Spider-Man: Far From Home, directed by Jon Watts, is the third Marvel Cinematic Universe movie of the year and the first to bring audiences into a post-Endgame world. Not only is Far From Home tasked with continuing Spider-Man’s story, but it also has to serve as a window into how people are dealing with the death of Tony Stark, the face of Earth’s Avengers around the world.
The trailers for Spider-Man: Far From Home do well to highlight the core narrative of the film. Peter (Tom Holland) sees Tony everywhere, in murals, in classroom drawings, on buildings. As Peter gets ready for his class trip to Europe, he attempts to leave Spider-Man in Queens, and in a lot of ways, the pain of losing his mentor. But, it wouldn’t be a movie if some bad guys didn’t show up to disrupt his plan of attempting to have a normal teenage life, his attempt to romance his crush MJ included.
As the class lands in Venice, we get our first chance to meet Mysterio, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), as he takes on a giant water monster. Once this happens, Peter’s idea of a vacation is gone and he is thrust back into being Spider-Man, even if, once again, he doesn’t know what that means.
While the story is straight forward, a great deal of time and dialogue is exposition. Whether it’s to explain the world after Endgame or the sudden shifts in characters, the entire first act of Far From Home feels like an explanation. That being said, the addition of showing Peter struggle with the loss of Tony instead of just moving on adds some character depth that I felt was missing from Holland’s first solo outing as the character. Holland’s acting ability on full display as he oscillates between awkward teen and a kid that has been through too much.
However, the trajectories of other characters felt shoehorned. Whether it was the romance between Happy (Jon Favreau) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), which has been a badly kept secret since last year’s San Diego Comic Con, or the moments of attempting to have Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) be some semblance of a jerk but failing, I found myself wanting to come back to Peter and ultimately Mysterio. While this means they got those two right, it also means the rest felt like noise – with the exception of the quirky, dark, and murder-obsessed Michelle Jones (Zendaya), or MJ as her friends like to call her.
For me, it’s important to call out that MJ in the MCU is not Mary Jane Watson. But, it’s also important to call out that this she is MJ, unrestrained from comic book expectations which allow her to subvert some pieces of them. Also, MJ and Peter in Far From Home is a love story side plot that is just as heartfelt as any romance Peter has had in any of the other film iterations or comics. A lot of this comes from the fact that Zendaya and Holland have such amazing chemistry on both a friendship and romantic level. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m drawn to MJ because I see myself in everyone of her random macabre facts, dark clothes, and overall “leave me alone” demeanor.
One of the pitfalls Spider-Man romances, and really many other comic book romances, is that Peter’s love interest is usually perfect, popular, approachable, and ultimately the “girl next door” to a tee. But with MJ, that trope is subverted. She is herself, in all her dark humor and snarky remarks glory. This plays extremely well off of Holland’s awkward teen Peter, making them a balanced but exciting pair to see on screen.
In addition to nailing its romantic subplot, Far From Home also nails its villain. We all know that Mysterio has to be a villain. I mean, he has been a part of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery for decades. But the task from Far From Home is similar to what it was in Spider-Man: Homecoming: take an old villain in a cheesy suit and catapult him to our team and build out a story that makes him more than a just a man in a loud suit. Truthfully, by casting Gyllenhaal for the role, the film was set up for success.
Mysterio has a phenomenal costume design that made the fishbowl translates perfectly to the screen and a power set that exploded off of the IMAX screen. While I won’t go to specifics around Mysterio, there is a lot to love about this iteration of Quentin Beck. Specifically, Holland and Gyllenhaal’s relationship on screen tugs at your heart. While the latter is a more empathetic Tony Stark and the former looking for Mr. Stark in everyone, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. In the same ways that Alfred Molina was meant to be Doc Ock and Michael Keaton was meant to the be Vulture, Gyllenhaal is meant to be Mysterio. You’ll just have to wait until July 2nd to know why.
But with all the high notes, Far From Home definitely has low ones. The main one is the use of computer animation, or rather the reliance on it. Outside of Peter being Peter, there is so much of the film that would not be possible without the use of CGI. While this is fine, I mean we just watched Captain American bring down lightning on a Josh Brolin as Thanos, there needs to be a level of execution when it comes to your hero that has your audience questioning if that’s really Holland or not.
Instead, some instances of web-slinging or close-ups leaves Spidey feeling more like Play-dough-man and less the extremely athletic hero that he is. While there is a truly stunning scene between Mysterio and Spider-Man where the former is able to flex his full magician’s strength, those same moments stop being magical when Spider-Man is shown close up or when he just stops moving. Like my husband says, “CGI is like pizza, you notice when it’s really bad or when it’s really good.”
Ultimately, Far From Home is another coming of age story for Peter, or rather coming into his identity. The difference this time is that he isn’t fighting to become an Avenger only to realize that being Spider-Man is enough. Instead, he is fighting to live up to being Iron Man, only to realize that being Spider-Man is enough. While this isn’t bad, it is predictable and ultimately the same Spider-Man story from his first solo, but this time in Europe and with a different mentor.
In a lot of ways, the Spider-Man films of the MCU have thrown away the comics, leaning in on some other established Spider-material like Disney XD’s television show, Ultimate Spider-Man, or even borrowing elements unique to Miles Morales’ story. That being said, Far From Home‘s accomplishment is allowing MJ, Mysterio, and ultimately its title character, to move through the film without fear of comic book accuracy. Ultimately, there is a lot to love in Far From Home, but if you weren’t already in love with Holland’s iteration, you won’t be won over here.
That being said, the film is good, even for its faults and with it’s ending, it sets up implications that will reverberate throughout the MCU. But, my favorite part of Spider-Man: Far From Home is that they will in no way be making Peter a Stark clone, even with his character going through nods to Tony’s journey. Instead, he’s maintaining his own identity and discovering who he is outside of Tony and will hopefully lead to the two being pulled apart from each other in later movies, with Tony remaining as an easter egg, while the story only focusses on Peter. After all, he’s Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theaters July 2, 2019
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.