This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nathan Gregory’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I would like to, on this rare occasion, blindly dismiss authorial intent and tell Kevin Feige that Spider-Man: Far From Home is, in fact, the first film of Phase Four. Sorry, bud. I read your reason and it's stupid and you're wrong.
But that's not important.
As we soldier on in this borderline obligation to see every MCU film in order to be in the loop on the ones we know we'll care about or simply to be a witness to history, the question arises: How do we judge the quality of these films? There are blatantly terrible ones like the first two Thor films, and undeniably great ones like Black Panther or Captain America: The Winter Soldier but we can't have strong opinions on everything in between. That's just far too exhausting.
Far From Home has plenty going for it. It's charming (not as charming as Homecoming), funny (not as funny as Homecoming), and this feels a little sacrilege to say, but it also may have the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man actor we've yet to see. Writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers did a good job making the "international sequel" not as stale as it should have been. And there are some exceptional elements that I'll get to in a minute, so why does it still feel like "minor" MCU?
I have no clear idea. Perhaps the fatigue is settling in. Perhaps my gut feeling that the first half of the film didn't have the same dedication from the filmmakers that the second half did had a serious effect. Perhaps the Elementals were just that uninspired. Most likely, it's a combination of all of that. I was eager to see this, but I was prepared for nothing to feel consequential. This was the case until the mid-credits scene, which I feel was a big mistake. To hinge the next step of this universe on a cinematic epilogue divorces the drama of the film from the implications we face going forward. It robs the experience of a little meaning.
And that first half felt inconsequential before we even knew it was. Tackling the elementals felt like a video game side quest so I was relieved when Gyllenhaal's Mysterio turned on the evil charm (after turning off some really convincing good guy charm) and the story took a hard left. Perhaps, knowing Mysterio's basic deal in the comics, I should have seen it coming, but Gyllenhaal was just so darn convincing as the benevolent cool guy! I was wondering if the Elementals were real and that they would somehow change his mental state and then he'd be the bad guy. But he was the bad guy the whole time! Gyllenhaal really picked the film up off the floor in that bar scene and I loved watching him cut loose even if there was a bunch of unnecessary explaining during it.
But the best part about this film? Ms. Zendaya. She is my new Mary Jane and she was fantastic. It's like she, as an actress, looked at the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and said, "This is dumb. She needs to hate more things." And then she turned hating things into loving things and brought some great lines alive. I don't quite know how to explain it, but I do know that I love her brand of feminism. She's acutely aware of double standards and sexism, but she's also unfazed by any of it. She's above it all. She practices MetaFeminism and she's queen.
As long as Zendaya is still in these films, sign me up. And the sooner she becomes a superhero in the way we're about to see Jane Foster do some Thor things, the better. The rollout of (the rest of) Phase Four signals to me that Marvel knows they need to introduce some fresh meat. Well Zendaya is always fresh and meaty. In terms of her work. Bad metaphor.