‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Review: Still Spectacular, Not Quite as Amazing
As the first Marvel movie to arrive after Avengers: Endgame, there’s a lot of pressure on Spider-Man: Far From Home. Not only does it have to explore the repercussions of Thanos’ Snap (now referred to as “The Blip,” so get used to that) and double down on the humor from Spider-Man: Homecoming, but the new movie from Homecoming director Jon Watts also needs to kick off a whole new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without getting too bogged down in lore and continuity.
It sounds like an impossible task — even for Spider-Man — and yet, somehow, Far From Home delivers all that and more. Despite a slow start and some cornball comedy, the latest film from Sony and Marvel’s extremely fruitful partnership comes through as one of the most creative, daring, and entertaining movies in the ever-expanding MCU.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige may claim that Spider-Man: Far From Home is actually the final movie in Phase 3, but there’s no denying that Spidey is here to kick off a brand new era. Freed from the shackles of Thanos and his Infinity Macguffins Stones, Far From Home can explore the ramifications of a world where not only are superheroes the norm, but half the population can disappear only to reappear five years later. It’s a bold new world, and Peter Parker’s latest adventure is just the beginning.
Far From Home does spend a decent chunk of time luxuriating in the fallout of The Blip on a more local level. The movie opens with the hilarious morning announcements routine introduced in Homecoming, giving two high school student news anchors a chance to lay on the exposition and complain about how Thanos’ annoying genocide forced some of them to repeat the school year.
That five year gap between Infinity War and Endgame also creates some interesting tensions. Half the students are five years older while the other half (somehow including all the main characters) haven’t aged a day. This has some unexpected consequences, like putting Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in an unexpected love triangle with MJ (Zendaya) and another male student who’s suddenly twice his size. The best Blip-related joke, however, goes to Martin Short as a hapless teacher who’s wife abandoned him using the Snap as cover. (Trust me, it’s hilarious in the movie.)
This time around, Short is joined by J. B. Smoove, who’s unique brand of comedy is underused by Far From Home (I miss Hannibal Buress). Meanwhile, Happy Hogan continues to be great, hopefully cementing Jon Favreau’s character as an MCU staple in a post-Iron Man world. Marisa Tomei’s brief performance as Aunt May is pitch perfect, even if it still feels weird to see the character played by someone so relatively young. Gwyneth Paltrow is thankfully absent.
Of the kids, Tom Holland continues to impress, perfectly mining the metaphor for teenage pubescence that is Spider-Man as an awkward boy with incredible superpowers. Meanwhile, Jacob Batalon balances out Peter Parker as his best friend Ned Leeds, a confident nerd who gets coupled up with Angourie Rice (Betty) early on in a relationship that’s mostly played for jokes. Finally, Zendaya is undeniably a star, and casting her as an anarchist nerd continues to pay off even if she’s probably too good for Marvel movies at this point.
Spider-Man: Far From Home can only spend so long going over the events of Avengers: Endgame before it needs to set out on its own adventure, and this is where the movie initially runs into trouble. After Peter Parker shirks his superhero responsibilities to go on a school trip to Europe (where he hopes to kiss MJ), but trouble quickly follows in the form of some nasty elemental monsters and an overbearing Nicky Fury (Samuel L. Jackson in top form, as always). It all feels a bit stale, even with the addition of Mysterio/Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhall), a dimension-hopping superhero who serves as something in between a new father figure and an awkward bro for Spider-Man.
Sending Peter to Europe works in that it removes him from his comfort zone, but it also turns the story into a kind of cookie-cutter globetrotting adventure. Superhero goes on vacation, trouble follows him, he makes a new friend, and they fight monsters together.
It’s not until the second half (or maybe even the final third) of the movie that things really pick up. Considering all the backstory that Mysterio comes with (in the comics, he’s basically a Loki-level trickster without the Norse mythology), it’s tough to tell exactly what qualifies as a spoiler. Suffice to say that there’s a twist and it quickly elevates Far From Home from a middle-of-the-pack Marvel movie to one of the most visually compelling films of the year (superhero or otherwise). A couple sequences are absolutely stunning, relying heavily on CGI without overdoing it to bring one of the most perplexing Marvel comic book characters to life without breaking a sweat.
The plot also escalates quickly as both Spider-Man and the audience struggle to figure out what’s happening. For most of the movie we’re laughing at Peter Parker as he stumbles through Europe, runs away from his superhero responsibilities, and says awkward things to Zendaya. But by the end it’s impossible not to empathize with him.
Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t a perfect movie. It’s not even as good as Homecoming, and while it achieves some heights the last one couldn’t even dream of, it’s also weighed down by a slow beginning that spends too long transitioning between the trauma of what came directly before it and the actual conflict of this story.
For all the good the Russo Brothers brought to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, getting Sony to give back Spider-Man (even temporarily) was without a doubt their greatest contribution. Now that we’ve seen him both at home and abroad — and in space! — the only question left to ask is what Peter Parker can do next. Thankfully, it looks like the minds behind Far From Home already have some big ideas, and if the movie’s post-credits scenes are any indication, the next movie may be even better than the last two.
Spider-Man: Far From Home swings into theaters on July 2.