This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Joe Tomastik’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Spider-Man: Far From Home’s opening weekend has come to a close. I caught it a second time tonight, not only to reconfirm my thoughts for a spoiler-filled talk, but because I just really wanted to see it again. Like I said originally, I loved it and thought it was the best Spider-Man film since Raimi’s second outing. But this is the kind of movie that’s really unsatisfying to talk about without going into spoilers. There’s a lot I want to say about the story, the themes, and how I felt this did its character such justice. I won't make this as long as my Endgame spoiler review because ... well, I'm pretty sure no one but me has that kind of time.
I’ve gone on and on about my issues with how lightheartedly most of Endgame’s aftermath is treated for the world at large, so I won’t waste any more time on it. But seriously, "The Blip"? You went with a name that silly?? That wouldn't be so bad if they didn't say it over and over and over. But okay, whatever.
Those problems aside, the movie doesn’t exactly ignore some of the intriguing aspects of what happened. It’s just a bit more subtle and requires a bit of thought to really get the full impact of. Primarily, the world is currently in a state where it’s looking for new heroes, new role models to fill the void of those who have either died or moved on. This is highly evident in many examples, including after Mysterio’s “victory” over the water Elemental. Peter’s class is so quick to give him a superhero name and declare him as a next great hero, just based off of the one incident he saved them from. I can only imagine that tons of other people across Europe and beyond are having similar reactions. Additionally, Peter himself is still looking for someone to still be his hero, someone to be the person who looks after the bigger picture while he stays on the ground. What makes this fascinating, however, is his position. Most of the MCU protagonists so far were already fully matured adults when their world began crawling with superheroes, and when they became a part of that. Peter, meanwhile, is the first one to have grown up with that, to have had his youth so heavily shaped by that. Yet at the same time, he’s now the one meant to carry it forward, to start the new wave that inspires those below him in the same way others inspired him. He's on both sides of the coin.
This brings me to another big theme I love about the movie: the projection of our heroes’ images, how we hold them up to this high light and even worship them, disregarding the more troubled, imperfect person likely underneath the suit and mask. It’s obvious that Peter is more or less blind to the failings of Tony, having only had his projection and legacy that he feels he could never fit into. But in a movie filled with illusions, one of the biggest ones is that our heroes are perfect, and that Peter must be perfect to be a hero. But as Happy points out, even Tony himself wasn't that. Moreover, Peter's already a better person than Tony was. All he has to do is be himself, the best that he can be, and that will be enough. In fact, he apparently already is inspiring people, if Flash’s praise for Spider-Man and his expression of wanting to be a better person because of him is any indication. Sure, he insults Peter immediately afterward, but his sentiments still show an example of Spider-Man’s influence already. Especially since we get a few indicators that Flash doesn't really have anyone else to look up to, not even his own parents.
Then of course, this idea of our heroes' projected legacy is taken literally and exploited by Mysterio. He exploits not only the public’s adoration of heroes, but Peter’s insecurities that he can’t be one. Peter sees in Mysterio the true next Tony Stark, seeing this grand, perfect figure that Mysterio has constructed, and Mysterio knowingly takes advantage of that. That’s such a fascinating method for a villain, a great hero-villain dynamic that fits beautifully into the larger ideas of the movie. Yet at the same time, Mysterio also falls victim to this need in a way, with him lamenting that no one will pay attention to you unless you wear a cape and fight crime. This fuels his need to be the big hero and shows that he can’t be satisfied with his normal, downtrodden life, can’t feel fulfilled unless he enters that world in some way. Like many instances, this touches upon how hero idolization can be damaging as well as empowering. A lot about this movie works to demonstrate the line between our actual selves and the legacy we leave behind, which also plays into the idea of not knowing what's real and what isn't, or how desperate people are to believe in something. As Mysterio says, nowadays people will believe in anything. I adore the sequences of Peter in his hallucinations. Fantastic visuals that I didn't think Watts could handle, all visually tying in to Peter's inner turmoil.
By the way, I found Mysterio a far better villain than Adrian Toomes. Toomes was entertaining and well-acted, but he was all talk and no walk. For all his threats to Peter, he rarely capitalizes on any of them. Beck not only has a more interesting motivation, but he actually threatens people Peter cares for and does some real physical and psychological damage to him. His motivations remind me a lot of Syndrome from The Incredibles, but he has his own unique personality and brand of insanity that make him unique. And Gyllenhaal relishes in every. Single. Second of it. The second he gets that twisted smile going in the bar, I knew that he was hired onto this role for very good reason. And he didn't let me down for the rest of his time on screen.
Thankfully, however, Peter is able to overcome his insecurities, the sense of guilt he feels for his failures, real or perceived. I love when he's making his new suit, his actions clearly mirroring Tony's in other movies and showing that he does have it in him. And I believe that it further shows in how he fights in the climax. I looked at this very carefully in my second viewing, and I can confirm what I thought the first time: that there’s a general difference to how he moves, how he thinks and uses his abilities, and his demeanor in general. There’s much more of a confidence and control to him now, and he seems closer to a fully-fledged hero on par with his predecessors. I mean, he actually made the suit himself this time, that alone is a step up from Homecoming! And it all culminates in what I just might consider the most badass Spider-Man moment ever put on screen. He has Mysterio disarmed on the ground, and Mysterio is trying to appeal to Peter and make peace. But Peter suddenly grabs what’s seemingly thin air, but turns out to be the real Mysterio’s arm holding a gun. It’s so simple and non-flashy, but the way it's shot and the confident, capable, and headstrong way he does it are both amazing on their own and as a solidification of Peter’s arc. I believe that his inconsistent enhanced senses sometimes not working for him were a side effect of his self-doubt, an idea that also had prominence in Spider-Man 2 and even Into The Spiderverse. So to see his newfound belief in himself manifest in this moment was extremely satisfying, and almost got me to applaud.
As for Peter and MJ, I think that this may be the most I’ve ever wanted a couple to get together in a movie of this genre, for sure in the MCU. I don’t know why these two endear me so much, or why I can’t help but grin widely at either of them and seeing them together. It’s partially because I’m fond of both of them on their own (especially her), partially because I can clearly see how they would work, and partially because they do work. So well. The chemistry between Holland and Zendaya is so pitch-perfect, the best in any Spider-Man movie romance. And because I’m invested in them so much, whenever something or someone gets in their way, I feel genuinely sorry. Especially when he had to leave her in the theater, that really broke my heart. And I love how two-sided it is. We clearly see Peter’s fondness for her, but it’s very obvious even before her confession that she’s harboring the same feelings. The way that her cynical, deadpan demeanor starts giving out around him, particularly in her eye movements and how she seems generally more open and chipper with him. It’s the cutest thing to watch, and made their reunion at the end feel so much sweeter. Even the whole thing with the necklace plays into the motif of being yourself versus some idealized version of yourself, when Peter gets sad that the necklace is broken but MJ says she prefers it that way. Aww, I’m rooting for you two kids!
But of course, the mid-credits scene indicates that it won’t be that easy. Three jaw-dropping moments happen in what is the craziest credits scene in an MCU movie. One, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson! My audience roared at this, as did I. Even as someone who has never read a Spidey comic in my life, I know that this guy is the only one for this role. But on a more serious note, not only does Mysterio make himself look like a hero who was murdered by a terrorist Spider-Man, but he reveals Peter’s identity to the world! Now honestly, I was expecting his identity to be revealed in this movie. It just felt like an inevitability. But this is NOT how I expected it to happen. And … I’m a little torn on it. Mainly because I’m generally not a fan of the whole hero-getting-framed trope. I don’t know what it is, but something about it just bugs me and gets me more annoyed at the characters not seeing things from the audience’s perspective. I get that it happens in real life, especially in today's climate, but I still get frustrated more often than not. But I’m not so sure it’ll be a simple case of Spider-Man being an outlaw. Peter has Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, some surviving Avengers, and tons of other eye-witnesses to vouch for him, as well as confirm Mysterio as the true villain. A more selfish grievance of mine, though, is that this does cut into him and MJ having more time to be a fun superhero couple. I really would’ve liked to see them interact more as an actual, "regular" couple before things go south again. Maybe this scene should’ve been saved for the next movie. I don't know. It's unclear what Marvel is planning with this, so I can’t say how they should’ve done it yet. We’ll see.
Lastly, I forgot to mention Michael Giacchino's score for the movie. I really enjoyed it, and especially liked the main theme of the movie (carried over from Homecoming) as well as Peter and MJ's lovely theme and the track during Mysterio's reveal and toast. Even the weakest Spider-Man movies had great music, and I'm happy to see that continue here.
So that's my spoiler-filled interpretation of the movie. My second viewing of it cemented it as one of my favorite Spider-Man movies, as well as in the upper tier regarding the MCU. I'm not going to act like it's some grand masterpiece of action or storytelling or anything like that, as it does have some things that could have been better. But it really surprised me and gets a lot right, and I think deserves a lot of credit for that. It completely turned me around on this rendition of Peter Parker, giving me a solid grasp on who he is, a more likeable demeanor in combat (I was surprised by and thankful for how little quipping he does in this), and it furthered his character in a way that's just right for this moment in the franchise. Add in some fun action, great humor, a lovable romance, and a lot of exciting talking points, and this is one superhero movie that certainly stuck the landing.