[Review] Spider-Man: Far From Home Is As Spectacular As A Road Trip With Spidey Should Be
[Spoiler Free] Despite Sony still owning the property, Spider-Man's latest sequel feels like what Marvel Studios has wished for all along.
Ah, to be sixteen again...
Personally, that thought terrifies me - but wouldn't it be wonderful to experience the weightless freedom of adolescence again if just for a few hours? If you're in, then FAR FROM HOME has you covered.
Marvel Studios' latest superhero flick is another return to roots for the juggernaut property, just as its predecessor HOMECOMING was in it's day. While audiences have grown to expect universal-scale destruction and consequence from the likes of INFINITY WAR, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and ENDGAME, leave it to Kevin Feige and Co. to know that do none of these a good Spidey movie make. Their latest effort scales back the storytelling considerably, and in short: is far better for it. He is, after all, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and no one will ever get that like Marvel so obviously does.
Welcome to London, Pete! You're gonna love it.
Despite a single cringe-worthy scene, FAR FROM HOME accomplishes what the uneven CAPTAIN MARVEL vehicle was unable to: undeniable charm. We catch up with young Peter Parker and his classmates right after the fallout of ENDGAME, and whilst that epic's consequences are all over this film - none of them define it. Instead, returning director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers smartly keep the focus entirely on par with a struggling teenager attempting to navigate life in general - let alone the monumental responsibilities inherited from "The Snappening" (which, thankfully, is given a far better official title in this outing).
Holland demonstrates the full spectrum of a seasoned young actor in FAR FROM HOME.
And struggle poor Peter does. As any lifelong fan will tell you, Parker is absolutely at his best when he's in over his head.
Thankfully, this seems to be 24/7 for the Spider-Man, and the majority of his timeless charm comes directly from this defining underdog aura.
Tom Holland delivers such angst without effort this time around; his performance showcasing the talents of a young actor who has grown considerably more skilled during his demanding time with Marvel Studios. Sure, we've watched him die already, but dying is easy, isn't it? It's living that's so damn hard.
We watch Peter leave New York City on his own terms for the first time in FFH, and it is delightful to witness. Tony Stark isn't around anymore to whisk the kid off to Germany for a superhero family feud, or to outfit a child with a weaponized space-suit *just in case* an enormous UFO happens to leave the skies of Manhattan with him on board. No, this time, Pete simply wishes to go on a field trip, with his friends, without the soul-crushing burden of carrying Stark's legacy at the age of sixteen.
But Peter does not get this wish. The character has never gotten what he wants, and the creative team behind this iteration of Spider-Man not only gets this to a tee - they embrace it.
The effortless, loving charm that Marisa Tomei emits as Aunt May makes it easy to believe Peter would grow up to be the huge-hearted young man that Holland puts forward.
Thankfully, Peter has his rock - his Aunt May - to prop him up at all times, played to perfection once more by the lovely Marisa Tomei. Happy Hogan is still a positive presence in Pete's life, too; now more-so than ever. Jon Favreau's uncle-like figure forms a true bond with Stark's protege this time around, their mutual love of (and sorrow over the loss of) Tony bringing them together in the film's best moments.
But nothing ever stays warm and fuzzy for Peter Parker for long. As such, we're treated to a slew of forces attempting to pull young Parker out of these comfort zones and prematurely into adulthood; one of which is a returning Nick Fury. The chemistry between these two "could not be more different" characters is wonderful, and leaves room for just as much of an electric dynamic as Fury & Stark had for the entirety of The Infinity Saga (Marvel's first decade's worth of films). Yet discussing their dynamic doesn't leave much room for spoiler-aversion - and neither does the film's other primary force pulling at Parker: one Quentin Beck, a.k.a Mysterio.
Mysterio makes his on-screen debut in FAR FROM HOME, complete with 100% comic accurate costume: fishbowl and all.
Firstly, just seeing a Spider-Man villain make it to the screen with such an absolutely-faithful rendition of their comic book costume is a revelation in itself. The past films have had a way of getting semi-close, but never close enough - always feeling the need to burden such villains with "reality" or "coolness". Not Mysterio. Oh no. Instead, Jake Gyllenhaal gets to make his MCU debut with one of the most faithful-to-the-source-material villains this decade-long franchise has ever seen, and for the most part we're much better for it.
As such, Mysterio's involvement is brilliantly weaved into this universe's post ENDGAME narrative, and as (mostly) fun as Gyllenhaal is to watch in the role, it's the overarching plot that benefits most from his presence.
Through both honoring the source material and smart storytelling, Marvel is able to deliver to us - after eleven years and over twenty films - a narrative adventure and principle struggle that feels completely fresh with FAR FROM HOME.
Could Mysterio not be what he seems? Fans of these classic characters will know they're in for quite a treat when it comes to a faithfully-adapted Quentin Beck.
This is no small deal, either. I'm unsure if others have felt it as much as I have the past few years, but the "Avengers fatigue" had become quite real for me. As excellent as the ending two films were for The Infinity Saga, there's only so many films you can set through that forcibly set up one single event before it starts to feel ominously stale.
In this respect, this sequel gains its most massive plus: FAR FROM HOME serves as an invigorating reset button for the focus of the franchise, finally pulling us away from the manic mistakes of our age'd first-generation Avengers in order to focus on - quite literally - the future.
In such spirit, we witness not only a brand-new on-screen villain and territory for the MCU, but for Spider-Man as a screen presence, as well. None of this is an accident, either. Marvel Studios has been very purposeful about their source material choices for their Spider-Man, choosing only to use villains that had not been touched upon (or absolutely done to death: see Green Goblin) in the past two franchises from SONY. Because of this, we've finally seen the likes of classic rogues The Vulture (played to perfection by legend Michael Keaton), the Shocker (albeit to less-enjoyable results), and now Gyllenhaal's Mysterio, in all their live-action glory.
It is this sort of careful, meticulous consideration for every single piece of the puzzle that will forever keep Marvel Studios one step ahead of their competition: a laundry-list of studios attempting to mimic MCU success not by treading new ground - but rehashing gimmicks and nostalgia. We're all looking at you, FOX's DARK PHOENIX, and eagerly anticipating Marvel's long-awaited incorporation of the X-Men properties (now that Disney owns FOX's film divisions) so they can do the same for the mutants as they've done for Spidey.
So what is that one cringe-worthy element mentioned many words back?
Zendaya and Holland ooze a youthful, awkward chemistry that is perfect for the titular character.
It's not Zendaya's MJ, haters, sorry. In fact, she is again a highlight of this iteration of Parker's journey, and is given far more to do here than Kirsten Dunst ever was in three entire films. No - thankfully, it is a much smaller piece of the puzzle.
The only scene in the entire film that took us (both my wife and I) out of the experience was a jarring bit of exposition for Quentin Beck (Mysterio). It's an important scene, and the ramifications of it work brilliantly, but I cannot help but think that there were far better ways to address this particular scene itself - and this character's heritage - than by abruptly breaking the narrative to focus on, well, spoilery stuff.
Rest assured, however, fellow Spidey fans, that this one hiccup was not nearly enough to stop us from wanting to enjoy this outing again. In fact, I already want to re-watch it immediately - a feat the past half-dozen tentpoles I've reviewed for studios haven't even been able to come close to.
And yes, please stay after the credits for both a phenomenal mid-credits bonus and an absolutely flooring final stinger at the very end.
All of this considered: FAR FROM HOME accomplishes a whole lot for the MCU, and instead of bogging audiences down with exposition for the future of the franchise, it settles for telling a simple story about a kid in over his head.
This reviewer, at least, feels much better for it, too. In fact, the first film I reviewed professionally was SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING for Marvel and Disney, and that came after a lifelong obsession with the character (complete with not one but six Halloweens spent as the character, alongside writing a feature-length fan film starring my 19-year-old self as Parker, and my now wife as Mary Jane Watson, alongside many of our equally-obsessed friends). And so while I may sound a bit biased, I am honestly comfortable toting this as not only one of Marvel's best efforts ever, but also the best on-screen outing Spider-Man has ever received, right up there with the excellence of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2.
What a time to be a nerd, and how incredible it's been to watch Peter Parker come full circle; bringing him right back where he belongs: with parent studio Marvel, who've crafted a loving tribute to both the timeless character and creators Stan Lee & Steve Ditko with SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME.
For in a time when we all feel quite a bit "in over our heads", its incredibly nice to spend a few hours watching someone else do the struggling for a change - especially someone as endearing, relatable, and heartwarmingly-reassuring as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Avoid spoilers like the plague and go see SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME as it hits theaters nationwide on July 2nd, 2019.