Spider-Man: Far From Home had so much to live up to from its very conception. It had to be a good sequel to Avengers: Endgame, it had to be a good sequel to the light-hearted Spider-Man: Homecoming, it had to be a good Spider-Man movie in a market filled with Spider-Man movies (particularly reboots and some spectacular reimaginings), and it had to reignite public interest in the MCU after the last movie removed all its most important figures. If someone had hired me to create any part of this film, I would’ve fired my agent. Though, clearly, director Tom Watts and company were up to the task, and managed to make a film that lives up to those expectations, even if it encounters a few stumbling blocks along the way.
Perhaps the biggest positive I can give this movie is how it handles its characters. Everything, from the character interactions, development, and acting is ridiculously on point. Tom Holland proves himself a worthy successor to all the other live-action Spider-Men yet again, playing up the character’s more childlike tendencies and need for adult guidance to an endearing effect. He just wants to enjoy his vacation and confess to the girl he loves, but the weight of the world and Nick Fury seem hell-bent on destroying that. This leads to numerous scenarios where Peter desperately juggles both aspects of his life, leading to both hilarity and heartbreak. Like with other Spider-Man stories, this is simply an exaggerated version of a relatable scenario for many people, and the film pulled it off beautifully.
Furthermore, Jake Gyllenhaal is perfect as Quentin Beck, or “Mysterio.” Explaining why means delving into spoilers (though if you’ve read any Spider-Man comic involving the man, you already know what I’m talking about), but even if you know the twist, his performance is still engaging and nicely foreshadows future events. For a man known for his quirky histrionics, he works plenty of subtleties into the character before the big reveal, after which he’s allowed to go full bombastic Gyllenhaal. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of his best performances in a major release in years, and he really elevates an otherwise simple character into excellence. His character also works as an interesting parody and critique of modern superhero films - I would recommend reading this article if you’ve already seen the movie for more on that.
Zendaya is finally given more to work with as Mary Jane, solidifying her character as an entirely different entity from the Sam Raimi version. In Homecoming, she was an outsider who randomly blurted out morbid facts or inconvenient truths, and wasn’t even revealed to be Mary Jane until the end of the movie. In Far From Home, she has much more screen time and turns an already entertaining character into a more relatable figure, far different from your typical love interest in this type of film. She’s an awkward teenager who doesn’t always know what to say, but is also smart and incredibly observant. I wouldn’t say Zendaya’s MJ is similar to the original character in the comics, but it’s a welcome change in characterization. Also, her chemistry with Tom is charmingly awkward in all the right ways, and there’s some part of me that wishes the film was just about their blossoming relationship.
The side characters are also a joy to watch. Jacob Batalon is hilarious as Peter’s friend Ned (as he was in Homecoming), as are Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, J.B. Smoove as Mr. Dell, and Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington. There was never a moment in which I was bored watching these characters wander around Europe, crack jokes with each other, and have fun on their vacation. I also liked how the film showed how regular people dealt with the events of Infinity War and Endgame by poking fun at the absurdity of it. That take was refreshing after Endgame really hammered home the depressing consequences. There were also small aspects of the world-building that showed more serious changes, like how Aunt May was hosting a charity event for those displaced by the snap. Since the film doesn’t always shy away from the heavier consequences, even while masking some in humor, it allows Endgame to maintain its poignancy.
Despite its positives, there are moments in which the film falters. The character interactions and humor are fantastic, but it doesn’t always mesh well with the superhero stuff. To be clear, neither part is bad, and the superhero stuff in Far From Home is really, really good. The film contains some of the best live-action Spider-Man action and effects by far, and it’s all rather exciting, well-executed and well-filmed, especially the two final fights. Even so, there are points where it feels like two narratives are fighting for dominance, resulting in neither winning. The worst example of this is when Peter accidentally calls a drone strike on his classmate because of an incriminating photo. It wasn’t a bad scene, and it does foreshadow future mechanisms in the climax, but the circumstances surrounding the scene were inconsequential at best. There must have been a more efficient means of establishing the fact that Tony gave Peter the ability to control a huge stock-pile of deadly attack drones, instead of something that randomly escalates a simple conflict.
I suppose one could argue, though, that this is the point of Spider-Man. He constantly has to balance the normal and the abnormal parts of his life, and he screws up both parts relatively frequently. While the portrayal of this dilemma is messier in Far From Home than past Spider-Man films (especially Into The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man 2), the film still manages to capture the character’s essence in a satisfying manner, pushing Peter to move beyond the shadow of Iron Man and learn how to handle life’s problems on his own. For that, I can safely say that Far From Home is worth checking out, and is a perfect reflection of how the MCU wants audiences to interpret its future - its key players may have moved on, but that doesn’t mean the storytelling juggernaut will stop moving forward.