In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, all Peter Parker (Tom Holland) wants is to take a super-villain-free trip to Europe where he can finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. But when the destructive ‘Elementals’ begin wreaking havoc, and with the arrival of potential new ally Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), Peter faces the burden of great responsibility once more.
After 2018’s double-bill of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4, this year’s Far From Home was always going to be facing an uphill battle in grabbing the attention of fans spoiled by those two triumphs for the wall-crawler. Any new Spider-Man movie is always going to be compared to its live-action legacy, from Sam Raimi’s trilogy to Marc Webb’s duology, and director Jon Watts’ latest is being compared not only to those films, but his own Spider-Man: Homecoming and the aforementioned, multi-genre hits from last year.
As such, it brings no pleasure to say that I left Far From Home feeling a bit disappointed. Not only weighed down by the inevitable need to live up to the many great Spidey tales we’ve had in the last 20 years, the film also seems to struggle in being a ‘sort-of’ epilogue to Avengers: Endgame. Using the relatable Peter Parker to chase up on the events of Endgame is a great concept, but the film can’t commit to the massive, earth-shattering shake-ups to the status quo that film left the state of Marvel’s universe in, while balancing it with the story the film itself clearly wants to tell.
And that is a shame, because the story it wants to tell is the best part of it. Holland continues to grow from strength to strength as Peter Parker, inhabiting the wonderful blend of innocent naivety and virtuous conviction that has seen this character endure for so long. Playing off of him wonderfully is Zendaya’s MJ, who takes her character to far greater depths than she was given a chance to in Homecoming, delivering possibly the best performance in the film. With her wry intonations and sweetly smitten quirks she plays MJ to a charmingly awkward, instantly likeable effect. You root so much for things to work between Peter and MJ that, if it is teen romance you love, this might become one of your favourite movies in Marvel’s pantheon.
For me, however, this felt like one great part of what could have been a brilliant whole, had it been given more time to truly explore its numerous threads. It’s not that the ideas aren’t there – in concept, this could have been the best of Tom Holland’s run as the character – it’s the consistent lack of meaningful execution that ultimately left me hollow. Anyone looking for a more nuanced view of what has become of the post-Endgame world won’t find it here, nor will they find a film that ever really gives room for the developing friendship between Peter and Mysterio to breathe. Gyllenhaal has the potential to make for an intriguing character, but he is left waiting for the plot to catch up with him and, when it eventually does, he can only attempt to deliver what is a very hasty character arc by masking it with eccentricity. And a big glass fishbowl.
Nevertheless, Watts appears far more confident helming the action this time around. While I maintain that there isn’t necessarily anything arresting here, he is able to use Mysterio’s trippy powers to great advantage in two stand-out sequences that wow despite both clearly being pieces of CG animation, rather than any in-camera trickery. The action is definitely improved over Homecoming, but I still yearn for the days when Tobey Maguire would viscerally fight Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin to the death, or strain in saving a runaway train full of innocent passengers. At least in this one, Holland’s CG suit actually takes damage, a small (admittedly particular) niggle I had in previous films that now actually makes a good bit of difference in raising the danger for our young hero.
Returning to score again is the often excellent Michael Giacchino, who brings back his exuberant themes from Homecoming and cheerfully splices them with European inspired motifs and instruments in a mono-thematic score reminiscent of his orchestration for Up. That in mind though, his theme for a certain character here is eerily reminiscent of another Pixar film he scored for, one that was also a superhero picture and also featured a rather… ‘theatrical’ character. I will say no more for fear of spoilers, but those familiar with the composer’s work will only need their ears to know where the plot is going.
I am hopeful aspects of this Spidey outing will improve for me with time (the same happened with Homecoming), but Far From Home’s inconsistent focus and exclusively light approach to the new world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe left me feeling deflated. Better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but not as good as Spider-Man 2 – see how the third Spider-Man ‘2’ works for you.
Author: Tom, Prestwich store