Spider-Man: Far from Home movie review: A simple yet satisfying follow up to Endgame
Aside from being a true blue coming-of-age story of Peter, the film also doubles as the stepping stone into phase four of the MCU
Uncle Ben's famous words "With great power comes great responsibility" was what I was thinking of as I walked into the theatres to watch Spider-Man: Far From Home. Stakes were high for Marvel as the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), one that comes right after Avengers: Endgame. Like the last step of a seven-course spread, Far From Home had to be an elegant dessert that feels right, yet light.
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L Jackson, Zendaya, Jon Favreau
After the undoing of the infamous snap of Thanos, Earth is recovering from a five-year-long catastrophic event named The Blip. Unlike those who stayed, those who vanished and returned are the same age as when they disappeared. While a world filled with two sets of people whose life has changed drastically in different ways makes for a brilliant backdrop, Marvel has opted to play safe with what they do best — stick to humour, sentiment, action, and loads of CGI. And what can be a safer bet than a film on Spider-Man, the closest character to Tony Stark who sacrificed his life for the greater good? With Tony — mentor, idol, and surrogate father all packed into one — not around anymore, Peter Parker (a superb Tom Holland) has to face the question of whether he is the next Iron Man. If that's not enough, his emotional baggage is already weighed down by his inability to lead the life of a regular teenager. Peter is yet to confess his love for MJ (Zendaya), he fails in trying to fit into his school team and more importantly, Nick Fury is trying to recruit him for bigger missions while the young superhero prefers being just a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
When ghosting Fury does not go per plan, Peter's "vacation is hijacked" as he is forced to tag alongside Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) — a superhero from another Earth (Earth 833 to be precise, which, in the comics is the home to Spider-UK, where incidentally, the climax of this film occurs). They team up to terminate the evil Elementals who seem to have a thing for sightseeing in European countries. After apparently losing his own Earth to the wrath of these Elementals, he wants to save this one — which he calls Earth 616 (which, according to the comics, is the main Marvel Universe).
While this fills up the majority of a not-so-surprising first half, the events of the rest of the film make you feel that the makers have been underplaying intentionally. The underlying theme here, which has actually become more of a checkbox item in Marvel films, is that not everything is what it looks like and we are living in an illusory world. Right from a small hint thrown in the very beginning with a factually incorrect Buzzfeed article, till the end credits, this theme gets mentioned quite a few times.
The character development of the pivotal ones is the biggest strength of Far From Home. Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio, though sporting a goldfish-bowl helmet a la Buzz Lightyear, is called 'Iron Man and Thor rolled into one', by one of the other characters. Apart from looking like a distant relative of Spidey's arch-enemy, Green Goblin, his powers remind us of Doctor Strange and DC's Green Lantern. The illusory world that gives Spider-Man vertigo also looks like a cross between Strange's Mirror Dimension and Ant-Man's Quantum Realm. The CGI is brilliant and makes one marvel how Marvel continues to perfectly use it.
On the other hand, Tom Holland's Spider-Man is shown as the torchbearer of the events leading from the previous phases of the MCU to the new one. Despite Fury and others feeling Peter is not up for the big boys' game and even being called a 'boozy child man', Tony, who has always seen himself in Peter, had made the teen strive harder to be better than him and has immense trust in the wall-crawler. Tony even hands over his tech to the kid in the form of his signature tortoise sunglasses, with an AI pre-loaded that is aptly named E.D.I.T.H — with an expansion that represents Tony's ego and legacy at the same time. The film subtly reminds us of previous Spider-Man films as well the ones from MCU. In an illusion sequence, MJ is dropped from an Eiffel Tower for Spidey to be saved similar to that from the 2002 Sam Raimi-directorial, starring Tobey Maguire, where the web-slinger saves MJ who is dropped from a bridge by Green Goblin. In another scene, Peter makes a swirling weapon out of drone batteries and wires, and a shield out of a panel from London's Tower Bridge, which feels like a rehash of Captain America from Endgame when he swirled the Mjolnir and carried his signature shield together.
Beneath all this, the character arc of Peter is intentionally made similar to that of Tony, which relates to the relationship the two shared and why the former was chosen as Iron Man's successor. Both are known for making mistakes and snapping at their favourite people, only to fall back on them when needed. When Happy (Jon Favreau) hands over a suit reconfiguring machine to Peter, he finds the kid to be so enthusiastically playing with it that it reminds him of his best friend Tony. Happy even plays Back in Black by AC/DC, the song that opened the first Iron Man movie, which Peter awkwardly confuses for a Led Zeppelin track. There's also a character from the very first Iron Man film who makes his return in this film, and the shocking mid-credits scene is a callback to the last scene from the 2008 Robert Downey Jr-starrer.
But apart from a twist, which again, reminded me of another Iron Man film, Iron Man 3 to be precise, with all its deception and 'being under one's nose' trope, the villain's world of illusion does not create a clear premise for the conflict. Despite almost getting run over by a train, attacked by an army of evil drones and even crushed between two cars, Spider-Man jumps back with just a limp and this lack of vulnerability takes away the joy of a pivotal character risking his life. This is sort of made up for with Peter's susceptible persona and immaturity, which, once again, only reminds us of Tony.
On the whole, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a fitting successor to Endgame. Aside from being a true blue coming-of-age story of Peter, the film also doubles as the stepping stone into phase four of the MCU that is indicated in the mid-credits scene —undoubtedly one of the best mid-credits scenes of all times — where a construction sign reads, 'We can’t wait to show you what’s next!' with the numbers one, two, and three, followed by a question mark. We can't wait either.