Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home is far from spectacular
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a summer blockbuster that makes sense as a sequel and epilogue to Avengers: Endgame. Far From Home’s affable, good-nature isn’t exactly the Spider-man story that I find most compelling. It will take a 3rd or 4th installment in the franchise to build up and earn darker moments with emotional resonance. However, Far From Home’s light tone is perfectly in line with a teen-aged Peter Parker and what was previously established in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Putting aside what I personally want from a Spider-Man movie, Far From Home delivers a decent teen-comedy with ample comic-book action. Playing it relatively safe, director Jon Watts avoids the mistakes in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and moves the franchise a step in the right direction.
One of the reasons for rebooting Spider-Man again is to see the web-crawler in the MCU and giving Marvel an opportunity to bring a fresh yet authentic take on their own famous hero. In a post Avengers: Endgame world, feeling Tony Stark’s “presence” through-out Far From Home adds a layer of significance. The world remembers Iron-Man and his legacy. Even more importantly to Peter is the personal impact on loosing a mentor and someone whom always believed in him. By rebooting with a younger, less self-assured teenager, it’s understandable why a father figure is important to Peter’s development. With Tony Stark out of the picture, Peter ends up seeking guidance from another superhero.
On a summer school trip with his classmates in Europe, Peter plans to leave his Spider-Man costume behind and hopes to confess his true feelings to MJ. As a feel-good European vacation comedy, there are some fun, silly moments involving student Brad Davis (Remy Hii), who is also trying to win MJ’s affection. Both Tom Holland and Zendaya are good at conveying awkwardness and showing that their characters have an unspoken crush on each other. But I never felt a real romantic connection. Different story-telling decisions on how their relationship is developed over the course of the two movies could have helped their connection feel more genuine.
A couple of other relationships are played for laughs. Happy’s (Jon Favreau) crush on Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is charming. He’s a consistently likable presence who is effective as a sounding board for Peter. Best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) remains a good source of light comic relief. His jokey relationship with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) surprisingly works despite being devoid of substance. The supporting cast adds to the syrupy sweetness and energetic playfulness that Far From Home is clearly going for.
When a water monster emerges in Venice, Parker’s webslingers don’t have an effect on the creature. Fortunately, a very powerful new superhero Mysterio/Quentin Beck who’s working with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) swoops in and saves the day. I appreciate that this franchise is venturing deeper into Spider-Man’s roster of characters. Jake Gyllenhaal is a solid casting choice because he readily fits the mold of a hero and mentor. Gyllenhaal was almost cast as Spider-Man back in the day. There are some tweaks to Mysterio’s brief backstory that help to tie him into the MCU.
Mysterio is a character who doesn’t make me feel anything in particular. Neither empathy nor fear. But he is what the movie needs him to be. After Mysterio steps up to the plate as a possible replacement for Iron Man, it gives Peter an easy way out of his obligations. Mysterio calls attention to Peter’s blind spot in a couple of ways. Peter’s growth arc is to learn to take on bigger responsibilities as a hero. Part of the powers that make Spider-Man a superhero is the spidey-sense. It’s an intuitive instinct that not only perceives danger but is needed to orient himself in dangerous surroundings. Getting back his sixth sense is crucial to overcoming the challenges in front of him. On top of these ideas, Far From Home plays with perception and it keeps the viewers speculating to the very end.
A European setting switches up a different environment for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. By the end, I do feel a little homesick for New York City. The feeling of Spider-Man swinging across the New York city skyline never gets old to me. Spider-Man’s superhero arc in Far From Home is fairly well handled. Where the story falls short for me is in Peter Parker’s relationship with MJ even though the actors give it their best try. After the events in the emotionally heavy Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home is a breezy breath of air. Judging by the huge box-office numbers, Sony and Marvel Studios have a firm handle on their vision for this franchise that seems to line up with the general audience’s expectations. For my own tastes, Far From Home is a slightly above average superhero flick which a future installment can successfully build off of into something more memorable and meaningful.