Spiderman: Far from Home, the sequel to 2017’s Homecoming and latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, finds itself in an awkward position. Not only is it tasked with closing out Phase 3 of the superhero universe following the events of Avengers: Endgame, it also has to lay the ground work for the future of the franchise. In a sense it’s a case of swapping the end game for let the games begin.
Far From Home picks up not long after the events of Endgame, in which Thanos (Josh Brolin) was defeated by the Avengers, and everyone who was snapped out of existence by the Infinity Gauntlet are now back, living a seemingly normal live. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back in school, pining for Michelle “MJ” Jones (Zendaya), trying to process the loss of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), and preparing for a class trip to Europe along with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and rest of his schoolmates – I can only assume the title of the movie is tongue-in-cheek. After all, Parker has been to (and died in) outer space, so a trip to Europe isn’t exactly too far from home by comparison.
After arriving in Europe, Spider-Man is recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to assist newcomer Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in stopping huge elemental threats that have arrived on Earth from another dimension. Parker is reluctant to help, intent on leading a quieter life as the “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” fighting the occasional everyday crime, rather than becoming the potential new leader of the Avengers that Tony Stark and Nick Fury envision him to be.
Marvel are to be commended at this point. For over a decade they have managed to weave 23 films into a coherent storyline, managing to avoid any major missteps (Thor: The Dark World came close, but was still watchable). Far From Home is another solid entry in the series, but it does fall short of brilliant because of a few niggling plot points.
Without giving anything away, the villain of this second outing is boring. More style over substance, with a weak back story, and is somebody we have all seen countless times before. It leads me to think that if the MCU is to survive for another decade, the filmmakers will have to start thinking outside the box more in order to deliver interesting antagonists we haven’t seen before, or risk things becoming stale.
Holland to his credit plays a great Peter Parker once again. But while he plays the cute, bumbling, awkward, out of his depth teen thing well, it’s not conducive with the expectation of him becoming a leading Avenger. Somethings will have to change in the next sequel in order for the boy to become a man if he is to be a believable main player in a renowned super hero team. The potential for a more grown up, hardened Parker is hinted at in the post-credit scene, so stick around for that!
Another thing that needs addressing is the whole “MJ” thing surrounding Zendaya. When Spider-Man: Homecoming was released, it was expected that Zendaya was playing the latest version of Spider-Man’s most famous love interest, Mary-Jane Watson. Then it turned out she wasn’t, but oddly was nicknamed “MJ” regardless, in a sort of cheeky nod to the fans who would get the reference.
I know it’s been done to subvert expectations in what is now the third iteration of the Spider-Man franchise in a relatively short time frame, but it just feels strange. The only thing that saves it for me is the undeniable chemistry between Holland and Zendaya. If that weren’t there, I don’t think people would take to this “MJ” character and would be crying out for the traditional Mary-Jane to appear.
Another romance that pops up here involves Aunt May Parker (Marisa Tomei) and to be honest, I hope they drop it going forward. It would be possible to do so as it is subtly referenced throughout Far From Home, so it wouldn’t be a big loss in future films. It just feels completely tacked on to me, and I was cringing more than anything when it was brought up. May doesn’t need a relationship, especially not one that is only created for cringy laughs and to make her nephew uncomfortable.
On the other side of things, there are several things to praise here. As well as the solid performances of the main cast, the more fleshed out this time around additional cast offer strong support and plenty of fun-filled humorous moments. In particular, JB Smoove and Martin Starr’s cooky turns as out of their depth Midtown High teachers trying to chaperone a group of high school kids across Europe raise a lot of laughs.
The film is beautifully shot across stunning locations, from Venice, to Prague, to London, and Berlin. One of my favourite shots in the entire film is a vibrantly colourful one in which Peter finds himself in need of rescue in a tulip field in Berlin, so keep an eye out for that one. As well as the incredible locations on display, Far From Home has some of the best and most engrossing uses of visual effects I’ve seen recently. I can’t go into too much details without giving away a big chuck of the plot, but all I will say is, is that these sequences will wow you.
So, where do we go from here? Spider-Man: Far From Home closes out the first three phases of the MCU and sets up some plot points that will lead us into Phase 4. The film holds the previous quality of what came before, despite a couple of slight negatives. Phase 4 holds a lot of potential to flesh out some of the newer characters in the franchise (Black Panther, Captain Marvel, etc.) as well as the promise of some new editions (Fantastic Four, X-Men). Another easter egg from FFH mentions the possibility of multiple universes also, which could be a sign of what’s to come (I hope they don’t go this route though, as I think it will seriously overcomplicate things).
Overall, while Spider-Man: Far From Home is a pleasant watch, I do wonder if the franchise has the stamina for another 10 years of interconnected story telling and maintaining the level of quality it has managed to hold thus far? What made the first ten years of the MCU so compelling was that nothing like it had been attempted before.
Now, I wonder if the Marvel bubble is about to burst because audiences are unprepared to invest another decade at the cinema when the franchise has now lost that bit of an edge of newness that it had. Let’s see….