VOD film review: Spider-Man: Far From Home
James R | On 02, Dec 2019
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei
“If my aunt finds out I left my class trip, she’s going to kill me.” That’s the sound of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) stepping up to front his second superhero movie. The fact that he’s doing so in the wake of Avengers: Endgame makes such a small concern seem almost trivial, but Far From Home’s strength lies in its ability to balance the scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with tiny, personal drama.
Spider-Man: Homecoming set the bar high for this new incarnation of the web slinging hero, by tapping into the teen movie genre for its apocalyptic high school stakes and its feather-light sense of humour. Far From Home keeps that same tone and focus, managing to answer some of the big questions left behind by Avengers: Endgame at the same time.
It’s a serious feat for writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (who penned Ant-Man and the Wasp as well as Homecoming), who manage to bend the MCU mythology to their own ends, rather than contort their own plots to drive the bigger picture. And so we rejoin Peter Parker as he returns to normal life, following the undoing of Thanos’ half-universe extinction – and Peter, like all the others who “blipped”, comes back exactly the same, but with everyone else five years older. It’s a device that allows the film to double down on his sense of loss and disorientation in the wake of Tony Stark’s death, while also reinforcing the romantic threat of an older boy in his class who has his eye on crush MJ (Zendaya).
It’s a tricky balancing act, and the can are essential to pulling it off. Holland remains excellent as Peter, able to serve up wise-cracks, hormonal angst and credible action chops at the same time; he’s the most vulnerable Spidey we’ve seen on screen, and the most likeable, and he does it without breaking a sweat. He’s superbly supported by Zendaya, who brings a sarcasm and independence to MJ, and Jacob Battalion as BFF and genuinely entertaining comic relief Ned.
Ned, of course, is no use to Peter when their school goes on a trip around Europe, during which he plans to tell MJ how he feels about her. While they’re Euro-tripping, though, creatures called Elementals (one fire, one water, you get the idea) start to tear apart major cities. Enter Mystery, an alien whose home planet was destroyed by the monsters. Played by a scene-stealing Jake Gyllenhaal with a maniacal energy, he’s teamed up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop them, and they want Peter’s help – just when he’s trying to focus on getting his normal life back on track.
“You do not ghost Nick Fury,” warns Happy (Jon Favreau), as Peter dodges his calls and texts, and it’s that kind of throwaway gag that gives Far From Home its breezy pace and charm. Favreau is a perfect example of how the film finds gentle character moments amid the chaos, as Happy pauses to reflect whimsically on Peter trying on his new suit, as Tony Stark once did as Iron Man. (Happy’s apparent romantic spark with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, who keeps referring to her son’s “Peter-Tingle”, is the icing on the cake.)
All of this, in itself, would make for a fine franchise entry, with the script serving up some knowing nods to previous MCU side characters. But director Jon Watts (who helmed Homecoming too) also delivers some jaw-dropping spectacle, with some visual sequences inspired by its villainous forces that rival even Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for surprises and imagination – a creativity that requires the set pieces to be similarly flexible and witty.
The result is a Spider-Man film that deals in grief, first loves, youthful hope and goofy comedy. It reminds you immediately why the hero was such a valuable part of the Avengers in the first place – and sets him up for his own stories to come. If you were having trouble imagining what the future of the MCU could look like after Endgame, this wiry, agile, thrilling little blockbuster is your answer.