As the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to come out since the era-defining “Avengers: Endgame,” the much smaller-scaled “Spider-Man: Far From Home” had a lot riding on it.
After all, it would set the tone for what MCU is attempting to do for the next decade now that its first 11-year, 22-movie saga is complete. No pressure.
But of course, the story of Spider-Man and Peter Parker has always been on a smaller scale from the rest of Marvel’s big hitters. Iron Man is a billionaire, Thor is a god, Captain America is a super soldier and Hulk is a super genius. Peter Parker is an awkward teenager.
And yet, without missing a beat, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sticks to its roots by definitely being a Spider-Man story while also simultaneously closing the previous MCU book and opening the next one in a way that should satisfy most comic book fans.
Following the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the world is trying to adjust to a reality where everyone who was snapped out of existence is back, but heroes like Captain America and Iron Man are no longer around.
This puts a lot of pressure on one of the newest and youngest Avengers, Spider-Man, who lives day-to-day life as nerdy, awkward Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland). When he and some of his class take a trip to Europe, Peter leaves the suit behind and enjoys a vacation from hero work for just a couple weeks.
But with the emergence of new monsters and the unexpected recruitment from SHIELD’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a new hero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), Spider-Man must balance the responsibilities of still being a teenager and filling the void Iron Man left behind.
What immediately sets this film apart from many of the other big MCU movies is its smaller scaled focus and lighter tone, which is a breath of fresh air after the draining three-hour commitment to “Endgame.” Everything is more streamlined to the high school life and the kids Peter hangs out with, making the stakes a lot less important than world-ending chaos.
For a start, that can make the movie’s first act either fun or boring because it’s basically a teen road-trip movie. And while that can be funny, that’s not what people came to see. It’s seeing Peter sling webs and take down bad guys that makes a Spider-Man movie great.
Luckily, they aren’t on their European vacation too long before that happens and we get one of the best things about this story: Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Mysterio. For those who know the comics, this was an interesting and fun use of the character. And for those who didn’t know the character, Gyllenhaal does a great job making him charismatic and entertaining.
But the entire cast is great, from Sam Jackson returning as Fury to Peter’s best friend, Ned, stealing all the scenes to one of their teachers on the trip played by J.B. Smoove with plenty of one-liners to keep things light.
One of the biggest improvements over the previous film was the relationship between Zendaya’s “MJ” and Holland’s Peter. They get a lot more time together here and their awkward romance comes across as a lot more believable.
Unfortunately, while there is plenty of humor, it’s not always successful. In one scene the word play and performances are great, but then in the very next scene a sophomoric gag will barely get a chuckle. I understand trying to make this film a lot more comedic, but it doesn’t always mesh well with the bigger story.
And it’s that bigger story that makes this installment in the MCU so good. Barely a scene goes by without some reference of Iron Man being gone and someone has to pick up his role. A lot of people want it to be Peter, but Peter doesn’t think he can handle that responsibility, a through line in all Spider-Man stories.
But by the end, Spider-Man’s future and the future of the MCU is all set up and ready for the next five years. While this can be seen as just a fun romp with lower stakes, it’s also the story that connects the past movies to the future, which is why it’s worth seeing just the same.