be totally candid here, it’s difficult to separate my thoughts on Far From Home as a film and my thoughts on it as a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Since the MCU is progressively becoming less stand-alone, I feel it is necessary to give my thoughts on previous entries. Homecoming remains my favorite Spider-Man film, and I am lukewarm at best towards Avengers: Endgame, and if you’re not a fan of either, if you dislike the MCU’s interpretation of Spider-Man, then Far From Home will do very little to change your mind. What we’re dealing with here, is a new, modernized re-interpretation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man instead of a definitive version of the character; the sooner you accept that, the better. You will also read me clarifying “live-action” when I make any bold claims because Into the Spider-Verse still remains the best Spider-Man film and possibly the best comic book film ever.
I argue this mainly because Far From Home follows Peter Parker in a far different mindset than one would normally expect from him. This is a young, sixteen-year-old Peter that has gone through an enormous amount of trauma from the last two Avengers movies, and in the aftermath, has developed an exhaustion with superheroism; a Spider-Man that has a lot to learn about maturity, responsibility and a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. Jaded with the weight of Iron Man’s passing, Peter (Tom Holland) decides he wants to take a break; to go on his summer field trip in Europe with his classmates and pursue a romance with MJ (Zendaya). Along the way, he runs into Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a mysterious… Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the balance between being Spider-Man and being Peter Parker becomes an even more complicated weight to burden.
To me, MCU Spider-Man has been a much-needed breath of fresh air when it comes to the live action, cinematic legacy of Peter Parker. Homecoming remains my favorite Spider-Man film because it is so effortlessly charming, wholesome, and most of all— it understands Spidey’s place within this large universe of heroes. Compared to every other film, the conflict in Homecoming is small scale and personal; Peter is battling teenage angst, romance, and his relationships with being a part-time superhero. The villain of that film is his homecoming date’s dad, it’s all very quaint, and not just to be twee and cute, but also so that current day teens can fully identify with Peter in a way they couldn’t have if they just adapted him straight from the comic pages. I love it, I genuinely feel like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and his diverse classmates represent New York, modern youth, and by extension, myself, and my friends in a way that’s so damn authentic feeling for a comic book film.
I’m happy to report that charm has not run out in Far From Home, which opens on a morning announcements memorial broadcast post the fallout of the Thanos snap, immediately showing us this is a movie not concerned with building the future main storyline of the MCU, but rather a look into the kind of smaller impact these Avengers leave behind. You see it everywhere, in the Iron Man murals all over Europe, in art projects plastered all over the halls of Midtown Science, and within our very own Peter Parker. While the dilemma of wanting to rise up to the occasion versus wanting to protect the little guys; Peter’s friends and family is certainly nothing new, Spider-Man’s reluctance to be a hero after experiencing a universe’s worth of them is a refreshing perspective. It certainly also helps to have a supporting cast this loveable. Peter’s chemistry and romance with MJ has never quite been this realistic and balanced, Ned and Betty Brant are so charming and Flash Thompson actually gets a few shining moments of empathy from me as well.
Since we never got to have an origin story with the MCU’s Peter Parker, it’s still a little bit upsetting to see no references to Uncle Ben or Harry Osborn when the character’s psychology is brought up in these movies. A lot of Peter’s inspiration to do good comes from the aftermath of Tony Stark’s mentorship instead, a change that will certainly make some fans angry. I’ve always found their dynamic to be compelling, and for the most part, this is a good way to give Peter closure for the future— so I will continue to hold onto hope that there’s more to Peter’s development in store for the future, and considering how fresh the Endgame wounds are at this point in the timeline, I’m willing to forgive it. In the meantime, I just wish there were more hints to Peter Parker’s innate greatness being credited to Tony Stark “choosing him to be the next Iron Man”, but rather Peter is great because he rises up to injustice himself, as himself.
The real heavy hitter of Far From Home is actually Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck, our mischevious Mysterio. As someone who knows the character quite well, I was very confused with how the film was framing him as if Marvel is trying to play “gotcha!” with its audience, who probably already know that Mysterio is a villain. Though it may play better with a rewatch, it made the first act of the film feel often disjointed and aimless. But when things start to unravel and click together, there are still plenty of surprises with Mysterio to uncover, including some of the most dazzling Spider-Man action sequences and visuals put to live action, and also the craziest post-credits scene in recent memory. Gyllenhaal channels his psychopathic energy and delivers a performance that’s on the way more memorable end of the spectrum when it comes to MCU villainy. From a film franchise so obsessed with casting A-list actors and giving them nothing to do, it was nice to see Gyllenhaal not be put to waste.
I am still left with a lot of concerns about the future of MCU Spider-Man. There’s perhaps a little too much of an over-reliance on Tony Stark’s influence on Peter Parker when it’s time he should begin to forge an identity of his own. There’s a twist at the end of Far From Home which promises bigger, grander threats and challenges. There’s a whole lot of baggage, implications and trauma from Infinity War and Endgame; but like Peter Parker himself, I kind of wish he could stay low-key just a bit longer. While I do enjoy all of his appearances in these MCU entries, I have a selfish desire to stay in the quaint, small scale, coming-of-age film feeling of Homecoming for the personal intimacy of ‘I need to stop the green goblin, but I also need to finish my chem homework and take MJ out on a date’ Spider-Man stories are what I enjoy the most about the character. The narrative routes they could go from here are unseen and genuinely new territory, which is exciting, but I fear that maybe we can never return to the friendly neighborhood in the same way again. As the MCU gets larger and larger with every year, though, maybe it has to be this way.
Still though, with the bland summer movie season the film industry is going through in 2019, I can confidently say, despite all my personal Spider-Man fanboy hang-ups, that Far From Home is still a nice vacation worth taking. It has an excellent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal under its boot, it has Tom Holland and Zendaya radiating romantic chemistry, and it is restrained enough to feel like a nice breather after the overwhelming epic-ness of Avengers: Endgame. It may not be the definitive Spider-Man movie, but it gave me a serotonin buzz and a gigantic smile on my face, and escapism through hanging out with Peter Parker and his ragtag gang of friends.