WARNING YOU NERDS: There are small spoilers for Spidey and massive spoilers for Endgame, but who hasn’t seen Endgame yet?
A lot of people have heroes from works of fiction in their life; for me, it was Spider-Man. Peter Parker’s acts of selflessness and the attempts at being a better person even when he wasn’t sure of himself resonated with me more than anything. It helps that Peter was like me: an uncool nerd who always ended up as the butt of the joke. That’s not meant to make you feel bad, but just to show the importance of the Spider-Man character.
Whether it was reading as many comic books as possible or seeing each Raimi film as a kid in theaters more times than I’m willing to admit, it was my world, so it’s nice to see that this character continues to be utilized to its full potential as Marvel continues its streak of hits with Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Far From Home takes place almost immediately after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as Peter is trying to cope with the loss of Tony Stark and go back to his mundane high school life after fighting, and losing, to purple Shrek in outer space. Itching for an escape, Peter decides to give up Spider-Man for the time being and join his friends on a summer science trip through Europe. As all superhero stories go, something gets in the way, in this case Nick Fury recruiting Parker to fight the destructive Elementals alongside a new hero from another dimension: Quentin Beck, AKA Mysterio. Superhero sized high-jinks ensue!
Acting as not only a sequel to Homecoming but as an epilogue of sorts to the Infinity Saga series, Far From Home has much more baggage than meets the eye. It’s in juggling the desire to continue the story of Peter Parker while reintroducing us to a post-snap-reversal world where the story-telling really shines. An event as major as 50% of the world disappearing and reappearing isn’t simply ignored, and its mentions are cleverly written and never jarring. The death of Tony isn’t glossed over either, as his presence lingers and is still felt throughout the world around Peter– quite literally, as most of the major set pieces feature different murals to Iron Man one way or another. See how many you can count!
Carrying Endgame‘s weight surprisingly doesn’t bring Far From Home down, as it excels in continuing Peter’s quest of self worth. Where Homecoming had Peter finding the strength to become the Spider-Man he wants to be, Far From Home explores Peter becoming the hero that he needs to be– one who can bear the consequences of his actions and not loom in the Avengers’ shadow. Ultimately, Far From Home explores Peter’s discovery of his own self worth and how it’s important to be yourself first and foremost.
It’s hard not to think about the “With great power comes great responsibility” quote, even if good ole’ Uncle Ben is not a thing in this universe. Instead, the father figure role in Peter’s life is occupied by both Tony and Quentin Beck.
While Tony showed Peter how to be better, Quentin Beck is showing Peter how to be the best. It’s in the camaraderie between Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland where the film pops out and becomes more than your typical MCU fare, thus transcending the “lack of depth” issue a lot of people (myself included) have with the more mediocre films in this saga. The established relationship between both heroes makes up most of the first half of the film, and gets us emotionally invested enough so by the time the story takes its necessary twists and turns we care more about how the relationship changes than the action on screen.
That’s not to say the action on screen isn’t as exciting as it should be; if anything, it’s a major step up from the dull and washed-in-grey sequences found in Homecoming. Certain set pieces in this film are actually some of the most exciting and visually appealing moments in any live action Spider-Man movie.
Still, a lot of Far From Home is very low to the ground, stakes wise, as outside of the Spidey action we explore the ever growing relationship between Peter and MJ (played by Zendaya), who is finally given enough material here to show off her acting chops. A lot of it feels rushed and at times is forced, but it’s a bearable thread that increases in enjoyment as the movie inches closer to the obvious resolution.
There are other students on the trip, but a lot of them either add unnecessary drama for Peter that goes nowhere or do nothing at all. It sucks, because a lot of Peter’s peers have interesting character types that would work better if they were just given a bit more to do other than be punchlines. This is never more a struggle than with Peter’s BFF Ned, who was one of the highlights in Homecoming but has become nothing more than white noise in this one.
By the end of Far From Home, Peter becomes the true Spider-Man: one who isn’t defined by anyone else but himself and has the confidence, attitude, and cockiness that made me fall in love with the character in the first place. Everything leads to a nostalgic finale of our iconic character swinging through downtown Manhattan, once again invoking images from the comics that were crucial to my childhood. That alone made the movie.
In some ways, this film feels like the end of one saga and the beginning of another for our web head, and if the shocking end credit scenes are any indicator, it’s only going to get better from here.
If Marvel continues to pump out great films like Far From Home, superhero fatigue isn’t coming anytime soon.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
dir. Jon Watts
Opens everywhere Tuesday, 7/2 (though the Hassle recommends the Capitol or your local independently owned multiplex)