Massive spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home and the MCU in general ahead:
Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
These days, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made it so that more characters from the Marvel roster are household names than ever before, but there’s one character above the rest in the Marvel stable that many looked at as the mascot of the entire company before the modern era of superhero films was even a concept; and I don’t mean Howard the Duck (not that we aren’t psyched when they finally give you your time to shine, Howie!).
Spider-Man is one of the world’s most merchandised heroes, with products of every variety and type made bearing his likeness, and now with some of the most live action/theater installments (counting last year’s Into The Spider-Verse) of any comic book character. You might think that after 3 separate installments of Spider-Man movies that the formula would be stale and that web-well might have run dry, but Far From Home proves to be far from that being the truth.
From the same creative team as the awesome and fresh Spider-Man: Homecoming, which at long last brought the webhead into a larger Marvel family, Far From Home continues the story of Peter Parker within the MCU.
As a classic comic book fan who’s read reprints of Spidey’s adventures from the 60s ranging up to now and everything else in-between, I always tell longtime fans that this take on the wallcrawler is one that’s meant to be different than what we expect while still retaining the same feel that made us all love the character from the start. Before this series, there were 5 other Spider-Man films, and decades of comics and cartoons to give us a strictly comic-accurate, traditional presentation of the character, and it would’ve been shortsighted and lazy of Marvel to not realize that audiences need something new from the franchise, and that it needs to have adjustments made to the classic story to it in order to be folded into the behemoth that is the MCU.
Picking up where Avengers: Endgame left off, Peter and his classmates were snapped out of existence by Thanos for 5 years, time that was experienced normally by the rest of the world, but didn’t age any of those who vanished. Far From Home stays consistent with the world-building of the franchise and shows us how society has to adjust to half of the human race suddenly not existing and then returning like nothing ever happened (from their perspective): we see footage of classmates turning to dust at a pep rally, some classmates who were literal pre-teens now bordering on adulthood, and tributes all around the landscape that honor the sacrifice made by The Avengers.
Keeping with the same strategy from Homecoming, FFH uses Mysterio, one of the original Sinister Six, as the villain this time, a character never seen before in a live action Spider-Man adaptation. Although none of Spidey’s villains are as iconic as the crooks in Batman’s rogue’s gallery, and there’s been a lot of one-off stinker villains (we’re looking at you Trapster, Leap-Frog, and Kangaroo), there’s a lot of untapped potential with Spidey’s cast, and we’ve seen enough Goblins and Octopi to be good on some of the classics for a while (although at this point, I think we can almost be certain that the MCU take on these guys will be outstanding). FFH is a fun experience if you’re a comic book fan, because you’re waiting for the reveal of when Mysterio will come through with his evil plan, and you know that he’ll take a turn at some point, so it’s fun waiting on the moment that he’ll reveal himself as the master con-artist he truly is. For viewers not familiar with the older and more obscure Spider-Man villains, you might buy Mysterio as a genuine hero, just like Spidey, Fury (or so we think), and Maria Hill all do at the start of the story.
The way that director John Watts and the writing team use acceptance of superhero material in the mainstream against the audience is really clever: Marvel audiences are conditioned to not question the strange things that show up in Marvel films anymore, so if you’re not familiar with Mysterio, you’ll take a look at the Elemental creatures that show up and think they’re a legitimate, world-ending threat that those living in the Marvel universe are used to dealing with. Since there’s been so much superhero material in the past 20 years of Hollywood, playing with people’s expectations is a great plan, and is one of the overall themes of FFH.
Overall, Mysterio is a well-crafted villain who adds a lot to the MCU, which is impressive, as in the comics and cartoons, I always felt he wasn’t exactly A-list villain material and was fairly silly and unthreatening. Far From Home’s Mysterio uses mobile holographic projectors to make very deadly illusions that push Spidey and the audience to the brink of sanity: what’s real and what isn’t? The way that the imaging technology is tied into the larger MCU is clever: viewers who saw Civil War will remember Tony’s presentation using the early model of this tech at a talk at MIT, and it’s revealed Jake Gylenhall’s Quentin Beck was part of the team that developed it, with no credit given by the man Tony Stark himself. Beck’s team is made of actual extras connected to Stark Industries sourced from 10 years of MCU films. The scene where they show their involvement is impressive, and it’s going to these lengths that make the MCU stand out.
But that brings me to two of the main flaws of FFH: since Quentin Beck and his team of former Stark employees mainly had beef with Tony, there isn’t that much personally invested in the fight against him from Peter’s standpoint. When you compare it to the classic-feeling Spidey dynamic of the Vulture being his crush’s father, Peter facing Mysterio feels a little like him cleaning up the mess made by someone who should’ve been one of Tony’s villains. The movie tries to add a personal element with Mysterio manipulating Peter and acting as father-figure, a sort of Tony-replacement, but between Homecoming and this, the shadow of Tony over Peter is long, and it starts to feel stretched a little thin when you get to the third act of the movie. It all still functions, but the ideal plan would be to start moving Spidey towards standing more solidly on his own after having Stark bring him in (which I think will still happen).
The other shortcoming is Beck’s plan and motivations. He’s a great character and played really well, and we get that he’s disgruntled over how Stark treated him and his co-workers, but at times it feels like a bit of a stretch that he could be this destructive and murderous over that grudge. Using stolen tech to make a name for yourself is one thing, but he becomes capable of outright murder throughout the movie, when it’s not really implied that earlier in his life he was that violent. Added to that, his plan is to trick SHIELD and the rest of the world into believing he’s this new hero, but how long was he planning on keeping that up? Even if Spidey hadn’t stopped him, how was Mysterio planning on dealing with The Avengers once they reformed? He and his team created most of the threats that made him famous, but what about when a legitimate alien or heavily super-powered threat arrived as they usually do in Marvel? The movie doesn’t really make it clear what his next step was going to be.
When I started this review, the Sony/Marvel merger was still in-tact, so some of what I wrote in regards to what they will or won’t do when it comes to the next installment might seem out of touch, but I firmly believe they’ll sort out the corporate drama and get it settled, because the money they each stand to make should be too tempting for them to walk away from. That news hit hard, because FFH ends on one of the biggest cliffhangers a Spider-Man movie has ever moved towards, and I can’t wait to see how things get wrapped up. Overall, Spider-Man: Far From Home gets a 4 out of 5 and is a no-brainer pick for anyone who even slightly cares about Spidey and his adventures.
Spider-Man: Far from Home Gets
4 out of 5