Spider-Man: Far From Home - Review
Spider-Man's second solo outing in the MCU is the first follow up to the massive universe-changing event Avengers: Endgame. The film is bigger in almost every way than Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the shadow of Iron Man looms large. Iron Man gave Far From Home its story, but he also prevented the film from reaching its full potential.
There will be some light spoilers throughout. I suggest not reading until you've seen the film. Bookmark this, and come back later!
The impact of Tony Stark is felt at every turn. The hero journey, the villain journey, the mere reason there is a story is all because of Tony Stark. While Stark was part of the story in Homecoming, Peter had his own journey. Far From Home took that to another level, and made it all about him. For proof, look no further than what EDITH stands for....
The movie both parallels the original Iron Man and is its complimentary opposite at the same time. It makes sense that technology is at the forefront of everything. It follows a similar pattern to the first Iron Man movie but also shares tropes from other MCU entries.
For instance, the movie takes the Stane twist from Iron Man, mixes it with the Bucky twist from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and peppers in some of the Mandarin twist from Iron Man 3 to create what is a very interesting take on Mysterio. (Though some of those elements only work if you aren't familiar with the character in the comics). Mysterio, played by the wonderful Jake Gyllenhaal, definitely got the "MCU Makeover" as far as villains go, but the core of his character is true to the comics. Mysterio is a master liar and manipulator. If you get that right, everything else can be adapted as you see fit.
The rest of the cast is charming as always. Jacob Batalon is always reliable, and Zendaya was better than ever. She encompassed what makes Mary Jane so awesome: The confidence, the bullshit detector, and taking matters into her own hands. The MCU version of MJ is an inspired take on the character, and one of the best parts of the reinvented Spider-Man world. Zendaya makes MJ feel like a real person, and there aren't a lot of females in the MCU you can say that about.
On the flip side of that, it was utterly disappointing on how much the film squandered the talent and potential of JB Smoove. Smoove is one of the funniest people on the planet, and he was put into a 2 dimensional box with nothing to do. That role could have been played by anyone, and the movie would have been exactly the same. There was no reason to inhibit such an amazing comedic talent, especially in a movie with legit humor, and jokes galore.
The love story between Peter and MJ is actually a crucial part of Peter's journey. He is still struggling between having great responsibility, and just wanting to be a regular high school kid. The film did a decent job of bringing the audience through that, though it was stifled from being under the enormous shadow of Iron Man. They even threw in a Happy Hogan/Aunt May thing too, which I hope is explored more if only for the simple fact of seeing Jon Favreau stay in the MCU.
The film feels slightly too long, but is only 129 minutes in length. There were some scenes that were left to their own accord a bit longer than they should. A tighter edit might have helped the pace. But the film had a lot to do, and for the most part, accomplished it quite effectively.
It was fun to see Nick Fury in a Spider-Man story, but it was instantly apparent something was wrong. The film tells you its because he doesn't know everything anymore. That works for a time. It feels like down-and-out Fury is suffering a midlife crisis. That is no fun to watch. Samuel L Jackson brings a commanding, intimidating and powerful presence to the role of Fury. Taking that away just doesn't feel right. Then when the film really tells you why he's like it. It makes sense, and will make future rewatches viewed in a new prism.
The visuals are spectacular. Mysterio is a hard villain to do without pitch perfect CGI. The MCU has always had pretty impressive CGI renderings, especially when it comes to the digital de-aging process. Any version of Mysterio would be hard to do practically. Something wouldn't look right. And if they tried to do it via CGI 20 years ago, you would get visual effects similar to The Scorpion King in The Mummy 2 which is not a good thing.
The Iron Man comparisions, and the Iron Man contrasts are prevalent through nearly every frame of the film. There is even a quick flashback scene to the original movie, when it shows the return of one of the most obscure characters the MCU has ever brought back. It helps that original Iron Man director Jon Favreau has a nice supporting role in this film as well. That is the connection to Tony that Peter (and the audience) needs to help close this phase of the MCU out.
But nothing shows how "Iron Man-y" this story is like the mid-credit scene. "I am Iron Man" is now one of the most famous phrases associated with the MCU. It ended the very first MCU movie, thereby launching a decade worth of storytelling. It was then used to perfection in Endgame to bring Stark's story to a close. Far From Home takes that notion flips it on its head, and makes it a tragedy rather than a triumph. While Far From Home traveled similar roads as Iron Man, it didn't receive nearly as warm of a welcome as Iron Man did when it reached its destination. Both this mid-credit scene, and the following post-credit scene have ramifications that will be felt in the MCU forever. They used both to perfection, and truly were some of the universe's best use of the credit scene gimmick.
Overall, Far From Home did exactly what it needed to. It has the perfect title too. Spider-Man works better as a smaller, contained, inherently New York story. To make the scale bigger, and to take him away from that, really is a departure from your usual Spider-Man, which makes him "far from home". Normally, that would hurt the character, and the movie. But due to the unique circumstances of what this story had to accomplish, it worked well. Also, due to the rapidly changing nature of the MCU, it doesn't feel like we will get a small intimate Spider-Man story like Homecoming ever again. Far From Home had a big Iron clad reason why a story this big could work. But all that talk about being a "friendly neighborhood" Spider-Man looks to be a thing of the past.
This is the end of Phase 3, and it went out with a bang. I didn't expect the first post-Endgame movie to change things so much (and not in the way everyone expected it to change things, which is the most brilliant bit), but the MCU will never be the same. The implications presented by two scenes are vast and powerful. Hopefully they pay off well.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theaters everywhere.