While “Avengers: Endgame” may have ended a storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is still a whole lot of fallout to be dealt with from just how that close came about. Tales of what happens due to the events of “Endgame” are sure to reverberate throughout the MCU for a while and, as the first release following that epic conclusion, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” focuses on it quite directly.
Yes, as the movie opens we find our hero, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), trying to figure out where he stands in this new world – what is Spider-Man’s place; can he go back to being a friendly neighborhood superhero after he’s been to space, taken on Thanos, and watched some of his friends fall; or must he fill a bigger set of shoes? It isn’t an easy set of questions to answer for anyone, but for a teenager to try to work it all out as the rest of the world around him is also trying to find out its place, it becomes even more difficult.
It is a huge problem to have and the Jon Watts’ directed film—with a screenplay from Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers—does a great job of making Spidey’s conundrum relatable. Yet, for the first half of the movie something feels off.
There is an unease to the way the movie sets up Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio and the notion of the multiverse (Mysterio explains that he is from an altogether different Earth that has been destroyed and is here to stop that evil from ending our Earth as well). It isn’t that Gyllenhaal isn’t good, he is in fact great (not enough can be said about his presence), but the setup is given short shrift. Beyond that, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) urging Spider-Man onto this mission when he’s supposed to be on a school trip feels more than a little forced; an awful way to shoehorn in Peter’s school problems with the larger Spidey world. It turns Peter’s classmates and teachers into fools (the leaders of the trip are played by the comedic Martin Starr and JB Smoove) in a way that extends far beyond the believable.
Eventually though, things even out and the second half of the film proves to be an exceptionally enjoyable thrill ride. The vast majority of the effects are top notch and seeing Spidey do battle swinging from here to there is joyous. There is a sense of dynamism to the web-swinging that doesn’t always exist when other superheroes travel from place-to-place.
Beyond that, to this point in his run as the hero, Holland’s Spider-Man works well because he is brilliantly cast and surrounded by more than capable actors. The result is that when Spider-Man or Peter Parker sit down to have a conversation with someone, it becomes this beautiful, heartfelt, moment. It can be funny or serious or offer up any number of emotions, but there’s a truth at its center which never dissipates. We see it when Parker talks to Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) or Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) or Ned (Jacob Batalon) or MJ (Zendaya) or anyone else. It also doesn’t matter whether it’s Peter or Spider-Man talking, Holland’s rapport with those he works opposite is instantly apparent, drawing the viewer into the proceedings. One could almost watch an entire Spider-Man movie where Holland simply has conversations with other characters rather than getting involved in a major action sequence.
For all the good, however, it is impossible to not see the first half of the film as a missed opportunity. It may have some funny moments, but it lacks the cleverness of “Homecoming.” The amount of jostling necessary to put Peter in the right place at the right time so that Watts and company can get the global spectacle desired for the film is far too great. No matter the brilliance of the payoff, it doesn’t overcome the setup.
Audiences will assuredly leave “Spider-Man: Far From Home” wanting more, but that want is going to be an amalgam of love for the second half of this film and regret about the first. Holland may be the best Peter Parker we’ve seen on the big screen and the MCU proves that it is still going strong post-“Endgame,” but “Far From Home” is far from perfect.
photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment