Before we dive into this (and as if you don’t already know), it’s rather imperative that you see Avengers: Endgame before even thinking about stepping foot into a theater for Spider-Man: Far From Home. In fact, it’s more important than seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming first, which I’m assuming you have if you’re even reading this. I’ll be invoking spoilers from Endgame, so step away from your screen if you don’t want anything ruined because you’re so devoted to watching things at home that you haven’t seen Endgame yet, dummy. (I will not be spoiling anything from Far From Home, as much as I want to, so don’t worry about that.)
In broad strokes, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the greatest movie franchise epilogue in history. There’s no summation of the great tragedy that is the way Iron Man/Tony Stark sacrificed himself at the conclusion of Endgame; you’re just supposed to know it because you’re a living, breathing citizen of the planet Earth. It’s the same way you’re meant to know about half of the Earth’s population being snapped out of existence (forever referred to as “The Blip,” apparently) and then brought back five years later. This is the world we’re dropped into in Far From Home. It turns out that not only is Peter Parker’s mentor dead, but nearly all of his closest friends were blipped out and came back the same age, thus they still have to finish high school together (how convenient).
But back to that bigger picture: Spider-Man is one of the last visible superheroes still doing his thing for the foreseeable future—Iron Man and Black Widow are dead, Captain America has aged out of the business, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel are dealing with all things cosmic, the Hulk is wearing sweaters, and Hawkeye is back being a husband and father; other heroes have gone back to their non-New York homes (Black Panther, Ant-Man, Wasp). So Spider-Man (still the great Tom Holland) can once again take up the reins of being New York’s friendly neighborhood hero.
He’s doing charity events (in costume) with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and getting ready to finish out the school year by heading out on a summer class trip to Europe. He’s on the verge of finally telling MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her, while still mourning the loss of his surrogate father each and every day, sometimes alongside Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, who is still checking in with Peter and seeing if the kid is ready to take on the role as the world’s most visible Avenger. Peter thinks he is not, so much so that he’s dodging phone calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, making his third appearance as Fury in four months), because he knows it will involve a mission that might ruin his vacation plans.
It’s comforting settling back into Peter’s life after he’s been put through the ringer in the last couple of Avengers movies, and the first half of Far From Home allows us to do that for the most part. He’s still hanging with the same bunch of kids, including familiar names/faces like Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), and his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), as well as teachers Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove) and Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr), who just happen to be the chaperones on the class trip. Peter is so committed to making this a vacation from everything, including being Spider-Man, that he doesn’t even pack his suit.
Returning Homecoming director Jon Watts and co-writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (who also co-wrote such films as The Lego Batman Movie, the most recent Jumanji movie and Ant-Man and the Wasp) do a wonderful job of reminding us why Spider-Man remains the most popular character Marvel has ever created. He’s young and optimistic, but is still missing a certain level of confidence that keeps him from succeeding at things that are seemingly simpler than saving the world—like asking someone on a date. Holland infuses Peter with a rich humor and awkward personality, while keeping him grounded in the reality that he could have just as easily been killed during the heroes battle with Thanos. But everywhere Spider-Man goes, the world wants to know “Are you the next Iron Man?”—an impossible question and even more impossible task.
There’s an opening sequence in which Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) confront what turns out is one of four Elementals—monsters made of molten fire, wind, earth and water—which is quickly dispatched by a new hero that eventually is dubbed Mysterio (real name Quentin Beck, played with great flair by Jake Gyllenhaal), who says he’s a hero from another version of Earth (back to the Multiverse idea that made Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so trippy) and that a hole was ripped open because of the Snap, leaving open a portal for both him and these Elementals to come to our Earth and start breaking things. Mysterio has a cool suit, a fishbowl head, powers for days, and enough charm that Fury begins to think that maybe the world doesn’t need Spider-Man if Parker isn’t interested in being a world-saving type of hero, which of course Peter thinks is what he wants.
I basically can’t talk about anything that happens in the second half of the film, but if you’re familiar with the Mysterio character from the comic books (one I thought would truly never see the light of day on the big screen), you might have some idea where things are going. The Elementals are a genuine threat, as they go after big cities and have no issues with high casualties. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that, of course, Spider-Man doesn’t sit this one out on the sidelines, but Peter’s struggle with maintaining a normal life versus being the heir apparent in the superhero world is a great dilemma to close out this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (this is the official end of Phase 3). And it takes Peter making still more mistakes to understand that he wasn’t handed this mantle by Stark by accident. Tony saw something in Peter that even Peter didn’t see.
And the film manages to juggle all of these big-picture moments without sacrificing the more personal story also being told, like Peter’s potential advancing relationship with MJ, which unfolds rather beautifully without reducing the extremely self-sufficient and smart MJ into a typical girlfriend role. (Don’t even ask what’s going on between Ned and Betty.) The other mission of Spider-Man: Far From Home is to give us some sense of where the Marvel universe goes from here, and with the help of two really sharp and shocking post-credits scenes, we get the tiniest tease of just that. I’m not sure how the Marvel powers-that-be are going to make the next 20-plus movies feel as cohesive and connected as the last, but making certain Spider-Man is at the core of what comes next is a smart and necessary step without a doubt, and this film gives us hope that the future is in good hands.
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