Released: July 2019
Director: Jon Watts
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $160 million
Stars: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jon Favreau
Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (Russo Brothers, 2019), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) is still struggling with the death of his friend, mentor, and father-figure, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jnr). However, he is once again forced to choose between living his life as a normal high school student and saving the world when he is recruited by Nick Fury (Jackson) to battle monstrous elemental creatures alongside the charismatic Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Gyllenhaal).
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017) fleshed out Spider-Man’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a quirky, inexperienced-but-enthusiastic young superhero who longed to be an Avenger but, eventually, learned to keep his feet on the ground as a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. However, after his excursion into outer space and his efforts in standing against Thanos (Josh Bolin), it’s safe to say that a lot of things have changed for Spider-Man. As the first MCU movie post-Endgame, Far From Home serves not only as the final movie in Marvel’s third phase of movies but also the first step in an uncertain future for the MCU, where, seemingly, anything can happen.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is, once again, a high school comedy first with a high-octane superhero film threaded through it; as a result, the film’s primary focus is on comedy and awkward moments, particularly involving Peter and his attempts to express his feelings for MJ (Zedanya) and his ongoing friendship with Ned Leeds (Batalon). While it could be argued that the MCU’s increasing focus on comedy undermines some of the more dramatic moments in their bigger, more cosmic-focused movies, it’s perfectly at home in a Spider-Man film as the character has always been about his snarky sense of humour.
That’s not to say that Far From Home doesn’t have its fair share of impressive action sequences, though. As in Homecoming, Marvel have taken one of Spidey’s lesser foes and not only cast a spectacular actor in the role but also improved the character by leaps and bounds by casting him as a potential replacement for Iron Man. Mysterio, who is decked out in a fantastically realised version of the character’s classic costume, is at the heart of the film’s action sequences as he goes toe-to-toe with the gigantic Elementals, creatures made of earth, wind, fire, and water that threaten to destroy entire cities. Additionally, Beck acts as a mentor and confidante to Peter, offering advice and understanding at a time when he is struggling with his identity and responsibility.
Seeking a brief hiatus from his duties as Spider-Man and the pressure of living up to Iron Man’s legacy, Peter jumps at the chance to go on a trip to Europe with his class. However, soon after landing, he is approached by Nick Fury and reluctantly recruited to help battle the Elementals. This brings the MCU Spidey much closer to his classic comic book portrayal as he is now forced to constantly choose between his desires and dreams and living a normal life and using his powers to do good while also struggling with the idea that he cannot live up to Stark’s expectations.
The moment I saw that Mysterio was the villain in this movie, I knew that he would turn out to be the bad guy; I mean, we all did, right? Beck claims to be from a parallel world, confirming a multiverse in the MCU, and appears to be a charismatic, confident, and well-honed superhero in his own right. Beck ticks every box for Fury and, especially, Peter, who is struggling to assume the role of Iron Man, and Peter is only too happy to hand over control of Stark’s A.I. to Beck…only for Beck to reveal his true nature as a complete and utter fraud.
A former Stark employee, Beck created the virtual reality technology we previously saw Stark showcase in Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016) and grew embittered when he was fired by Stark. Feeling used and undervalued, he teamed up with other resentful Stark employees to use drones and virtual reality tech to create a superhero so universally loved that he would not only become an Avenger but also get his hands on Stark’s limitless technology.
As I said, I knew this twist would come but even I was starting to get fooled by the character, so great is Gyllenhaal’s performance; Beck not only defends and befriends Peter, he seems to have all the motivation and experience necessary to be a trusted and reliable hero. Once the turn is revealed, though, the character’s darker side starts to come through wonderfully, making for some fantastically nightmarish fight scenes. This is where the idea to use a lame villain like Mysterio is totally justified as the best part about using Mysterio is the potentially limitless visuals his illusion-tech offers, and Far From Home definitely delivered on that front. So far, I am really happy with the portrayal of Spider-Man’s villains in the MCU; if they can make his lesser villains this interesting and dangerous, imagine what they will do with his heavy-hitters!
As per the trailer, it is revealed that MJ has figured out that Peter is Spider-Man; MJ is featured pretty strongly before this but actually has something to do and plays a small role in the finale once she reveals this knowledge. This also culminates in Peter and MJ officially hooking up, though the film’s first post credits scene may put some strain on that relationship going forward. So, with his illusions revealed and Spider-Man wading through an army of drones, Mysterio takes a stray bullet and dies, self-righteous to the end. Fury has accepted Spider-Man and given him props, Peter is finally with MJ, and everything seems to be tied up in a nice little bow…and then J.K. Simmons returns as J. Jonah Jameson to reveal that Beck used doctored footage to frame Spider-Man for his death and the drone attacks and to reveal Peter’s true identity to the world! It was amazing to see Simmons back in the role, though I am curious to see another actor’s take on Jameson, but the revelation of Spidey’s identity will no doubt cause him some serious issues in future Spider-Man movies.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a rollercoaster ride of action, comedy, and heart as Peter struggles with his relationships, the expectations placed upon him, and some potentially world-ending situations. Gyllenhaal shines as Beck and raises Mysterio’s profile wonderfully, providing a perfect substitute for Iron Man in Spidey’s life, and the dialogue, action scenes, and tone of the film are an exhilarating ride that takes everything that was good in Spider-Man: Homecoming and dials it up to eleven while still laying some interesting foundations for the future of the MCU.