Spider-Man: Far From Home
US (2019) Dir. Jon Watts
So, you thought it was all over with Avengers Endgame? Think again. The world is a dangerous place and a superhero’s work is never over that easily, and with the loss of key members of the Avengers, the world needs heroes more than ever. In the first post-Endgame outing for the Marvel Universal, our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is in Nick Fury’s line of sight for that role.
However, it appears he is not the only one. Whilst in Mexico investigating the damage to a small village by a typhoon, Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) encounters a huge sand monster that is dispatched by a masked man with special powers. Meanwhile, in New York, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is about to embark on a school trip to Europe, where he plans to confess his feelings for classmate MJ (Zendaya) in Paris.
Knowing Tony Stark had so much faith in Parker, Fury is keen to recruit him but Peter keeps ignoring his calls, eventually tracking him down in Italy after a water monster runs riot in Venice and Peter helps the masked man defeat the beast. Peter is introduced to Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) dubbed “Mysterio” by the media, and they form a duo to combat these beasts called Elementals.
After another attack by a fire Elemental in Germany, Peter decides Beck should be the one to follow in Tony Stark’s footsteps and not him, giving Beck the special glasses that control E.D.I.T.H, the AI running Stark’s satellite and weapons system. Peter feels very confident this was the right thing to do but is Beck really the man for the role?
Spider-Man: Far From Home has a lot of ground to cover as both a follow-up to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and the last few Avengers films. It sounds like a tightrope no writer would want to attempt to walk, but the balance is handled carefully enough that is does indeed fulfil both remits. If one had not (somehow) seen Endgame, the bulk of the story could theoretically work without it and carry on from Homecoming without missing a beat.
“Theoretically” is the key word however, since the Tony Stark connection is vital to the dramatic shift in plot dynamic for the second half of the film, which I won’t spoil, but the story could have worked as a standalone with a few tweaks to cover for this. Either way, aside from Fury and former Stark sidekick Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), this is very much a solo Spider-Man film, with the only crossovers being referential.
In explaining the events of Endgame, the world media described it as The Blip, since those wiped out by Thanos in Infinity War returned to life after only a short while in our timeline though they had aged a few years. This is all we get but since the idea is not to dwell on the past a far as the main narrative is concerned, it is all we need.
With the non-action focus largely being on the school trip, teen romances and adolescent hijinks, the humour is very broad but avoids being another teen movie thanks to the duality aspect of Peter’s life. Out of this comes a unique twist on the central message of the Spider-Man story, regarding the responsibility that comes with power. Instead of it being a dictum in the back of Peter’s mind, Fury is more direct, essentially forcing Peter to pick a side, that being an Avenger and saving the world.
Fury comes across almost as a bully in how he berates Peter for wanting to work on his own terms, using Starks’ name as emotional blackmail to question his commitment to the cause. Thus, Peter finds himself at Fury’s beck and call, having to let MJ down whenever an opportunity to get close with her arises. It’s an unenviable position to be in – having to choose between being with the girl you love or saving humankind from extinction – but at least there is help from Mysterio.
Quentin Beck, complete with fishbowl helmet and flowing cape, claims to hail from an alternate earth in the multiverse, Earth 833 to be exact, and the Elementals, so called as they comprised of the four basic elements of fire, water, air, and earth, killed his family so his missions to stop them is personal.
Considering what S.H.I.E.L.D have faced before, this doesn’t seem too farfetched, and for the comic book fanbase watching, it sounds cool no matter what, providing plenty of the spectacular, bombastic fantasy battle sequences. It’s standard CGI fare that is easy to tire of but the quality of the presentation is not open to question, with a high point being the trippy alternate worlds Spidey is trapped in at one point.
Whilst Peter may take the usual exaggerated flying and crashing bumps through walls and anything else he collides with, he is still humanised by limping away with cuts and bruises. This is in keeping with a running theme putting him offside with Fury, Beck and himself – that he is just a 16 year-old kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Beck is sympathetic, Fury less so, and Peter overwhelmed by it all.
Balk if you will but this acceptable character development within this genre, though with knowledge of Peter’s secret expanding, it is interesting to see how much of a strain this will put on his resolve to being a superhero. And if you are one of those people who still haven’t caught on about staying put for mid/post credits scenes in marvel films, you’ll miss something very significant for Spidey’s future.
Let’s face it, you know what you are getting with comic book films, and despite a fatigue setting in due to the proliferation of entries in this genre over recent years, when you care about the characters beyond their ability to be “super”, one more can’t hurt. In 2019, Spider-Man: Far From Home is that one more film.
Rating – ****
Man In Black