FAR FROM HOME caps a mammoth movie series while solidifying Holland as the best Web Head.
WARNING: This review contains MILD SPOILERS for AVENGERS: ENDGAME.
By Matt Cummings
If there was any doubt that the Sony/Marvel relationship would come through as a financial windfall for both studios, that worry was shattered with 2018’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. There, freshly-minted Avenger Spider-man played an important emotional role against Tony Stark, and the webslinger’s fate at movie’s end shocked and surprised everyone. Now three films in (has it really been that many already?), it’s a no-brainer that both Tom Holland and Sony/Marvel might be tailor-made for their individual roles. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME reveals a hero that’s a better Peter Parker story than a Spider-man one, while also proving that an off-screen relationship must continue.
Deeply affected by the events of ENDGAME but still worried about his future role as an Avenger, Peter Parker (Holland) takes a trip to Europe with his high school friends including MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). But as soon as they arrive in Venice, the city is attacked by a giant water creature representing one of the four natural elements. It’s here that Peter hooks up with the new hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has battled these creatures on an alternate Earth as well as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), who are convinced that Peter must become a great leader. Burdened with this reality and his growing love for MJ, Peter must decide if he can truly be a friendly neighborhood Spider-man in a world without Iron Man, an off-world Thor, and an elderly Steve Rogers.
After all the seriousness of recent MCU films, FFM is a refreshingly joyous affair that really fares better as a Peter Parker movie than a pure Spider-man one. In fact, from a traditional comic perspective, the action sequences prove that Spider-man is ill-suited to single-battle anyone other low-level Earth villains. How do you throw webbing at water, fire, or any of the other Earthly elements? This has always been the shortcomings of our hero, which makes the success of the human stories all the more important. Director Jon Watts returns to ensure that it’s told in hilarious fashion, cementing Holland’s place as the shy and awkward teen.
Holland’s chemistry resonates with everyone, especially against the dour nature of Fury and the “matter-of-fact” style of Hill. His work with Happy Hogan (Jon Favereau) might represent some of the film’s best scenes. Still reeling from ENDGAME, both are in dark places but Happy’s style (and high tech gadgets) acts as a fatherly role to Parker. Gyllenhaal is also quite good: his mysterious (no pun) background and ulterior motives suit the character actor quite well. The MCU has wanted Gyllenhaal in the mix for quite awhile, and his appearance as Mysterio borrows a bit of Thor, Iron Man and Doctor Strange into a compelling alternative that Parker at first thinks offers the perfect replacement.
But again, we’re here for the relationship stuff (I hate to admit it), and again Holland shines. His scenes with Zendaya and Batalon are hilarious and prove just how much of a geek Parker is. And it’s not just the love story that works: as Parker begins to realize that his hopes to remain a small-town hero are fading, he also learns that he might not have a choice. This is made all the more clear during one of the end credits scenes that might be the best we’ve seen in years. It’s not a useless tag but a preview of what’s to come for Spider-man, and proof that FFM’s success is big for another reason.
The burgeoning relationship between Sony and Marvel has proved both critically and financially successful, and with their contract now completed, it’s hopeful that the two will ink a longer-term deal. With FFM preparing us for what should be an amazing (no pun!) third movie and Phase 4, it’s clear that both need each other. Should Parker suddenly disappear from this universe without good reason, fans will clamor for an explanation, and that won’t be good for either studio. Again, both need and deserve each other, and that’s a good thing.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME isn’t the best Spider-man movie ever (that’s relegated to SM2), but this one does solidify Holland as the best Web Head. Even though the action does continue to minimize our hero, you’ll love the relationships and definitely stick around for two of the best end credit scenes we’ve seen in awhile. FFM should make a ton and prove that a long-term Sony/Marvel relationship is possible and even profitable.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments and has a runtime of 129 minutes.