Samuel L. Jackson
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Picking up where Avengers: Endgame left off, Spider-Man: Far From Home sees Peter Parker having to adapt to a world minus the guidance of mentor Tony Stark as he goes on a European school trip, ghosting Nick Fury along the way, in the hope of prioritizing his own life for once but new threats and a "mysterious" new hero disturbs his plans.
The film opens with an amusingly tacky tribute to Tony Stark and Captain America, setting the playful tone for this post-Avengers adventure. The film focuses quite a bit on Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his high school friends as they all travel to Europe where Peter, who initially even left his Spidey-suit (and Peter Tingle) behind, plans to buy MJ (Zendaya) a gift and ask her out. Of course, this proves to be a lot more difficult than Peter anticipated as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to hire him for a new mission, which he politely declines at first yet can't quite get away from.
The mission in question involves the Elementals, a handful of giants who can control Air, Earth, Fire and Water, starting to pop up in random places all over the world. As it turns out, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a new hero claiming to be coming from a different Multiverse, has been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to defend the Earth against the Elementals who destroyed his world.
As part of Tony Stark's last wishes, Nick Fury hands Stark's glasses, containing powerful A.I. tech network E.D.I.T.H. over to Peter, and the latter struggles to handle the great power and responsibility he was taught go hand in hand. As the Elementals and Beck (aka Mysterio) go head to head and Beck almost dies trying to save the world, a disillusioned Peter decides to hand over E.D.I.T.H. to him and the film takes a perhaps not-all-that unexpected but still enjoyably off-road turn.
Spoilers ahead so there's still time to see the film and come back to this review.
Ok, so of course Mysterio turns out to not be what he seems as Beck is revealed to be an ex-employee of Tony Stark's who designed holographic technology only to then be fired for being deemed unstable. He and other Stark enemies joined forces to create realistic illusions in the hope of leading up to a fake Avengers-level threat created using E.D.I.T.H., one which Mysterio could then pretend to extinguish thereby becoming the most powerful "hero" on Earth. Spider-Man is, therefore, forced to deal with not only his inner demons and insecurities but the phoney (yet deadly) demons laid out by his deceitful foe (or "faux", rather).
Far From Home feels a bit like a full-length spin-off of the Washington school trip sequence from Spider-Man: Homecoming with a very different kind of villain at the heart of it. The light-hearted charm of Homecoming is very much intact here. In fact, there's a lot more of it to the point where one wonders if there's maybe a little too much. The high-school cast is as likeable as ever and the humour is entertaining but it does tend to distract from the darker, more emotional themes of the film, and its interesting yet frankly underwritten villain.
Mysterio is both the best thing about this sequel and the biggest missed opportunity. As impressive as the villain's illusions are and as good as Jake Gyllenhaal is in the role, you can't help but feel that less time could have been spent repeating jokes (the MJ/Peter/Brad love triangle, the goofy teachers, Ned and his new girlfriend) to allow for more character development. Instead of Mysterio dumping all of his backstory in one single ranty scene, perhaps spreading this throughout the movie in a clever way could have elevated him to the best Spider-Man villain in any live-action film thusfar.
While it does feel like the Far From Home script could have done with, perhaps, one or two more drafts trimming the fat and fleshing out some characters and parts of the plot, this remains a thoroughly enjoyable ride from start to finish. The action scenes could have easily felt generic due to the personality-free nature of the Elementals but they are one of this film's biggest strengths. Whenever Spidey and Mysterio are on screen, either working together or fighting it out, the film shines and delivers exactly the kind of Summer popcorn entertainment we all signed up for.
Tom Holland's wide-eyed Peter Parker is every bit as charming as he was the first or second time around (if you count Civil War) and Spider-Man's character arc, though it includes some surprisingly dumb decisions along the way, sets up the next film perfectly, especially thanks to a couple of nifty post-credits reveals.
Spider-Man: Homecoming might have been the better film thanks to a more balanced and overall more coherent script but Far From Home delivers the thrills, laughs and twists you'd expect from a Marvel blockbuster and it does so with gusto, charm and some bold moves. Armed with a genuinely cool villain, a fantastic score by Michael Giacchino and slick visuals, this one may be Far From Home but it's not far from great.
A lot of fun.