Spider-Man played by Tom Holland has been a crowd favorite ever since his introduction in Captain America: Civil War. A year later Spidey got his own movie with Spider-Man Homecoming. It introduced a larger cast with Zendaya playing MJ, a girl with whom Peter slowly developed an attraction – despite her sometimes dark comments. Furthermore there is Ned, Peter’s best friends played by Jacob Batalon. Ned at times acts as Peter’s sidekick.
There was a larger cast of course, but at its core the character dynamic revolves around these 3 friends. That a second Spider-Man would be released was a foregone conclusion, but what should the story be about? Spider-Man has always been at the periphery of the Avengers. His age, his non-privileged position has always meant he is an outsider, despite Tony’s efforts to treat him like a son. So what adventure could Spider-Man have that could be called his own?
Well, Spider-Man Far From Away tries to create such a story, and it succeeds for the most part. Beware, there are plenty of spoilers down below – if you hate that sort of thing.
The story of Spider-Man Far From Home
Spider-Man Far From Home is a multi-layered movie. On the face of it is a school trip to Europe story. I even got a National Lampoon and Gotcha! vibe. But that part just offers a setting for the various escapades that will take place. Instead, this movie is all about the aftermath of the blip. That is what people call when Thanos made half of all life in the universe disappear. Peter was among of that half. In Avengers: Endgame Thanos’s actions were undone with the return of the missing half as a result. However, everybody who returned did not grow older while for everybody else 5 years passed.
No small degree of humor
All that is deftly established in the first half hour of Spider-Man Far From Home. The director, Jon Watts, manages to convey all this with no small degree of humor. Luckily for Peter his friends MJ and Ned were also amongst those who disappeared for five years. Peter still has a crush on MJ and he intends to follow through with his feelings on the trip to Europe.
Meanwhile Peter also has to consider his position as a superhero. With the death of a number of Avengers including Tony Stark people are eager for replacements. For Peter it all becomes too much, he wants to focus on this school trip to Europe and MJ and deal with his personal life.
The trip to Europe
However, Nick Fury has other plans. Once in Europe, in Venice, a new threat emerges. They are beings from another dimension called elementals. They already destroyed a town in Mexico and now threaten Europe and the whole world. Nick Fury cleverly arranges for Peter’s school group to redirected to each threat point. Nick and Peter get help from a new superhero called by the public Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). Together they manage to defeat the final elemental in Prague.
Except it is all fake. Mysterio is in fact a disillusioned former Stark engineer who with a group of likeminded people fools everybody into believing the threat is real. After Peter has a falling out with Nick Fury and with his continued desire to stay with MJ he hands over control of the assets left to him by Tony Stark to Mysterio.
Perhaps too long
And so Spider-Man Far From Home manages to intertwine Peter’s personal life with the greater world around him. During the first half of the movie it didn’t really work for me, perhaps development proceeded too slowly, or the threat of the elementals feels put on. It is both of course, Spider-Man Far From Home is slightly too long, but the threat not feeling real was the point. Once that is established Spider-Man Far From becomes a much more enjoyable viewing. It feels as if the director is being truthful to the viewer. Jake Gyllenhaal does his best to keep up pretending to be a superhero. It actually took me a while to catch on.
Not everything was great
So what didn’t I like about Spider-Man Far From Home? Well, the comedy dominates the story relegating the villain and his plot to second fiddle. The story does work because the aftermath of Thanos’s actions, called the blip, are discussed in detail. In fact this movie removes a great deal of the curtain around the MCU. Yet, the comedy elements overtake all that and it means the movie could not make up its mind what it wanted to be.
From that point of view, this movie is a hot mess with comedic scenes and drama following each other in quick succession. However, near the end Spider-Man manages to find a better balance as the various story elements come together. The resolution of the mutual love interest between MJ and Peter is quite rewarding, as is when Peter takes her web flinging through Manhattan.
Spider-Man Far From Home is good fun, Tom Holland and Zendaya shine with their teenage comedic talent, as does Jacob Batalon. The story, set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, hints at deeper themes that are only partially revealed. I am perhaps slightly annoyed that the left-overs from the first Spidey movie have been ignored, but as more sequels are in the works no doubt we will see some resolution to them.