Spider-Man: Far From Home brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe out of the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame as the mantle is passed to a new generation of heroes.
Warning: This review discusses plot points from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
With Endgame, an era of films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) came to a close. Earth’s mightiest heroes fought their biggest battle ever in a desperate attempt to undo Thanos’s snap. The Avenger’s won the battle, but it would be their last with the original roster. Thor moved on from Earth to find adventure elsewhere in the galaxy. Captain America decided to live life to the fullest, and he did just that by returning to a past with Peggy Carter. Black Widow and Iron Man made the ultimate sacrifice in the war against Thanos. Hulk and Hawkeye both seem destined for other things now whether it is technology, family, and their non-superhero lives. Now, it is time for the world to find new heroes that will carry the torch. Spider-Man: Far From Home, is the first entry in the MCU to address a post-Avengers world. Far From Home proves up to the task in setting the table for a new generation of heroes with clever storytelling and humor, as well as grounding the movie in the MCU while tying events to the past.
Life After the Blip – a Brief Synopsis
Far From Home finds Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates at Midtown High settling into life. All of them were victims of Thanos’s snap, which they have come to refer to as “the blip.” As their first school year back is coming to a close, Peter’s inner circle of friends and classmates prepare for a science field trip to Europe. While Peter’s best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), hopes that he and Peter will explore as bachelor’s in Europe, Peter is more interested in taking a vacation from Spider-Man and telling MJ (Zendaya) about his developing feelings for her. However, as in any good superhero story, plans go awry.
With the elimination of some of Earth’s mightiest protectors, there is an opening for both danger and new heroes. Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives on Earth and claims to be hunting elemental monsters from his own dimension that if left unchecked, will destroy our world. He finds allies in Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and they determine that Spider-Man is the best man for the job.
Peter has a few other things on his mind. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) recruits Spider-Man to help raise money for charity, and when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) arrives with a donation from Stark Industries, Peter detects a budding relationship between the two. In addition, although Tony may be gone, he has plans for his heir apparent – Peter now has a global defense satellite (E.D.I.T.H.) and all its tricks at his disposal. Peter, for his part, isn’t so sure he wants or deserves that responsibility.
Not a Coincidence – When Spider-Man is Far From Home
Far From Home addresses a superhero trope that most comic book fans have learned to embrace and look the other way: the coincidental timing of the disappearance of the alter ego and the appearance of the superhero. Despite her suspicions, for decades, Lois Lane never quite put two and two together that when Clark Kent disappeared and Superman arrived, the two were somehow connected. Similarly, despite his playboy lifestyle, Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman eluded countless citizens of Gotham when the caped crusader arrived after the city’s most eligible bachelor fled the scene. Even many of Peter Parker’s friends and relatives were oblivious to the fact that their friend just happened to go missing when the super villain arrived with Spider-Man on heels.
MJ proves brighter than all the rest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was an odd coincidence when Spider-Man arrived in Washington, D.C. at the same time Peter couldn’t be found. It strained credulity that Spider-Man just happened to be in Europe at the same time as Midtown High School’s science trip. Plus, Peter vanished every time the villains attacked. When Peter finally builds up the courage to tell MJ how he feels about her, she interrupts him with the revelation that she knows he is Spider-Man. Whether it’s Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man or the comics, MJ always eventually learns the truth about Peter Parker. However, it was refreshing to see that this MJ was smart enough to pick up the obvious clues and figure it out herself.
A large part of the credit goes to Zendaya’s acting and Jon Watts’s direction. There are many subtle camera shots of Zendaya checking out Peter. At first, the audience might mistake this for a crush on her part, but it pays off well. Plus, Zendaya as MJ is a great match for Tom as Peter. Although considerably older than the sixteen years of age their characters, they pull of high school awkwardness quite well.
Successors and the Hero’s Journey
Endgame saw many of the Avengers conclude their term of service on the team. In addition, the process of assembling the next generation began. Notably, the task of finding replacements has been completed by each individual Avenger. Thor crowned Valkyrie as the Queen of Asgaard, and perhaps his replacement among Earth’s mightiest heroes before joining the Guardians of the Galaxy for some galactic exploration. Captain America passed the mantle to Falcon as the new wielder of the iconic shield at almost the exact moment he decided to retire from the superhero life. As for Tony Stark, Iron Man left everything to the kid he hoped would be better than him.
Far From Home is the tale of how Peter Parker accepts, rejects, and then reclaims that responsibility. It isn’t an easy voyage, and Peter undergoes a hero’s journey during the process. Much like Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, Peter is both intrigued by and reluctant to answer the call. In Homecoming, Peter just wanted to contribute and do more. He constantly searched for opportunities to prove himself to Tony Stark, and he stumbled considerably, and in some cases disastrously, along the way. By the end of that movie, he had found his footing and belonging on the streets of New York as the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
The events of Infinity War and Endgame pulled him out of that comfort zone. But, Peter is still a teenager. He is interested in teenage things. MJ is his current crush, and he has an opportunity to vacation with her and his friends across Europe. Who can blame him for not wanting to answer, literally, the call from Nick Fury? However, Spider-Man was born from tragic circumstances, and as Uncle Ben told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There was never any doubt that Peter would ultimately answer the call.
A New Mentor
Tony Stark filled the role of mentor for Peter in Homecoming, but with his demise in Endgame, Peter is left figure a lot of things out for himself. In Far From Home, Happy is there for assistance. Perhaps Happy felt an obligation to help Peter after Spider-Man prevented Vulture from getting away with a plane full of Stark technology in Homecoming. Or, perhaps Happy took a liking to Peter because he found romance with Aunt May. There is yet another possibility: Peter reminds Happy of a younger, enthusiastic Tony.
There is something special to the Happy and Peter relationship in Far From Home. Happy has never been the character to bask in the limelight. Tony Stark cast a huge shadow, and Happy and others were caught up in it. Happy could always assist Tony, but in the end, Tony was always going to do what he thought was best or simply what he wanted. In Far From Home, Happy confides in Peter that Tony was his friend. In that way, he understood Peter’s grief at losing him, and they found a way to bond. Yet, Happy’s relationship with Peter shines because it is different. He was there to offer guidance, which is something Tony probably didn’t take all that often from him. When Happy watched Peter working on his new suit in the quinjet, he smiled. Perhaps he saw a little bit of Tony there, or perhaps he saw what Tony wanted: someone who was better. Regardless, when Happy smiled, the audience couldn’t help but smile too.
Ambition and Pride – The Rise of Mysterio
Happy Hogan wasn’t the only thing from Tony Stark’s life that Peter inherited. As discussed earlier, Tony appointed Peter as his successor to his legacy. Part of Far From Home’s story was Peter learning about the tools, weapons, and technology that Tony left behind for him. Peter was the chosen one. That means though that someone else was overlooked: Mysterio.
Quentin Beck arrives in Far From Home as a warrior without a world. Fury explains that he arrived from another dimension where a horde of elemental monsters destroyed the world. Marvel fans might notice the reference dropped by Beck to Earth-616, which is the dimension the primary Marvel continuity occurs in. Beck couldn’t save his own world, but he vows to save Peter’s.
Fans of Spider-Man comics likely recognize Mysterio’s story. Although not identical, it is familiar. Beck uses a vast array of technology to conjure holograms of monsters, and then doubles down on the trick to make himself appear as the only hero that can defeat them. The Mysterio of the comics acted on a smaller scale, but the story plays out the same: Spider-Man gets wise to the plot and eventually foils him.
Marvel used Beck to not only further ground Spider-Man in the MCU, but also to launch the next phase of movies. Beck represented a team of engineers and scientists that formerly worked for Tony Stark. Each of them felt neglected, ignored, and overlooked. Therefore, they conspired to steal Tony’s technology from his designated heir. Beck wanted to be the hero, but he was more than willing to sacrifice London and countless innocents to get his way. As the world adjusts to life after “the blip,” they are also adjusting to a world where many of their heroes died, retired, and moved on. That wasn’t without ramifications. Stark left quite a bit of technology behind. Far From Home demonstrates that the most famous heroes may be gone, but their legacy is still being played out.
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great performance as Beck. Rather than disguise his megalomania as something in service of the greater good, he puts his motivations right out there. He wants what Tony had: wealth, fame, and power. In what some might consider a speech heavy on exposition, Beck delivers a toast once they have acquired E.D.I.T.H. that described exactly what they did, how they did it, and why they did it. Despite the obvious plot necessity of this speech, Gyllenhaal sells it with just the right amount of mania to make it work.
The Power of Mysterio
Because he relies on holograms and special effects, Mysterio has no real power of his own. Until he steals E.D.I.T.H. from Peter, he also has no real powers. Beck was a tech wizard when it came to holograms and he uses that knowledge to great effect. His hope was to spare Peter and simply trick him into handing over E.D.I.T.H., but when Peter learns the truth, Beck regrets that he has to kill the highschooler. He tricks Peter into traveling to a warehouse in Berlin, and once they are there, he unleashes the full power of his special effects.
Marvel movies are full of special effects, and therefore, it is a little meta that the villain’s powers are nothing but special effects. Regardless, the attack that Beck unleashes on Peter is intense. Although there was plenty of physical force behind it, the real danger for Peter was not knowing whether he was on solid ground, where his enemies were actually coming from, and while he fought for his life, Beck taunted him with his responsibilities and shortcomings. By the time Beck gets what he needs from him, Peter is battered, bruised, and disoriented.
Mysterio was never Peter’s most formidable foe in the comics. There are plenty of villains that deserve that mantle ahead of him. The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, and others all occupy a larger piece of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. However, Chris McKenna, the writer, Jon Watts, Gyllenhaal, and the special effects crew made Mysterio a true menace in Far From Home.
Final Thoughts on Spider-Man: Far From Home
Far From Home won’t go down as the best Marvel movie. It might not go down as the best Spider-Man movie in the past year (see Into the Spider-Verse). It will, however, be remembered as a great first chapter after Endgame. Holland embodies Peter Parker from his doubts to his hopes and confidence. If Homecoming was about Spider-Man learning to temper his expectations as a hero with patience, Far From Home is about Spider-Man accepting responsibility and beyond his comfort zone.
The stakes of Far From Home aren’t as big as those in Endgame, but they didn’t need to be. Marvel and Disney have done well in keeping every movie in the MCU from becoming a struggle for the fate of the world. Even with the smaller stakes, Far From Home is no less compelling. Kevin Feige and company brought a classic villain from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery to life in an innovative and fun way. Finally, Far From Home follows the MCU tradition with both a mid-credit and post-credit scene. Neither should be missed, and the mid-credit scene sets up Spider-Man movies to come.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.