As the definitive end of Marvel’s Phase 3 set of films, and essentially an epilogue to Avengers: Endgame and a table setter for what’s to come next, there was a lot riding on Spider-Man’s second solo entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Jon Watts had the unenviable task of not only following up a modern cultural touchstone and tying up any of its loose ends, but also contextualizing its effect on both a macro and micro level, while also needing to tell a stand-alone story for its titular character. With so many things to juggle and consider, it is a spectacular feat that more than not, Watts is able to achieve those goals.
The film begins with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) investigating the destruction of a town in Mexico only to be greeted by a mysterious stranger and forced to fend off a creature made of Earth.
With the school year ending, Peter (Tom Holland) discusses his upcoming plan for his class’ European science trip with Ned (Jacob Batalon). He’s got it all planned out with how he intends to confess his feelings to MJ (Zendaya). Before he leaves though, Peter deals with some last-minute responsibilities as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man by making a guest appearance at a fundraiser organized by his aunt, May (Marisa Tomei), where they are joined by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Happy informs Peter that Nick Fury will be trying to get in touch with him, but Peter decides to ignore the call, instead wishing to just kick back and relax on vacation and enact his plan to tell MJ his feelings.
Peter and his class make their first stop in Venice and trouble follows them when a water creature is formed and begins wreaking havoc in the city. A new hero arrives on the scene, later given the name Mysterio, with Peter teaming up with him to defeat the creature. Later that night, Nick Fury makes his presence known to Peter and whisks him away to be debriefed on the events earlier in the day where he meets Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a multi-dimensional traveler hunting down these elemental creatures to prevent them from destroying this Earth. With a new world level threat at his feet, Peter struggles with his own personal desires and the responsibilities that come with the powers bestowed upon him.
As one of the most popular superheroes in the world, it’s sometimes easy to forget what makes Peter Parker and Spider-Man so endearing to fans and why they really can’t get enough of him. In spite of this being the third live-action iteration of the character in less than 20 years, it’s hard to imagine him being any less popular with audiences and it’s precisely because Peter isn’t that popular in his world.
The relatability of Peter Parker comes from the fact that even though he is a brilliant and bright young man with incredible super powers, he goes about his life as any other ordinary person would and still struggles with normal day-to-day life. He’s incredibly awkward around girls, is a bit of a dork, and sometimes overly enthusiastic and those are qualities not typically associated with superheroes. It’s those qualities that are perfectly portrayed by Tom Holland, once again, in his fifth outing as the character.
Those flaws are what make him so lovable for audiences and creates much of the film’s very John Hughes-esque humor. Far From Home isn’t about witty writing that has permeated most modern teen comedies, but portraying teenagers for who they are: awkward kids who are clumsily trying to work things out for themselves and stumbling along the way. Jon Watts perfectly keeps the tone in line with Homecoming, serving as a nice counterpoint to the more dour and emotionally draining Avengers: Endgame, while at the same time honoring that film in a way that is best suited for this story. And that story gives Peter room to grow by continually putting his regular and superhero lives into conflict.
As for the superhero conflict in the film, those familiar with Spider-Man and his rogues gallery of villains won’t be surprised by the mid-film twist, but the twist isn’t the point of the character. Instead, what the villain represents is what matters most right now. The best villains are often a reflection of some form of truth in the real world, and Far From Home‘s villain works as a perfect encapsulation of what’s happening out there right now. The feeding of misinformation and selling a lie to appease and comfort a manufactured problem is very much a real world issue, and to see it reflected in this film was rather surprising. The manner in which it is executed also makes Far From Home one of, if not the most, visually creative films in the MCU. There is a particular sequence set in Berlin that is arguably the most inventive action set piece to date in the MCU and is only enhanced in 3D IMAX. Very rarely does Marvel take full advantage of larger formats and 3D to warrant an enthusiastic endorsement, but Far From Home is well worth the added price to admission.
Where the film does falter though is in its wide cast of characters. While some of the secondary characters like Ned and Betty are fine in their roles of comic relief, others don’t get as much shine like Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson, or end up feeling superfluous like Remy Hii’s Brad Davis, and then there is also some wasted talent in J.B. Smoove‘s Mr. Dell. However, all that being said, Jon Watts achieves most of what he sets out to do with this film, given all the elements that he had to juggle, and the end result is a spectacular sequel with some long-lasting ramifications and building blocks in store for whatever Marvel has planned next. ~Paolo Maquiraya
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