It's easy to spot Tony Stark's face everywhere in Spider-Man: Far From Home. It's on murals, on drawings in classrooms, and featured in memorials on street corners. There's a comedic "In Memoriam" segment after the cold open that features his face. At one point, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) mentions this to Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau): "everywhere I go I see his face."
We knew going into Far From Home that Peter was going to have to deal with the emotional fallout of Tony's sacrifice at the end of Endgame. The two had built this father/son relationship, a dynamic that became the main through line of Homecoming and one of the many threads to follow in the Infinity War movies.
It is here but, unfortunately, Far From Home is bogged down by a few other through lines and ideas — not enough to completely weigh down the movie but enough that the emotional payoff doesn't feel as complete or that you don't feel as invested in the outcome.
Far From Home was always in a precarious position in the MCU lineup. Being the first movie post-Endgame — arguably the largest movie in the franchise with some of the most world-changing consequences — it had to take care of a lot of cleanup. Now that everybody who was whisked away via the "Blip" (the official name for what we've been calling the "Snap." I prefer the latter) has been returned there are some lingering questions. What would high school be like for the kids who returned after five years? Do people just get on with their lives? How does this affect the people who weren't blipped away? A lot of this is addressed in the first 15 minutes, luckily not bogging down the movie more than it needs to and introducing some levity that we've come to expect from this version of Spider-Man.
Far From Home is delightful in a lot of ways.
Far From Home attempts to introduce a lot of comedic lightness to the proceedings, which works in a lot of instances, but tends to not contribute all that much to the plot. A huge part of the first half involves Peter wondering how to deal with a gift he's received from Tony posthumously and in typical Tony fashion, it is too much. It also helps to get Peter into shenanigans that pad out that part of the movie. Luckily, the movie still manages to remain serious when it needs to, allowing Holland to play with the emotional side of Peter and to avoid making too light of what should be a morose character moment.
But there's so much Peter also has to deal with beyond just how he deals with Tony's death. What is his place in the Avengers now that most of them are gone? How can he properly handle the responsibilities of being both Peter Parker and Spider-Man? Can he be both a normal kid and a superhero?
Even going beyond Peter, there are questions posed here about the world post-Endgame. Has the people's relationship with superheroes changed? How is Nick Fury dealing with the aftermath? Who are the Avengers to the outside world now? This is where Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes in. His sudden appearance, along with the Elementals, is mysterious (get it?) to the audience, but doesn't 'seem to be questioned at all by Fury, Maria Hill, or Peter. His existence also catches the imaginations of Peter's friends and the public, who are looking to him for hope post-Blip. The Elementals represent the first big threat since Thanos and it's unclear how any of them will deal with it.
Time for a quick diversion. Without giving too much away about the second half of the movie, Gyllenhaal was the perfect choice to play Mysterio. As one of the few actors working in Hollywood today that understands the subtleties needed for kitsch performances — basically he's great at knowing when to overact for a piece that calls for it while also imbuing his characters with a humanity that makes it easier to digest — a superhero movie was bound to be in the cards. More recent MCU movies have done a great job grounding the villains in a sympathetic reality (Michael Keaton as the Vulture and Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger are two examples) but Mysterio manages to be truthful to his over-the-top comics counterpart and intertwined with the story built over the MCU thus far.
You may have noticed though how many questions Far From Home is trying to tackle.
You may have noticed though how many questions Far From Home is trying to tackle. They're all tangentially related so the movie never feels completely overburdened, but there are just one too many. Homecoming worked because it kept Peter focused on one idea — how do I become the hero that Tony wants me to be — but Far From Home has him jumping around emotionally. It leaves the audience feeling short-changed on certain aspects of the movie.
I go back and forth on whether the MCU entries should be able to stand alone without the weight of an entire cinematic universe. There's a plan in place that ensures they never can, but some of the best ones have their own merits. This version of Spider-Man was introduced as an accessory to a larger narrative involving Tony Stark, and Homecoming was able to integrate that while also still presenting a solid solo movie. Far From Home, on the other hand, can't exist without Infinity War, Endgame, Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man 1, Captain Marvel, or Homecoming. It can't even exist without the original Sam Raimi trilogy starring Tobey Maguire. By having this latest entry tied in so innately with so many other movies, the main plot, which should focus on Spider-Man, tends to get off track. There's a visually-stunning sequence that happens later in the movie that just focuses on Spider-Man and Mysterio, and it's something we could have had more of if there weren't so many Endgame loose ends to wrap up first.
Granted, some of those ties create some of the best moments. Without spoiling anything, you'll want to stick around for the two post-credits scenes. One manages to setup that possible Spider-Man sequel you want after Far From Home (with a story that potentially focuses on just Peter and not his relationships with other Avengers) and another creates more game-changing, world-building elements that will have MCU fans cackling. We don't know much about the big plan for Phase 4, but if these two scenes are any indication, it's going to be a blast.
Far From Home is delightful in a lot of ways. Holland continues to bring life to the likeable, awkward, high school Peter Parker. Zendaya deserves major props here as well for her M.J., who has so much personality outside her comics counterpart but who also meshes well with Peter in an adorable teenage romance. Samuel L. Jackson is a scene stealer as always and Cobie Smulders actually gets things to do here!
However, the movie can't stand on its own, and that might be an issue for some movie-goers. Tony's face is everywhere, constantly reminding you that this isn't just a solo Spider-Man outing. It's an Endgame sequel.
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