Spider-Man: Far From Home may jump around on its EuroTrip a bit too frequently, but mostly lives up to its billing as a fun palate cleanser following the devastation of Avengers: Endgame.
*SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME AND SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME BELOW*
After the trauma of Avengers: Endgame destroyed Marvel fans’ hearts everywhere, Spider-Man: Far From Home promised to be a lighter, more positive look into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Set eight months after the events of Endgame, this latest entry follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) once more as he goes on a summer trip around Europe with his high school class, visiting such colourful cities as Venice, Prague and London. But not all is plain sailing for Peter, as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) soon derails the trip so that Spider-Man can help save the world from a new threat.
To Fury’s chagrin, saving the world isn’t the first thing on Peter’s mind right now. The heroic death of mentor and father figure Tony Stark has left an indelible mark on both Peter and the world at large, leaving him with plenty of questions on how to properly honour Stark’s legacy: who did Tony see Peter becoming? Can he now take his place as Avenger #1 with Iron Man no longer there to help?
It is perhaps an overdone trope in the MCU at this point, but the main antagonist in Far From Home is yet again someone left dejected by the late Stark’s actions and seeking a delayed form of vengeance. This being the second of the two opponents that Holland’s Spider-Man has faced that have Iron Man, not Spidey, at fault for their malevolent change of heart. It’s not just a single person either, with an entire cast of ex-Stark Industries employees on hand to assist in the villainous high jinks. Together, the group manage to badly shake Peter’s confidence, and the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’s resilience comes in handy when he takes the full force of an oncoming train following a particularly trippy sequence.
Holland’s performance is incredibly relatable, constantly reminding us that, despite all the action, he is still just a teenager at the end of the day. Although most can say they haven’t accidentally ordered a drone strike on a fellow classmate, who hasn’t made a silly mistake when they were an awkward teen? The comedic moments flow well amongst the blockbuster action sequences, providing more weight for the quieter moments that show Peter slightly broken and questioning everything following the reveal of the truth about his newfound pal Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) – otherwise known as Mysterio.
Zendaya shines as MJ, and it’s welcoming to see her gain greater development here than in Homecoming. While much of her arc revolves around being the love interest, once she fills Peter in on just how knowing she is of Spider-Man’s real identity, MJ shows to be more than capable and quick-witted in a crisis.
The holographic illusions that Mysterio puts Spider-Man through are brutal and realistic, with the audience repeatedly wondering whether we’ve been brought back to reality or are still in another phase of psychological torment. One particularly harsh moment sees a horrific, zombie-like Tony Stark rising from the grave, broken Iron Man helmet and decaying skull front and centre. Certainly a far cry from the cheesy – but surprisingly funny – In Memoriam video that opens the film.
A theme that especially shines through is that appearances can be deceiving. It’s something that we have to consider even more now in the era of Fake News; the film’s mid-credits scene drops a huge bombshell that plays on this relevant topic, and potentially has dire consequences for Spidey going forward. If some established characters seem a bit, well, off, you’ll find that’s the point! It’s a motif that feels natural at this point in the MCU, with the very recent introduction of Skrulls – an alien species literally able to morph their outward appearances – in Captain Marvel earlier this year.
Besides Stark, there’s one other major figure missing on screen whose absence is heavily felt: Stan Lee. Far From Home marks the first Marvel movie to go without his signature cameo following Lee’s death in November of last year. There is a small tribute to both Lee and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, who also passed away in 2018, but his physical presence is something we’ll miss going forward.
The film itself lacks a certain spark at times. While the trip to Europe offers a fresh change of scenery for native New Yorker Peter Parker, it bounces around far too much, not giving the narrative enough time to breathe in any one space. Just when you’re getting comfortable in a location, the gang are whisked off to another. For any history buff the destruction of centuries-old monuments will come at some personal anguish; both Tower Bridge and the Tower of London suffer during the battles.
Spider-Man: Far From Home, stated as the final instalment of the MCU’s third phase (and the coda of the Infinity Saga that began way back with Iron Man), appears to signal both the end of something special and the beginning of a new journey. While Tony Stark and Stan Lee are no longer present, by trusting in Spider-Man their legacies seem to be in safe hands.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), directed by Jon Watts, is distributed in the UK by Columbia Pictures, certificate 12A.