Spider-Man: Far From Home is a very strange film. Obviously, it’s strange just on a surface level – I mean, it’s a movie about a web-slinging teenager in red spandex fighting off elemental monsters with a man wearing a goldfish bowl on his head. But it also occupies a very strange place in the wider MCU. Rather awkwardly, it’s billed as the closing chapter to Phase 3 and left with the unenviable task of wrapping up everything from the last 11 years of Marvel movie magic. However, after the sheer feeling of finality in Avengers: Endgame, it was inevitable that Far From Home was always going to feel a little insignificant. Spider-Man is my favourite Marvel mainstay by a long distance, but how was his standalone sequel ever supposed to compare to a mammoth multi-part, multi-hero mash-up?
Let’s just be completely honest here: it doesn’t. Leave your expectations at the door, because this comes nowhere near the scale of the epic two-part Thanos takedown. And yet, weirdly, the film’s positioning in the MCU is also a reflection of Peter Parker’s place in the post-Endgame world. Compared to the Avengers, Spider-Man is a small-time hero – how can he possibly step up to fill the void left by the likes of Iron Man? At first, it seems impossible. But, somehow, the film (and Peter) must find a way to rise above the pressure.
At its core, Far From Home is part Endgame epilogue and part Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel. Both of those sound like promising things – or, at least, they would in isolation. The problem is, the dark and emotional subject matter from Avengers is at total odds with Homecoming’s humour-fuelled high-school hijinks, leading to some serious tonal whiplash and one of the most uneven openings to any MCU movie. All the tragedy from Infinity War and Endgame has suddenly been replaced by comedy – and it’s not that the jokes are bad (even if a fair few of them don’t land), it’s just that it feels kind of wrong to be laughing at these massive, world-changing events. The first half of Far From Home walks a very fine line between comical and disrespectful, which feels slightly uncomfortable and misjudged considering Endgame is only three months old.
Things seem to go from bad to worse once the actual plot kicks in. Peter, weighed down by the burdens of being a superhero, decides to go travelling to Europe with his schoolmates. He’s determined to relax and finally make his move on MJ, who he’s conveniently developed a crush on since the closing scenes of Homecoming. All of that is fine and dandy – but then he gets caught up in a scuffle between a caped crusader called Quentin Beck and a gigantic water monster in the Venice canals. It’s silly stuff, made even sillier when Nick Fury enters the fray to explain that Beck (aka Mysterio) hails from a parallel dimension. Apparently, his version of Earth has been destroyed, so now he’s here to fight four elemental creatures before they can wreak havoc again. Realising there is a common threat, Spider-Man and Mysterio team up to finish the job. It’s as ridiculous and as flimsy as it sounds. Was this the best they could come up with after Thanos?!
And yet, about halfway through the film, something changes. I can’t tell you what, but when it happens (and you’ll know when it does), the movie magically hits its stride. The threat becomes more grounded, the stakes become more real, and the action finally becomes more focused. Much like Peter Parker on screen, the film is forced to step up in the face of impending doom, and it rises to the occasion. While the first half of Far From Home is rather questionable in quality, its second half is hands down one of the finest in the MCU. There’s one absolutely standout scene that will leave your mind boggled (again, you’ll know it when you see it), leading up to a thrilling final face-off over London. All the worries and bad feeling from the start are washed away by a tidal wave of triumph, and you definitely leave the cinema on a high. Maybe the script’s just way more meta than we thought, purposely starting off on shaky ground so that the eventual turnaround is all the more memorable by comparison. It certainly wouldn’t be out of keeping with the movie’s messages and themes.
However, while the story may be a tale of two halves, one thing that’s consistent are the performances. Tom Holland once again captures the youthful innocence of Peter Parker, still reeling from the death of Tony Stark (whose face is, quite literally, everywhere he goes). Jake Gyllenhaal is having the time of his life as Mysterio, bursting with charisma and stealing the show whenever he’s on screen. Meanwhile, Zendaya makes for a brilliantly unique twist on the MJ we know and love. She’s cynical, she’s badass, and a complete breath of fresh air. The rest of the cast fulfil their roles just fine, although they’re mostly just comic relief.
Looking back, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the kind of film that will probably improve exponentially on a second viewing. Once you can judge it on its own merits and not just view it as a direct follow-up to Endgame, it’ll be easier to appreciate its strengths as well as overlook its shortcomings. All I know is, while the opening left me underwhelmed at first, Far From Home did enough to win me back by the time the credits rolled. Speaking of which… make sure you stick around! This film has arguably two of the most important post-credits scenes in any Marvel movie. The first completely changes the future of Spider-Man, while the second completely changes the landscape of the MCU. Whatever Phase 4 has in store, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
So, it may be no Avengers: Endgame – and it’s definitely no Into the Spider-Verse – but Spider-Man: Far From Home is more than worth your time. Even if you have your doubts, try to go into it with an open mind. First impressions can be deceiving, but trust us: this film’s one hell of a trip.
(Perhaps in more ways than you expect…)