There’s no R&R when you’re part of the MCU
April’s Avengers: Endgame saw certain characters depart, other characters carry on in their absence, and other characters, still, find a sort of peace as this phase of the MCU came to a close. If there’s one character who has yet to find peace or closure of any kind, it’s Peter Parker (Tom Holland), whose loss of the man closest to a father figure signified another tragic milestone in his young life. The audience going into Spider-Man: Far From Home are entering the theater with a handful of questions: Is Peter the new Tony Stark? What does the future hold for the youngest hero of the MCU, and most importantly, what will this chapter tell us about the future of the Avengers as a whole? These are huge questions facing the movie and while it doesn’t once avoid answering them, it does show a little bit of playfulness with the answers.
Taking place in a not-too-distant future following the events of Endgame, Peter Parker has decided he needs a break from New York and from being Spider-Man. In an effort to regroup, he kisses Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) goodbye and boards a flight to Europe for a class trip with friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Anjourie Rice), and M.J. (Zendaya), to whom Peter has finally decided to reveal his true feelings to once the group gets to Paris. However, plans soon change as Peter finds himself summoned by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help out Quenin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a superhero from another Earth, who needs help defeating the Elementals, a monstrous collection of the planet’s elements that look to wreak havoc on humanity.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is fun and, more importantly, funny. This is a hysterical movie, using the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor which helped Ant-Man and Guardians soar. Although the bright pop feel which accompanied those movies isn’t as present here, in its place is a rambunctiousness carried by the purity and enthusiasm of the characters. Everyone here is given their share of one-liners, so much so that Peter ultimately takes on the role of straight man in his own movie. The laughs start immediately as the class’s TV news presents a badly made Tony Stark tribute set to Whitney Houstin’s “I Will Always Love You.” Spider-Man: Far From Home has some clever enjoyment playing around the effects of Thanos’s snap, or the “blip,” as it is known here. Peter’s teacher Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr) recalls how he thought his ex-wife died in the blip before realizing she had actually just run off with another man. “We had a funeral for her and everything,” he confides sadly to Peter. Meanwhile, the movie has fun watching Nick Fury and his team inconspicuously take over Peter’s class trip through transportation and lodging, much to the class’s bewilderment. The comedy might not do much to further explore the events of Endgame, but after the emotional rollercoaster of that movie, the laughs are more than a welcome presence.
Laughter aside, Spider-Man: Far From Home does something of have an obligation to not only acknowledge the events which came before, but also explore how they’ve effected the central character. Throughout most of the film, we see Peter trying to move on with his life following what happened in Endgame. His longing for Tony Stark is strong, but his longing for normalcy is somewhat stronger. Even if he doesn’t say it, there’s enough to suggest that Peter has doubts of his superhero future. Peter’s desire to leave his alter ego behind for a while and profess his feelings for M.J. shows not just a need to exist as his own person, but gives him the space to examine whether he can truly strike the kind of balance between teenager and superhero. When he’s forced to deal with the recent past, we see a young man growing up, continuing the course of education Tony set him on years before. Scenes with Peter and both Quentin and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) take their time as the youngster unburdens himself about his uncertain future for what are truly some of the movie’s more genuine moments. Speculation has been made about whether or not Peter will be filling the shoes of the man he looked up to. Spider-Man: Far From Home does discuss this notion, but ultimately fails to give as clear cut an answer as some would no doubt prefer. Perhaps this is intentional. Maybe the movie, like its young hero, is still trying to figure it out.
Holland succeeds in his second solo outing thanks in large part because of the nature of his character this time around. The script, chock full of moments with Peter acting silly and awkward in one scene and thoughtful and sad in another, give the actor a chance to show he’s more than just an affable presence. There’s an endearing quality to Holland which comes through, regardless of whatever type of scene he’s playing, that helps in making an already diverting film something more. Gyllenhaal’s casting as Mysterio has been met with much attention, and if I haven’t commented on it yet it’s only because the amount of surprises and flair the actor brings to the table should be experienced with little to no knowledge of the kind of character he’s playing. Suffice it to say, this is a Gyllenhaal who has forgone the intensity that has accompanied most of his previous work and has simply showed up to play. Zendaya, Batalon, Smoulders, Rice, Favreau, Starr, and a brief Tomei all add their own levels of enjoyment to the mix as one would expect them to. It’s Jackson though who (for reasons revealed later on) doesn’t seem to be having as much fun as everyone else. Barring a couple of great one-liners thought, the actor seems to be more or less nonplussed by his involvement here in ways which go beyond his character’s state.
Spider-Man: Far From Home tries throughout its more than two hour runtime to strike a balance between being a transitional entry and a Spider-Man movie all in one. Thanks to the strength of the comedy and the sensitivity of the emotions in all the above mentioned scenes, the movie succeeds in accomplishing this daunting task. There’s a fair amount going on here in terms of the movie’s action sequences, making for an honestly busy time on the screen. Besides the presence of the Elementals, and all the destruction they carry with them, a wondrous assortment of illusions and other special effects populate the screen; all of them somehow working in sync. But they’re all incidental in the end. This is the story of Peter’s growing up, from fledgling web slinger to a hero trying to come to grips the tragedies of the past and a hope for the future.