Spider-Man: Far From Home, Close to Perfect

Spiderman: Far From Home may not be the best movie to ever come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it would be hard to find a more necessary one. After suffering through the devastation left behind in the wake of the last two Avenger movies, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, fans needed a bit of relief from all those hours of doom and gloom. They deserved a chance to sit back and enjoy watching a superhero schoolboy like Peter Parker swing across the screen, beat a bad guy, save his friends and, in the end, get the girl. They needed balance and Spiderman: Far From Home deliverers.

And even if you aren’t plugged into the MCU, didn’t feel as emotionally devastated as some did by what happened to Iron man, Black Widow and other heroes or, heck, even if you’ve never seen a superhero movie in your life, chances are Spiderman Far From Home will still entertain you.

As the movie opens, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back in NYC and trying his best to get back to his normal high school life following the events of Endgame, or as normal as it can be for a teen whose alter ego is being your friendly neighborhood superhero. Although he is about to go on a class trip to Europe with his friends, Parker is far too occupied with his plans to finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her to get too excited about seeing other countries. He only wants to get to Venice so he can buy a special gift he thinks will be perfect for her and then get to Paris so he can go up the Eiffel Tower and give it to her. All the other sites and sounds of a young man’s first trip abroad are just background noise as far as his hormonally overcharged imagination is concerned.

Being a superhero movie, however, and not some silly YA romcom, it isn’t too long before trouble comes calling. After establishing the fact that we are now in a new Marvel world that rose from the ashes (literally) following the death of Thanos in Endgame, the plot settles down to one familiar to any MCU fan. The world is in danger from enormous CGI bad guys called The Elementals (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water monsters) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is putting together a team to save it. Along with Spiderman, Fury has enlisted the help of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a strange visitor from a parallel universe whose world has already been destroyed by the special effects. What follows is well done, with lots of cool fight scenes balanced with a bit of teen angst and a lot of situational humor. Sure, after a while it may start to feel a bit similar to the fight/flight sequences in other pre-Endgame comic book movies, but it’s extremely well done. And funny.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Mysterio in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: ™ FAR FROM HOME.

Oh, but then there’s the twist, a really good twist that takes Spiderman: Far From Home out of the familiar and onto a whole new level. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that everything you’ve been believing in for the first half of the movie turns out to be a lie. Or pretty close to it. It’s hard to tell because about 10 minutes after the shoe drops in the plot, the concept of reality gets thrown out the window and the real thrill ride of the movie begins. And it’s a total blast.

Director Jon Watts, who also directed Spiderman: Homecoming in 2017, does a great job keeping the audience on edge without losing them completely as things start to get excitingly weird on the screen. One can only imagine the amount of preplanning Watts and his crew must have done to come up with ways to mess with the characters — and the viewers — while somehow keeping the story rooted in some sort of reality. It will probably take a few additional viewings for the WOW factor to fade enough for fans to pick apart just how successful he was in terms of the MCU, but it’s doubtful they will mind. 

One of the keys to making all the effects…effective…is the stellar cast. In his second outing as the lead in a Spiderman movie, Holland continues to make the character his in new and exciting ways. Unlike past actors who have donned the spandex, he’s totally believable as a teenager trying to figure out in both of the worlds he lives in, that of a high school kid falling in love and a young superhero who never knows if he will have to save the world on his way to school. Past Spidermen all tried too hard to fill their superhero with adult level angst like they were playing Hamlet in tights and forgetting that the character was supposed to be a teenager. Holland, 26, is about the same age as Tobey McGuire (27) and Andrew Garfield (29) were when they first started spinning webs, but they come across as old men in retrospect compared to the vitality Holland brings to Spiderman.

Zendaya beings the same sort of youthful energy to her performance as MJ, creating a character who strongly stands on her own without needing to prop up her part in the story being Spiderman’s girlfriend. You will never see her standing in the rain kissing some masked guy hanging upside down from a fire escape. That’s not her style. She’d drag his butt down to the ground and take off the mask first.

Spiderman: Far From Home has plenty of grown-ups in it, too, and while some of them are very familiar from past MCU films, like Jackson as Nick Fury and John Favreau as Happy Hogan, that doesn’t stop them from being energized by the youth surrounding them. Favreau, in particular, seems to be having an absolute blast running around in the movie with the kids, and the added bonus of giving his character a surprise (though totally deserved) love interest sweetens his performance.

And then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal as the bad guy.  Given the fact that more than half his screen time is a special effect, it would be easy to joke that anybody with a pulse could play the part; easy, but unfair. There’s a subtlety to his work, particularly in the first half of the movie, that works pretty well. He certainly looks heroic enough in his Mysterio suit to save the world. The test of his work though comes in the second half when he has to turn that classic hero look on its head and, for the most part, he succeeds There’s a slow burn to his increasingly psychotic behavior that plays well against the chaos his actions are creating all around him. Understatement doesn’t always work in big action movies like Spiderman: Far From Home, but in this case, it’s a perfect fit.

  • John Black, Spider-Man: Far From Home
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.