It was always going to be far from awful, but can Marvel’s hotly anticipated follow up to Endgame be the Phase 3 closer that the Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves?
WARNING: this review contains spoilers for all of the MCU films… apart from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
8/10A solid instalment, both as an MCU entry and a standalone Spider-Man movie.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the spiritual sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but perhaps more directly the follow up to Avengers Endgame. We pick up with Peter Parker, still adjusting to life as the web-slinger in the ‘post snap’ world and looking forward to a well-earned break in the form of a European vacation. It was never going to last long however as Nick Fury drops in to inform Spidey of Elemental monsters, world ending ramifications and one Mysterious new hero that has appeared in the wake of the Snap…
Spider-Man: Far From Home (FFH) is technically the ending of Phase 3 because the majority of the film is spent looking backward at what has happened, and dealing with the effects of that. This includes the fallout of Tony Stark’s death, the results of the snap (now the ‘blip’) as it affected real people. And of course, Peter. Marvel aren’t stupid – you can’t build a new storey (pun intended) whilst the cement is still wet.
So whilst the cement is drying, FFH is going to consolidate by reinforcing what it already has: its characters. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is in our opinion, the best iteration of the character, with a young, energetic and believably naïve, inexperienced presence every time he is on screen. What is more impressive is the depth of the supporting cast. Zendaya Coleman’s MJ is flying the banner for the comparatively progressive MCU with a female character that is more than just a ‘damsel in distress/love interest’ and thrives as her own person, adding intelligence and humour in every scene she is in.
The main new addition is of course Mysterio – or Quentin Beck – played by the delightful Jake Gyllenhaal, who turns in a solid performance as the stoic newcomer. We can’t go into the character too much here, as a lot is left open by the film’s promotional material, but suffice to say it is a strong addition to an already packed ensemble.
Speaking of which, Peter’s other classmates, including best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Flash (Tony Revolori) and Betty (Angourie Rice) are funny and interesting on their own, with the intermittent appearances of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May providing a refreshingly positive depiction of single parenting in the modern world.
Sam Jackson’s Nicky Fury, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan return for welcome parts, along with nice moments for a number of characters whom it’s easy to forget have played a large part in the past ten years of the MCU.
The appearance of these characters is welcome, but it’s the newer, Spider-Man specific characters that shine here. Marvel do an incredible job of integrating fresh new life into a now 11-year-old franchise, whilst adding some fun and interesting twists to the mainstays that will surely be with us for many to come. Tom Holland grows into his spandex (or nanobots, hello 21st century) here, and it’s quite clear that Marvel see him as a huge part of the future of the MCU.
Plotting Phase 4?
Not a lot could be asked of the plot of this film on its own. From the first five minutes FFH declares “WET CEMENT,” and makes pretty clear that its characters are in the snap/blip hangover period. Because of this, the film itself doesn’t really have a feeling of progression within the MCU. Characters develop, the construction is solid, and some elements go as far as being quite clever – but for the majority of the film, things happen in a rather typical fashion. Like most super hero films, particularly in the early stages, the majority of the film’s plot revolves around the complications between the hero and the alter ego, with Spider-Man trying to deal with threats to the world, while Peter Parker just wants to get close to the girl that he likes.
Think 50% teen drama, 50% “with great power comes great responsibility” and you’ve pretty much nailed it.
That’s not to say the plot is bad: it works perfectly well on its own, and contains just enough interesting twists and turns (some more obvious than others) to be entertaining without feeling like, well watching cement dry. But don’t go into FFH expecting the epic, multi movie stories of the recent MCU additions – this is a downshift in gear which, without the appearance of other MCU characters and the past references they come with, could be just a normal Spider-Man sequel.
Within the film itself of course – more on that later.
Was it balanced, as all things should be?
Marvel films are quite unique in tone. Almost all of the entries can feel powerful, emotional and suspenseful, whilst still containing enough light, positive humour that you find yourself laughing. FFH does exactly that. As we’ve already explained, this is a character driven film and much like real people, that means the good and the bad, the happy and the not so happy.
And there is plenty of the latter. Don’t forget that Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark was a mentor/father figure to Peter, who is still very much an inexperienced and naïve teenager with a lot to learn about being not only a hero, but more importantly a person. The death of Tony clearly weighs heavily on Peter and the characters around him, with relatively frequent mentions carrying enough heft to make the event meaningful despite Endgame releasing more than six months before FFH. This coupled with the theme of responsibility, as Peter tries again and again to get back to a more ‘normal’ existence, leaves the viewer with a sense of unease. The writers do a great job making us want Peter to be Peter for a time and live a normal teenage life, but the burden of being a hero wrenches him out of his comfort zone time and time again.
That’s not to say it’s all bleak. When we step away from Peter’s challenges, whether to his friend Ned’s derpy antics or to Happy and Aunt May’s mysterious interactions, FFH throws great, natural humour in often enough to keep the mood light for the most part. It’s not on the scale of Thor: Ragnarok, which more closely resembles a full-on comedy, but it is a funny movie.
There is also a hearty portion of light fluffy joy here too, highlighted best between Peter and MJ/Happy/Aunt May. In FFH everybody is likeable in their own way, and you really root for them. The chemistry between these characters is undeniable, and the performances make every win feel just that bit more special.
The task at hand
For most sequels you have to answer one question first: was it as good at the original?
With an MCU sequel that becomes a great deal more complicated, especially for Spider-Man: Far From Home. Although it is a Spider-Man film, it follows on from Avengers: Endgame rather than Spider-Man: Homecoming, the former being the climax of the first three phases, and a total of 22 films (discounting FFH) over ten years. As such, there is no precedent here, no comparisons that can contextualise exactly what this film had to do.
Generally, a sequel will try for two things: 1) be a decent follow up to the last item in the series, and 2) leave enough that if the film performs well, there could be another sequel. Many fail to do either, most fail to do both. On top of that, FFH also had to close out a 10-year plot, develop new characters going forward, and oh yeah, give a glimpse of what the next ten years of cinema may look like. No pressure.
For the future of the MCU, we don’t want to spoil anything here, but we will say this. As end credits scenes go, both in FFH are a bonified doozey. If you want to hear our opinions on them, check out our Spider-Man: Far From Home spoiler podcast here.
n Impossible act to follow?
Very few people would have doubted that FFH could achieve point 1, which it did, despite the incredible feat that was Endgame. And as a standalone film, Endgame was perhaps not the best film in the MCU. But that is like saying that Frodo dropping the ring into Mount Doom wasn’t the best scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; that isn’t the point. Endgame was the closure, the payoff, the moment where after ten years you start whooping uncontrollably at the screen as your inner fanboy (or girl) simply cannot contain themselves. If you asked yourself at the time, where does it go from there, you would be forgiven for staring blankly at the end credits, waiting for a hint.
Before FFH the general consensus was that Marvel would be able to take it from there. It’s an odd fact that in an age of corporate monstrosities that dominate the front pages with stories of ill-repute and dodgy commercial practices, Marvel have seemingly gained a level of trust that most politicians would beg for. There seems to be a mutual understanding between Marvel and its viewers; you watch our films, and we will look after the characters you love. You have to respect that.
So did they achieve that with FFH? Absolutely. This movie has the tone and feeling of almost every other MCU film, and we mean that in a good way. A warmth permeates everything in the film, from the swelling, familiar scores to the clean, colourful visuals. Even the audience, sitting in anticipation of another amazing Marvel film. Within the first few minutes you can tell: they’ve done it again.
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