After the scale, success, and general grandiosity of Avengers Endgame, the MCU needs to bring itself back down to earth. It’s going to be a long time before we have another Marvel film with stakes that high, and the groundwork needs to be laid for a smaller scale for the time being. Generally, Marvel has called on Ant-Man as its palate-cleanser franchise, but this time the comedown is so huge that they need a bigger star to do the job. Enter Spider-Man Far From Home, a romantic road trip which is just as happy to be a sentimental teen movie as it is a superhero showdown.
As the world recovers from Thanos’s snap and its reversal five years later, the newly un-dusted Peter Parker (Tom Holland) decides he needs a holiday, so off he jets to Europe with his classmates. Unfortunately for him, elemental monsters have been popping up all over the place, and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has decided that Spider-Man is just the hero for the job. Peter’s not alone this time, though, joined by the mysterious and powerful Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims to be from another dimension with knowledge on how to defeat the creatures.
Comic books fans will know that Beck, aka Mysterio, is not all he seems to be, and Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers adapt the character ingeniously, slotting the goofy magic illusionist from the comic into the more tech-driven MCU seamlessly. Gyllenhaal’s casting is a real coup too; he brings not only an air of prestige, but some of the wild unpredictability that made him such a searing presence in Nightcrawler. He and Holland have an instant, enjoyable chemistry during their early team ups against beasts made of water (in Venice) and molten metal (in Prague).
This country-hopping isn’t as well integrated into the story as it could be (only Venice has any distinct personality as a location), and packing in this twisty superhero tale alongside an old-school vacation comedy makes Far From Home a little overstuffed when compared to the more streamlined Homecoming. A love triangle between Peter, MJ (Zendaya), and the hunky Brad Davis (Remy Hii) is badly underdeveloped, and Nick Fury’s presence ends up feeling more perfunctory than essential. The big plot moves also all lack the wallop and bravado of Homecoming’s Vulture twist, though the post-credit scenes are some of the best Marvel have ever done.
Far From Home doesn’t have the time to be as funny as Homecoming, but there are still a lot of decent laughs, like the running gag of Peter’s disgust with best friend Ned’s (Jacob Batalon) new and cloying relationship with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice). Martin Starr’s Mr Harrington is again hilariously tragic, but JB Smoove does a simply awful job as a lazily written new teacher, whose big joke lines never land. It does end up rather making Spider-Man the straight man of the movie, which is odd for the character, but he gets some great action beats in return.
Though I did miss Homecoming’s smaller scale action, the joy of movement as Spider-Man swings and leaps through cities is intact, and Mysterio gets some showstopping scenes. Making the most of his head-spinning power set, there are a couple of genuinely trippy set pieces that seem lifted straight out of a comic page, far and away the highlights of the film. However, the final fight is an absolute mess, completely lacking the clear and consistent choreography and geography of the battle scenes marshalled by the Russos. There are a lot of great individual moments in Far From Home, but they never quite cohere together enough to make up the sum of their parts – especially coming up against Spidey’s previous two appearances in the far superior Endgame and Into the Spiderverse.