Spider-Man: Far from Home

Spider-Man: Far from Home ★★★★

Spider-Man: Far From Home may take the titular webslinger far from the safety and normalcy of good ol’ NYC, but this updated franchise nevertheless remains grounded in its homegrown, authentic roots, anchored by yet another winning and charismatic lead turn by Tom Holland and an equally delightful performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

While not quite as instantly and effortlessly wholesome as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home still manages to expand upon the world created by its predecessor while retaining that film’s smaller-scale intimacy. The threat Peter faces this time around is initially dangerous from a global perspective, but screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers wisely continue to add wrinkles to these antagonistic forces that alter the way their impact will be felt and shift what personal relevance they have to Peter’s life. Since Peter is in his most vulnerable state yet, having been endlessly overwhelmed from the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (to say nothing of his mentor and father-figure Tony Stark’s death), it makes sense that this film would test Peter from a mental and emotional level. The challenges he encounters require Peter to confront the massive responsibility presented to him after Tony’s death, and he’s also forced to contemplate whether or not he even wants this elevated position as an Avenger, all while being pushed to his physical limit on a near constant basis. While this certainly makes the film feel more busy than the rather straightforward Homecoming, Far From Home still manages to balance the chaos of Peter’s life quite respectably.

As the first film following the epic Avengers: Endgame, it’s obvious that Spider-Man: Far From Home bears the burden of directly responding to the massive fallout of that universe-altering event. Just as Homecoming endearingly responded to the aftermath of films like The Avengers and Captain America: Civil War from a “street-level” perspective, Far From Home starts right off the bat by quirkily and relatably conveying the ways that Thanos’s snap (here known as “The Blip”) affected average every day citizens. These moments are inventive, in tune with the franchise’s unique sense of humor, and impeccably woven into the script/story as a whole. Perhaps the film could’ve spent a bit more time on Endgame fallout, or explored these beats further, but what we get is quite pleasing enough that I was never too disappointed.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a film of two distinct halves, and while I won’t go into any spoilers about the “turning point” or the core conflict of the second half, I will state that it both continually subverts audience expectations to an unrelenting degree and offers up some of the most striking and dazzling visual effects sequences of any MCU film yet. Meanwhile, the first half, which some have found less engaging, feels very much more at home with the “sitcom-y” aura of Homecoming, which I frankly absolutely adored. Every single one of the characters you loved is back and given far more to do, especially with their character-specific comedic beats - what’s not to love? From Ned & Betty’s unexpected summer fling to Mr. Harrington’s continual hysterical awkwardness, I thoroughly enjoyed how each and every member of the supporting cast received plentiful moments to standout and further flesh out this corner of the MCU. However, the core of the first half is devoted to Peter’s attempts to “woo” MJ, which make this film feel like the first verified MCU romcom in a way. This arc certainly carries into the second half as well, but the genre specific conventions are most apparent in the beginning of the film, and they are executed wonderfully. It further helps that Tom Holland and Zendaya have such unconventional yet universally appealing chemistry as well, further selling you on their romance.

Speaking of Holland, he once again knocks this role out of the park, seriously cementing his status as the best live action variant of Peter Parker/Spider-Man yet. As I mentioned before, the massive responsibilities Parker faces are quite palpable, and this is mostly due to Holland’s dedication to the part and his authenticity as an American teenager. He truly sells how a kid can be grappling with the death of a father-figure and going crazy over how he’ll win the girl of dreams and believe that these two events are equally important. It’s just endlessly adorable! When he finally reaches his breaking point in the third act, we can genuinely see the way these neverending burdens have added up for Peter, and the true cost is written on Holland’s face. Each member of the supporting cast does just as good with what their given and they make the appropriate memorable impression - Zendaya and Martin Starr faring best - but the true notable showstopper aside from Holland is Jake Gyllenhaal, channeling every ounce of his signature chaotic energy into a barn burning performance as the enigmatic Mysterio. The film’s marketing campaign has wisely left over half of his arc to “mystery”, and his take on the classic character is truly a sight to behold.

If I had to really fault the film in any respect, it’s that it doesn’t quite feel as fresh or innovative as a whole unit as Homecoming did, and the move to Europe/greater emphasis on Peter’s superheroics over his school life rob the story of some of the unique quirks of its predecessor. This by no means makes it any less enjoyable, but it does perhaps make it less memorable in the grand Marvel catalogue.

Spider-Man: Far From Home may not encompass the iconic character quite as succinctly and beautifully as Spider-Man: Homecoming did, but it matches or improves on that predecessor in many other cases, offering even deeper emotional resonance, distinct and viscerally thrilling action, and an utterly enchanting addition in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. As a die hard Spidey and Marvel fan, you can still consider me immensely pleased.

P.S. That mid credits scene is probably the best of its ilk that I’ve ever personally seen in a comic book film, and I absolutely cannot wait to see the implications it holds for both this character and the MCU as a whole!

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Zoë Rose Bryant liked these reviews