Spider-Man: Far From Home, directed by the returning Jon Watts, takes place a few months after Avengers: Endgame, after half of the world’s population erased by Thanos’ “snap” was miraculously restored. Thanks to the events of Endgame, Midtown School of Science and Technology is back to normal with the exception of making everyone restart the school year as diligently told by the return of Jason and Betty’s terrifically bad newcast.
There are a few obvious effects of the Snap, called the “Blip” in-universe; tiny middle schoolers are now your tall, ripped classmates, and you might be 21 on paper but you’re still not old enough to drink. In efforts to help their neighborhood, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) start a fundraiser in Queens for those displaced by the Blip. Watts leans more into the strangeness of world post-Endgame rather than heavy drama fueled implications of the Blip.
Luckily for Peter, almost all of the people in his civilian life blipped with him. So, most of his supporting cast is with him when he goes on his summer, school-sponsored trip to Europe. This includes his crush, morbid conspiracy theorist M.J., played both parts cool and awkward by Zendaya. Unfortunately, Peter’s vacation is interrupted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and new hero from another dimension Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), as monstrous creatures called the Elementals wreak havoc across the continent.
Peter’s dilemma in Far From Home is the classic “second installment in the Spider-Man series”: hero life versus civilian life. In the movie, he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man right now: he wants to enjoy being sixteen and charm M.J. with a Black Dahlia necklace (like the murder!). Tom Holland’s Peter is endearing as always — enthusiastic, vulnerable, and polite. He is very aware of how he sounds when he says he rather be sightseeing than saving the world — which makes Peter more sympathetic rather than selfish. Peter’s need for normality feels warranted—he just went through a space war, disappeared, and lost his superhero mentor. The kid deserves a break. Homecoming established his importance as a neighborhood hero but the Avengers plunged him into the bigger stage that he just might not be ready for.
Jacob Batalon as Ned and the rest of the supporting cast is delightful as always. Zendaya as MJ is, in particular, pretty precious. Her gestures and motions signify the all-too-real youthful uncertainty. It feels refreshing to see that in a female character, especially when on-screen teen girls are normally so polished beyond their years. If Peter’s character for awkward guys, then she definitely a representative for awkward girls. It’s so sweet and so high-school and I adored every moment these two stammered around each other.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck, who is later nicknamed Mysterio, fills in as Peter’s next father-uncle-Tony Stark figure. Gyllenhaal brings peak subtle weirdo to his performance as a friendly displaced hero. He hams it up and brings it back to a quiet rage when he needs too in a weird Hollywood director way that is very appropriate.
The latter half of the film’s fight scenes are trippy and incredible — everything you’d want to see in a superhero movie. The fake-outs punch you in the gut, making you feel almost every blow to Peter. Far From Home has a running motif on what is real that parallels to what we are seeing in real life. Considering the world’s heroes are seemingly disbanded and a traumatic event has gone mostly unsolved, Peter’s world is more complicated and timely.
Since Spider-Verse just came out on Netflix — the movie that is the perfect dissection of who the webbed slinger is, there was the question of who the MCU’s Spider-Man is in comparison. As with our past two Spider-Man 2s ( this joke doesn’t get old), much of Peter’s problems come from his own isolation. A recent rewatch of Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2 struck me how much his Peter’s life sucked. This is Peter without an emotional support system — aka, the Peter Parker that we are most familiar with.
Holland’s Peter is less brittle in comparison. Traumatized, for sure, but not as angry. (The movies also, quite glaringly, do not mention Ben Parker.) This Peter learns to trust people with his identity. Because he has a confidant in his best friend Ned; his Aunt May knows his secret. He has Happy, he once had Tony. (And yes, he has a billion-dollar corporation backing him up. Hm.) Biggest of all — it is putting the most New York-based hero, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, onto the bigger stage. Not just Europe, but possibly part of the main Avengers roster. We have a new, widely different basis for the MCU Peter.
One criticism people have of MCU’s Spider-Man is that Iron Man is far too prominent in Peter’s life. Yet, in a way, Tony Stark is too involved in the MCU to not be a big figure in Peter’s life. Along with his guardianship, Stark’s influence in this universe also ripples into large consequences, creating a pretty reliable plot of heroism and redemption. (Even if Marvel has somewhat overused the “Tony messed up” storyline: see Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spider-Man: Homecoming as a few examples.)
Far From Home places the last pieces of the foundation of who the MCU Peter Parker is in contrast to past portrayals. After the death of most of the Avengers, the heroes still make an appearance: there is a slideshow for Black Widow, they study Thor in Physics class, Peter wields a broken sign like a Captain America shield. This Peter grew up in a world saturated with heroes, apparently even saw Iron Man in action as a kid. It makes sense why he is a little different, personality-wise than the other live-action portrayals. It emphasizes his connections to these heroes, that audience also grew up with and followed, and pulls him back into the bigger world.
Holland’s eager, wide-eyed Spider-Man is so captivating and kind — as he instantly makes the audience feel better when he is on screen. Far From Home is a heartwarming, thrilling, and fun movie to close the long first chapter of the Marvel Universe and open the gates for the next phase, leading with a figure as loved as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.