WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Tom Holland’s second solo adventure as everyone’s favourite webslinger has the daunting task of following possibly the best Spider-Man film – last year’s animated romp Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – and being the MCU’s first post-Endgame release. As if that wasn’t enough, it brings the studio’s Phase 3 plans to a close. No pressure then.
Spider-Man: Far From Home wastes no time in playfully addressing the fallout of Endgame: Iron Man is dead; Captain America is no more; Thor is off-world; Dr Strange is “unavailable”. It’s up to a mentor-less Peter Parker (Tom Holland) to reluctantly step up, faced with constant reminders of Tony Stark’s sacrifice. The snag is that he’ll have to balance his Avenger duties with a school trip to Europe and with his plans to reveal his feelings to MJ (Zendaya). Adding to his increasingly tricky juggling act is the appearance of a new hero, Quentin Blake, aka: Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims to be from an alternate version of Earth.
Jon Watts returns to the director’s chair after 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, and, as you can tell from the globetrotting skinny, he’s clearly rewatched National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The previous chapter’s John Hughes vibe is still there, but while Homecoming was a consistent romp, this one is slightly patchier. Its superior opening act is never equalled, with the jokes gradually losing their zip as the film’s rather formulaic structure plays out. Some “illusion sequences”, looking like nightmarish counterparts to Doctor Strange’s trippy visuals, make up for this, as well as – unsurprisingly – the performances. Tom Holland and Zendaya are terrific, and Jake Gyllenhaal has a blast; even those with no prior knowledge of Spidey’s rogue gallery can guess that something’s amiss with the new superpowered boy-scout, and he relishes every minute. It’s a shame that the script loads a lot of his scenes with exposition-heavy dialogue, with the main twist feeling uncharacteristically clumsy for Marvel. It does however open a door for Far From Home to grapple with overarching themes of gaslighting and misinformation. By embracing these elements, real-life echoing lines like “They’ll see what I want them to see” and “It’s easy to fool people when they’re already fooling themselves”, Mysterio becomes a (much more attractive) Trumpian antagonist, a villain for the “fake news” era.
Despite not matching the immensely rewatchable Homecoming’s highs and as lacklustre as some elements are, Far From Home effectively winds down the MCU’s Phase 3 and, in the process of clearing the stage for Phase 4, provides a breezily entertaining palate cleanser after the epic Endgame. It stands heads and shoulders above recent summer blockbuster fare like Godzilla: King Of The Monsters and MIB: International. Plus, Marvel have kindly left us a doozy of a The Dark Knight-riffing bombshell for the mid-credits scene, so be sure to stick around for that.
Spider-Man: Far From Home | Directed by Jon Watts (US, 2019), with Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal. Starts July 04.
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