Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal
Runtime: 129 min
Our friendly neighborhood superhero decides to join his best friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's (Tom Holland) plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!
First of all, this is a spoiler-free review of Far From Home, but NOT of Avengers: Endgame! So, if you still didn’t watch the latter or heard what happens in it (by some inexplicable reason), this is a SPOILER WARNING for the events of that era-ending film. Moving on to the web-slinger, this sequel is everything it should be and a bit more. It beautifully encapsulates how everyone’s feeling about the central death of Endgame, especially Peter Parker. I wished Jon Watts would put a lot of focus into Spider-Man’s grief and I hoped that a big part of the plot would be him just having to deal with the fact that his mentor/father figure is gone. He can’t continue to just be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He needs to grow up and become what everyone expects of him: to be the best of them all.
Watts does all of it. There are so many emotionally powerful dialogues featuring Nick Fury or Happy (Jon Favreau) or even just moments with Tom Holland just standing alone and having to breathe through the pain of losing someone you love. The pressure that everyone is putting on his shoulders is immense, maybe too much for a simple teenager, but he’s everything but simple. I love every single bit of story dedicated to Peter and Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) relationship. Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers wrote a wonderful screenplay, and Jon Watts executed it seamlessly. However, the reason why all of this works is due to Tom Holland’s performance.
He said in an interview he would play Spider-Man until he can and until producers let him. I hope he stays around for years without end. He’s not only my favorite on-screen Spider-Man but my favorite on-screen Peter Parker as well. I love how he spends most of the movie holding on to his feelings, and in the last act, he just lashes out because he can’t take it anymore. He left my eyes close to tearing up in probably the best dialogue of the film with Happy. As a superhero, he perfectly embodies what Spidey is all about, and Holland has the plus of doing most of his action stunts. As a teenager, he’s incredibly funny, innocent, and he still doesn’t know how to deal with falling in love or having a crush, which leads me to the second of the three main storylines of this movie: his relationship with MJ.
Zendaya did get some criticism from fans who, well, don’t like the fact that MJ is not the same one as in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy (physically and psychologically). Same for Holland and the fact that this Spider-Man has a lot more “gadgets” than Tobey Maguire’s. For those people, I only have one advice: understand that this is a distinct universe with different takes on characters we know and with other stories to tell which are, in fact, the closest we had to the comics so far. The sooner you accept this, the easier will be for you to enjoy these films. Having that in mind, MJ didn’t have much to do in Homecoming. Actually, she was even played as a post-credits twist so that the sequel could focus more on her … and it did.
Their relationship gradually evolves throughout the movie smoothly and realistically. They’re teenagers! Having their first crush, trying to come up with a good time and place to tell the other they like them, being nervous when they’re together and being anxious when they’re separated … Watts handled this subplot very well. It didn’t feel forced (rom-coms should take some tips), Zendaya and Holland’s chemistry is palpable, and I love this new MJ. Most of the superhero’s lovers are the cliche damsel in distress, always needing saving and making dumb decisions. Zendaya’s MJ not only can handle herself, but she has an unique personality that makes her stand out.
Finally, the third and last storyline relies on Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). I can’t really get in-depth about this character because he has a massive impact on the narrative, but I can guarantee that Gyllenhaal makes this character work. I like how they approached Mysterio, but if it wasn’t for the outstanding actor that Gyllenhaal is, Far From Home would have suffered a bit. The relationship between him and Spider-Man is well-developed, but the character of Mysterio lacked better treatment. There’s an exposition dump midway through the runtime that’s just horrible. Really, really bad. However, the film moves on and gets better until it reaches the last 45 minutes, which are unbelievable.
I will always prefer a slow start and a fantastic finish than the other way around. Far From Home struggles with the first two acts’ pacing, but the last one compensates that with some of the best action a Spider-Man movie ever had! There are so many sequences where our superheroes are just going at it, flying and swinging across buildings, bridges, and rivers like we’ve seen before, only better. The CGI looked like it could be excessive in the trailers, but instead, it’s some of the best Marvel has shown us. Nevertheless, the jaw-dropping scenes are some that involve illusions, very much like Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) had in his origin flick. Spider-Man has two memorable sequences (the VFX here are mind-blowing), one of which incorporates a certain superpower not seen in the MCU so far (officially, at least). The kid in me was smiling with pure joy, let’s write that.
It’s on par with Homecoming. One is better than the other in various areas, but they’re extremely different, so comparing them might be unfair. The first had the goal of introducing a “new” character to the MCU, so the focus relied solely on Peter Parker having to deal with his powers and being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This sequel is set so far away from the origin story and so much happened between these two that if people chose to watch them back-to-back, they wouldn’t understand much of what’s going on. Nevertheless, Far From Home still has its own issues.
Like I wrote above, the first two acts struggle with its pacing. While it’s refreshing to watch Spider-Man in other cities besides New York, the transitions between them are ridiculously fast, especially one that takes Peter Parker to another country in such an illogical way. The film tries to play off these less rational moments with comedy bits quite often and sometimes it just doesn’t work, affecting both the tone and pacing. I liked Ned in Homecoming, and I also enjoyed his presence here, but this time he almost felt like just a comic relief guy instead of that essential “sidekick” to Spider-Man. Michael Giacchino’s score is good, but for some reason, I couldn’t really connect with it, which I think it’s the first time I don’t exactly love Giacchino’s themes. Finally, the comedy skits could be better, they don’t land that many times and the one supposedly funny scene I remember is the absolute worst.
All in all, I still had a blast! I think I prefer Far From Home to Homecoming since the latter deals with a much more complex and emotionally compelling story than the origin flick. The action is some of the MCU’s best and definitely as great as Spider-Man’s action ever was, featuring some mind-bending, astonishing sequences. The cast is brilliant, especially Tom Holland who cements his spot as the best on-screen web-slinger ever. Zendaya and Jon Favreau are also amazing, but I have to praise Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance because he’s just awesome every single time. It’s the movie the MCU needed after the tragic events of Endgame. It works because we feel what Peter Parker’s feeling and we can deal with our grief with the help of Spider-Man’s journey in this film. Aside from some minor problems with pacing, comedy, and exposition, the last act plus the two post-credits scenes, which have a tremendous impact on the movie and on what’s to come on Phase Four, are more than enough for you to go see this film at the theater. Don’t miss it!