REVIEW: Spider-Man: Far From Home (Spoiler Free)

Marvel flavoured Donnie Darko.

Whilst on a two-week European summer field trip with his classmates, Peter Parker is recruited by Nick Fury to confront interdimensional elemental monsters, alongside a mysterious ally known primarily as Mr. Beck.

Months after the cataclysmic concluding chapter to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame, it would seem Sony thought it to be superb timing for the release of another Spidey movie… and I’m not complaining. As many of you may know, Spider-Man is a very sentimental character to me. I loved the Sam Raimi original trilogy, loathed the Mark Webb reboots, highly enjoyed the animated extravaganza, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and have found nothing but pleasure in the MCU’s current depiction of the wallcrawler. From the outstanding reintroduction of the character in Captain America: Civil War to the perfect reaffirming of Marvel’s genius iteration in Spider-Man: Homecoming to lastly the character’s largely fulfilling appearances in the recent Avengers installments, I have to say, Marvel and Tom Holland have done a brilliant job in creating a loveable, nuance and flawlessly executed fresh version of the beloved superhero. Like the gift that keeps on giving, MCU’s Spider-Man has only been in the zeitgeist since 2016, although his impact on the franchise has been unprecedented. So, of course, I was extremely pumped going into Spider-Man: Far From Home, expecting another high quality and largely entertaining blast of Spidey on a new adventure.

From the outset, Far From Home was already destined to be a highly unique and special installment in the franchise. Being the first ever Spider-Man movie not to be set entirely in New York City, Far From Home took the risk in taking the NYC centric hero out of his comfort zone (physically and figuratively) to explore more innovative routes for the character to thrive in. In Far From Home, Spider-Man was challenged in more creative and wildly inventive ways than ever before, crafting elements of heightened drama and terror unlike many other recent Spidey movies. With direction finer than that of Homecoming‘s and both characterisations and performances being refined to their greatest distilleries… I think you’re starting to know where I’m going with this. Entuned with its energetic pace and never letting up on its thrill factor – I have to admit that I really loved Spider-Man: Far From Home. Although not the better Spider-Man 2 or Into the Spider-Verse, I found Far From Home still weirdly more entertaining than the latter and, technically, a greater installment than Homecoming. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do a sequel.

Of course being a Marvel movie, Far From Home withholds a lot of secrets about its plot and characters, so I’ll try and walk a tightrope when critiquing this film.

More expansive and investing than Homecoming, the wallcrawler sequel opened the MCU to greater concepts and chances of adventure from beyond the concluding arcs of titans like Iron Man and Captain America. Operating in full awareness of the universe it exists in whilst specifically involving, for consideration, the events of EndgameFar From Home was just as much a product of the wider MCU as it was Homecoming. Calling back to pivotal past Marvel movies for plot lines, character motivations and reinvented concepts, Far From Home found its footing whilst taking advantage of its universe, especially in some unexpected corners of said universe.

Starting with how the film dealt with the fallout of Endgame, I believe Far From Home followed on from the humongous event blockbuster very well. As Homecoming did with Civil WarFar From Home perfectly filled in the blanks of some of Endgame‘s biggest questions through some logical and comical means of explanation. Although a film with some bulk exposition scenes, it was a testament to how entertaining Far From Home proved to be that the obvious exposition dumps felt breezy and joyously necessary. The biggest and most effective element Far From Home continued on from Endgame with, was (and spoilers for Endgame) the death of Tony Stark. Calling on themes of legacy, worthiness and responsibility to deal with Peter’s mourning of Stark, Far From Home offered a greater thematic unpacking of Peter as a character than Homecoming ever managed to. Using Endgame as a springboard to explore the idea of taking on the weight of the world, whether in servitude to another or because its the right thing to do, Far From Home operated as a visualised depiction of an Atlas-like man burdened to hold up the world on his shoulders.

For a character called Spider-Man, never has the MCU version of the character ever really struck me for upholding the latter word in his title. Although, what Far From Home did was visualise the transition of the man from boyhood to adulthood as Peter is continuously forced to make decisions in this film that heroically defined him as an Avenger on the level of Iron Man or Captain America. A better understanding of Peter as a person was found in Far From Home as, constantly, he found himself forced to choose between what was most important to him and what was most necessary for the mission. Far From Home continuously berated Peter with the fact that he was made an official Avenger and now the world considers him the new Iron Man. A larger than life title and mantle that continues to haunt the kid superhero, Peter’s journey in Far From Home was more one of acceptance for who he is and who is not. With Stark’s death working almost as this universe’s Uncle Ben trigger to lead Peter on a quest to understand his place as a superhero and what makes him unique in a world of larger than life Avengers, Far From Home worked as a tale of Peter unravelling a new chapter in his life whilst the MCU, simultaneously, does the same.

To talk the brilliance behind Peter Parker as a character is unfitting though without mentioning Tom Holland’s performance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is flawless and possibly the best committed to cinema. His performance here in Far From Home was particularly genius as Holland delivered on every laugh and tear with the utmost passion you’d expect from one, Peter Parker. Also, flanking Holland in this film was another dose of Homecoming‘s great supporting cast along with some new and interesting faces.

First off, Zendaya’s MJ in Far From Home was a massive improvement from her mediocre turn in Homecoming. Being overly unique in her outlooks, awkwardness and quirks, Zendaya’s portrayal of MJ felt separate and very of-its-own in comparison to past versions of the character. The bond she made with Holland’s Peter in the film also leant a lot to the sentimental nature of Far From Home; presently, there was the sparking of a relationship in Far From Home that really grounded the film’s outlandish events and drew it all back down to Earth for some emotionally resonating moments. Equally, Jacob Batalon’s Ned Leeds, Angourie Rice’s Betty Brandt and Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson all delivered some grade-A work as comical side characters, lightening up the film’s events at all the right moments.

Continuing with the cast, Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May (apart from being insanely attractive) was again really likable as the younger, fresher version of said character. For the moments he was in it too, Jon Favreau delivered some of his best work as Happy Hogan in the MCU ever. In fact, this may be Favreau’s best onscreen performance in any Marvel movie as the director-turned-actor gave a rather strong performance featuring some of Far From Home‘s most emotional beats. The token appearances of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill also proved rather pivotal from a wider lens rather just being included for the entertainment value they delivered. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove were both rather funny as the resident school teachers and gave Far From Home some of its most hysterical material, but finally… finally… now we have space to talk Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio.

Maybe the best part of the entire film was Gyllenhaal’s unpredictable, lively and highly charismatic portrayal of the infamous Spidey character, Mysterio. Fun fact, Gyllenhaal was originally set to play Spider-Man back in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 after Tobey Maguire briefly dropped out… so, in a roundabouts way, Gyllenhaal was destined to appear in a Spider-Man film eventually. In a role allowing him to stretch and explode with such energy and excitement, Gyllenhaal nailed the character of Mysterio in such an unforgettable turn that I honestly found myself shocked with how much of an actor’s piece Gyllenhaal was able to build Mysterio up as. For a guy who’s starred in mysterious and illusionary cinema in the past, such as Donnie Darko and Enemy, it would seem Mysterio was the perfect role for Gyllenhaal to undertake. I wont spoil anything, but damn was both Gyllenhaal and this character the breath of fresh-air the Spider-Man franchise needed to keep its creativity intact.

Speaking of creativity: lets talk about Far From Home‘s European setting. You know the saying, “you can take the spider out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the spider”. In Far From Home, the new settings for Spidey to explore and progress as a character in proved hugely refreshing and exciting. Despite still being the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, the worlds constructed in Venice, Prague, Berlin, London and a few other destinations, really leant their hand in building Spider-Man up as an Avengers-levelled icon, delivering a handful of new and uncharted challenges to test Spidey’s heroic capabilities. Just being able to watch Spider-Man go places outside of just Manhattan’s skyscrapers and Queens’ alleyways was so retrospectively innovative and nuance. It was also in these new settings that Far From Home managed to develop some excellent action sequences.

Although they were only few bursts of action, said action in Far From Home was bonkers… I mean as in excellent. I loved every second of every action beat in Far From Home. Certain monstrous moments would delve into surrealist thrill and back again to the point, at times, I forgot I was even watching a Spider-Man film, but instead some obscure artsy blockbuster made by… I don’t know, Christopher Nolan, maybe – someone cool, you know? Point is, Far From Home contained action unlike any other Spider-Man movie before it; really throwing the web-slinger into situations unlike ever before. And when the film wasn’t using action to excite, it was able to uphold such a thrilling, fast-pace that never in its runtime did this adventure feel tedious or too long. For lack of a better term, everything in Far From Home felt perfectly balanced.

MMB1820_TRLcomp_v007.1040HI-Large_1000x527p_thumbnail.jpg
(Sony 2019)

Also, whoever was behind the costume design for Far From Home should win an award. Not only giving audiences a series of distinctive and detailed Spidey suits (with a particular emphasis on the awesome black SHIELD suit Peter wears in Prague), the costume design also managed to make a ridiculous looking character like Mysterio cinematically work… in a weird way. Despite the character still looking silly, never was I watching Far From Home and allowed my mind to ponder on how stupid Mysterio looked – almost immediately I felt at ease with the character’s visualisation and for that, I must give massive props to the costume department.

Whilst speaking on technicalities, I also have to really applaud the CGI work in Far From Home. The visual effects were amazing with one particular sequence utilising CGI in one of the most insanely creative ways ever seen in a Marvel movie.

You would think from all this praise I really have nothing bad to say about Far From Home, right? Well, that’s kind of true. I am continuing to struggle in finding flaws in this movie.

However, if I were to take a few jabs at Far From Home, I would like to turn to some elements of the movie’s climax. Decisions made by the filmmakers concerning Mysterio in the final act did not completely jell well with me as I hoped for something more from the character and his larger role in the MCU. The finale and, even, the final scene of Far From Home felt a little anti-climatic as well. Honestly, to speak briefly on the film’s credit scenes, I loved, loved, loved what was done with them… but I do think the first of the two credit scenes should have been the actual ending of the film. In MCU logic, the credit sequences are meant to tease the next film and although the one for Far From Home very much did in some shocking, exciting and game-changing ways, it also gave more information than it should have. I really liked the credit sequence and thought it was packed full of genius… but it needed to be the end scene of Far From Home for contextual narrative reasons rather than just a last minute edition to the credits. The scene was incredible and could have been Far From Home‘s chance to end flawlessly, but the film chose to use the scene as a “sneak peak” rather than an official ending… and that kind of irked me.

There were, of course, some other minor problems I had with Far From Home, here and there, but all in all, I had a blast with this Spidey sequel. From its larger ambitions to branch out from just the usual Spidey formula along with its attention to detail, especially in a particular music cue, Far From Home went above and beyond in reassuring Marvel fans that the MCU has a bright future ahead of it. With unpredictable avenues laid out in the future, multiple worlds and characters yet to be discovered and stories waiting to be told, I take solace in the fact that leading this new era of MCU heroism is Tom Holland as the perfect and homely, wallcrawling Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a bloody… CRUSADE!!

 

P.S.: Considering this is a Marvel movie and all Marvel movies have post-credit scenes, I thought it fitting to include a post-review note here as well. So, like Spider-Man, I’m also going on vacation for a few weeks. I hope to review at least The Lion King and Booksmart once I return before the end of the month, but till then, later folks.

 

Image Sources:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s