Even though much was made about Avengers: Endgame being the end of the current incarnation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (to the point that it’s been re-released with additional footage to ensure it wins the 2019 Box Office), there was technically still one more film left in the so-called “Third Phase.” I think I mentioned this in the Endgame review, but the best way to think of this is like a Broadway musical, with the culmination of the Infinity Stones saga as the “show-stopper” number. But there’s always one more melody, one more scene to be had afterwards. That’s where Spider-Man: Far From Home comes in.
The second Spidey adventure starring Tom Holland definitely fits within that structure. It ties up a few loose ends (like explaining how life goes on five years after “The Blip” of Thanos snapping his fingers), and is on the whole a light, pleasant way to wind down this grand story arc that’s lasted for more than 20 films. More importantly, though, it’s just a good, fun movie that could completely stand on its own.
Picking up after the events of Endgame, the film opens with a truly stupid (but perfect for this universe’s depiction of high schoolers) “tribute” to the fallen heroes of the MCU. The students then explain how life goes on for those whose lives were put on hold for five years, mixing in with the half of civilization who aged normally.
With the end of the school year approaching, Peter Parker and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon, aka the greatest sidekick in the entire MCU) are making plans for a European vacation with their science class. Peter has an elaborate scheme to charm MJ (Zendaya), while Ned wants to be a swinging bachelor. Meanwhile, Tony Stark’s former bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is trying to connect Peter to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), while also attempting to charm Aunt May (Marissa Tomei).
Peter just wants to have a normal summer and chase after his new love interest. Unfortunately, Fury is rather persistent, especially when Peter’s class encounters an “Elemental” in Venice, a water-based monster that destroys property and puts everyone’s lives in danger. That is, until the sudden appearance of Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a new hero who can fight them off. He initially catches the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. after battling a similar, earth-based foe in Mexico.
The dilemma for Peter is palpable. As the youngest Avenger, one who until the events of Infinity War kept to his “friendly neighborhood” of Queens, the responsibility of a full-blown superhero is a lot to handle, particularly as Tony Stark essentially chose him to be his successor. He has to grapple with the most extreme adult obligations possible while still trying desperately to cling to his youth and whatever sense of normalcy he has left. That awkward indecisiveness is yet another reason why this incarnation of our favorite web-slinger is the one most true to the core of the character. Of all the heroes in the MCU, he is the most human, the most relatable, because of simple emotional conflicts like this one, which we all understand, simply dialed up way beyond our level of experience. That makes him more realistic and sympathetic than any of the others. It also doesn’t hurt that his dialogue and interactions are about as hilarious as they come, especially with Ned, who is just a goddamned treasure. The chemistry Peter has with the sardonic MJ is also quite strong thanks to Zendaya’s cool, collected performance.
This film also handles one of the major points of contention I had with the last film, which was the lack of Peter having Spider Sense. It was one of the oddest things about Homecoming and the last two Avengers films because not only was it not there, it wasn’t even really addressed. Well here, that situation is rectified, because as part of Peter’s development (and possibly a metaphor for his puberty), he works to perfect his perception, leading to a rather fun running gag where the adults around him refer to it as his “Peter Tingle.” The 12-year-old within us all giggles heartily.
If there’s one major flaw in the film, it’s in how casual Mysterio’s villain turn is. If you think I just spoiled something, then you might be part of the problem. Because while Mysterio isn’t necessarily the first name you think of in Spider-Man villains, he was one of the original Sinister Six, and his costume is pretty iconic. So to treat him like a potential hero and ally for half the film just drags out the inevitable, and the almost tossed off scene of his reveal costs us a lot of his dramatic impact. In the realm of superhero fake movie science, the motivations and execution of Mysterio’s evil plan is actually quite believable, and it is nice to have a villain who isn’t just a more buffed out version of the good guy – an unfortunate trope that has happened way too often in the MCU – but the logistics and structure are a bit muddied.
It’s all part of an overall pacing problem that the film somewhat suffers from. It takes forever to reveal the obvious about Mysterio, and when they do it’s one of the most casual scenes of the film. Then, from that point, we’ve still got two major battles to get through and all the loose ends to tie up from within this individual plot in order to get a satisfying ending (and tease for future adventures). The timing of it all is just a little bit off. It takes so long to get to the reveal we all knew was coming, and then it takes close to another hour to wrap it all up. I know at least one person in the theatre got fairly bored with the proceedings because of this structure. It didn’t bother me all that much, but it was very noticeable.
In the end, though, this is a fitting end for the Third Phase of the MCU. We get a light, low-stakes entry that draws all of the main events of the last decade-plus to a satisfying conclusion, and gives us a little bit of hope for quality ahead as the universe resets itself for the next wave of films. More importantly, we just get a truly entertaining bit of popcorn fun with well-developed characters that balance thrilling action with relatable comedy. What more can you ask for?
Ned. Much, much, much more Ned.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Who’s your favorite MCU hero? Does Spidey seriously not know who AC/DC is? Let me know!
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