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Review: ‘Spider-Man: Far from Home”

Marvel Studios has had a huge year with its first two offerings of 2019. “Captain Marvel” was a massive success as the studio’s first female-led picture while “Avengers: Endgame” continues to challenge for the global box office record and closed out a 22-film story arc now called the “Infinity Saga”. But Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t completed with these two movies. No, the real finale is “Spider-Man: Far from Home”, both a sequel to 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and the first film to explore a post “Endgame” MCU. With the many changes made to the series as a result of the events of “Endgame” Marvel needed a big movie to kick off a new era for their films and what better way to do that than with its most popular character and a driving force behind Iron Man’s actions in “Endgame”, Spider-Man. With so much to live up to, is “Far from Home” the sequel that both “Homecoming” and “Endgame” deserved or is it a rare miss in Marvel’s repertoire? Let’s find out. This is my review of “Spider-Man: Far from Home”.

If you are not familiar with the Spider-Man’s comics or have not watched “Endgame” yet there will likely be some spoilers ahead. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” takes place eight months after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and finds Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) still distraught over the loss of his idol and mentor Tony Stark. As summer vacation arrives Parker joins his classmates, including best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and love interest MJ (Zendaya) on a trip to Europe. However, while there the group is attacked by a mysterious water entity leading Spider-Man to be recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who informs Spider-Man that a series of elemental beings have made their way to Earth. Joining Fury and Spider-Man is Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who claims that he is from an alternate Earth that was destroyed by similar elemental titans and he has made his way to “Earth 616” in order to help prevent a similar fate. As Parker works to help defeat the Elementals, he also must manage his personal life as he attempts to impress MJ while also keeping his Spider-Man persona a secret. However, when Parker discovers the strange true origin of the Elementals he begins to question Mysterio’s motives and who he can really trust.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

“Far from Home” had a lot on its plate. Being the direct follow-up to “Endgame”, it had to establish the next step for the MCU while doing justice to a popular hero and villain. For the most part, it does just that. “Far from Home” for me was an overall better experience that “Homecoming”, which itself was a pretty fun flick. There are many factors that play into its success, but it all starts at the top with Tom Holland as Spider-Man himself. Holland has played this character in five movies to date now, including two solo films, and he continues to bring amazing youthful energy to the role every time. This time however we see Peter Parker in a darker place, having lost his mentor and now seeing himself as the heir apparent to Iron Man’s role as THE superhero everyone counts on. There’s even a neat side story, and a significant one at that, that sees Parker come into ownership of Tony Stark’s famous tech glasses which further puts the burden of responsibility and legacy on Parker’s shoulders. But it’s not just the hero we see grow in Parker. We also see him grow as a person as he tries to impress MJ and live a normal life while also acting as the wallcrawler. While “Homecoming” did touch on Parker’s attempts to juggle his dual lives, here it’s a huge part of who he is due to him being one of the very few still-masked heroes with a hidden identity and the world seeking a new Avenger. We see Parker grow more than almost any other hero in a solo film in the MCU to date simply because he wants so bad to live up to Tony Stark but needs to find his own way of being a hero to save the day and do it without revealing to the world who he really is. This made for a fun, relatable, and unique twist on the superhero sequel that we really haven’t seen in the MCU so far due to most other heroes being adults and/or having open identities to the public.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

But a superhero film is nothing without its villain and while the trailers may try to fool the uneducated, SPOILER ALERT Mysterio is very much the antagonist of this story and I don’t feel bad revealing that because if you really thought one of Spidey’s most famous advisories was going to become a legitimate Avenger I don’t know what to tell you. Everyone knew that in some way Mysterio would be hiding something in this film and the brilliant part about his character is how he has been altered to fit the MCU. I already spoiled the not-so-secret twist of the character so I won’t spoil much more, but I will say if you are familiar with who Mysterio is in the comics and his power set you’ll find his MCU counterpart includes a lot of updated nods to his original incarnation. One thing is always certain with Mysterio, nothing is as it seems, and the filmmakers depict this by building in a creative source of his abilities as well as a motivation that ties him to the larger MCU retroactively. But while he may not be the hero the commercials tried to fool us into thinking he might be, that doesn’t make him bland either. Like the Vulture before him, Mysterio is a villain with a code and a conscience and even tries to keep Peter Parker out of the way to protect him. When Spider-Man does get in his way Mysterio is willing to warn him, even try to convince him of another path before he turns to more aggressive tactics. Jake Gyllenhaal feels perfect for this role and while at times his acting might seem wooden that all makes sense when you realize what’s really going on. Mysterio is a man with a plan, an ego, and a code that he tries to follow to a fault but is willing to break it if it suits his greater goals making him, in my opinion, yet another great addition to a franchise that used to be famous for having a villain problem.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

So, the hero is good, the villain is good, what about the story? As I already explained a lot of this film’s plot revolves around Peter Parker maturing as both a person and a hero and juggles both of those ideas quite well. But while we’re seeing Parker become a great hero, we’re also seeing a world where many of the Avengers are gone or retired and Spider-Man has become the most public hero remaining. Five years have passed and all of a sudden people were brought back to reality setting up a pretty interesting world where people are looking for the next great hero to step up. “Far from Home” also serves as an exploration of a world without Tony Stark which is fitting seeing as Spider-Man and Stark were very close and had a mentor-mentee relationship. It does all this with one big story that tackles everything almost at once. All of these story elements are intertwined and play into an overarching narrative that sets the tone for the future of the MCU while also essentially making Spider-Man the new Iron Man. Nostalgic callbacks are balanced by new elements that help Spidey stand out on his own while never letting us forget that the reason he exists is because of the Godfather of the entire MCU, Tony Stark, and with Stark now gone other heroes are going to have to step up to the plate to make sure another “Avengers level threat” can be resolved. “Far from Home” is an awesome continuation of the MCU and the Spider-Man storyline giving us practically everything we could need to move on with “Endgame” now in the rearview. We got to enjoy the finale, but this film, in both story and tone, scream “back to business” as Marvel looks ahead to what’s to come. And a little hint you MUST stay for both the mid and end credits scenes because they BOTH change the game massively for not only Spider-Man but another character as well.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

I also have to compliment the visuals in this movie which, while at times unconvincing, are still really fun to look at. There’s a great battle between Mysterio and Spider-Man that fully taps into Mysterio’s abilities and is, in my opinion, the best moment in the film. This is one of the most intense and fun villain-versus-hero fights I’ve seen in any superhero movie ever and I’d watch the film again just to see that on the big screen. But besides the visual effects, the costumes feel well thought out an inspired too with Mysterio’s suit designed to depict a hero from another world while Spider-Man gets a brand new look by the end of the movie as Parker finally has a chance to update his equipment by personalizing it himself. Even the elementals are pretty fun to look at even if they are very clearly computer generated. All in all, this was a super fun film to watch in more ways than one.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

I know I’ve gushed over this film a lot in this review, but if I was going to pick out some negatives the real issues probably lie in the side stories. While this is very much Peter Parker’s adventure there are SO many side stories going on in this film that feel like filler or forced attempts to give minor characters something to do. Parker’s friend Ned gets a story of his own in this film pairing him with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) who gets a much larger role than the previous movie. Flash Thompson is back and clearly forced into the action for the sake of continuing Parker’s relationship with a bully and the side quest for Peter to impress MJ is bogged down by a competing classmate trying to defeat Parker for MJ’s affection. While these are fun stories to add to a Spider-Man movie they don’t really add much to the overall experience except a few admittedly great laughs. MJ’s story and relationship with Peter is handled fine through other means and Ned’s story turns out to be inconsequential by the end of the film. I would have rather seen these characters deal more with the trauma of having been snapped than feeling like they just decided to go along with their lives in eight months. That brings me to the other issue for the wider MCU. This film presents the return of the snap victims as pretty much being glossed over. The world doesn’t seem too confused that half of humanity suddenly returned from dust. I do commend this movie for setting the stage for the MCU’s future, but I will readily admit that if the studio really wanted this to be an “Endgame” follow-up so bad it would have been great to see the young cast deal with the results rather than giving them new stories that turn out to be pretty bland.

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Screenshot Courtesy of Sony and Marvel

So, my opinion is that “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is fantastic and an improvement on the equally great “Homecoming”. A fun and interesting villain proves to be a real challenge for Spider-Man who grows a lot over the course of this story setting himself up to be a new central hero in the Avengers. While I have some issues with the side stories, it’s the main story that really drives the action and oh boy is there plenty of action to enjoy. There are a lot of twists and turns and sleight of hand in this movie, something Mysterio himself is well known for in the comics so I guess it’s fitting, and it keeps you guessing literally to the very end of the credits what’s going to happen next. With plenty of fanfare, a bit of needed closure after the intense “Endgame” finale, and a story that builds on the central character, pushes the MCU in new directions, and gives fans a great adventure to tide them over until Marvel’s next feature, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” does more than enough to earn its keep in the MCU lineup. While I’m still not over “Endgame”, “Far from Home” reminds us this is not the end for this cinematic universe and there’s still plenty of quality ground to explore.

 

 

GRADE:A five-star rating

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