In 2017, I wrote about Spider-Man: Homecoming and how I felt about Peter Parker’s first solo outing in the MCU.
It was a somber piece that highlighted some of the most troubling aspects of my relationship with Spider-Man and his place among some of pop culture’s biggest heroes at the time.
So, you can imagine my concerns when I walked into Spider-Man: Far From Home two years later. The 2019 summer hit had to be both a direct sequel to its solo predecessor, while at the same time include some unavoidable story beats pertaining to Marvel and the third part of its cinematic universe. Notably, the repercussions of actions made in Avengers: Endgame and the death of half the human race.
I am delighted to reverse my position on the matter and proclaim from the rooftops that this is one of the best Spider-Man films in the last 20 years. I might even think it’s one of the best solo films in the MCU.
Where Homecoming fell short, director Jon Watts returns to lead a charming cast and tell a surprising grounded story that takes place in three European countries as our heroes fight seemingly extra-terrestrial creatures. At its core, Far From Home returns to what makes Spider-Man great: his constant reluctance to be the hero we know he is.
It’s a trait famous among Spidey fans who have read the comics. As Marc DiPaolo writes in War, Politics, and Superheroes: “Peter’s ambition to look out for himself and only himself is one of the reasons he remains haunted by the memory of his Uncle Ben.” For those who don’t know: it was Peter’s reluctance to help people that indirectly caused the death of his uncle. It is the root force of his continued mantra: with great power comes great responsibility.
This time around, we catch up with Parker eight months after ‘The Blip’ – the five-year jump caused by The Decimation. He doesn’t WANT to be Spider-Man this summer. He wants to travel the world and try to get the girl. Going to space? He’s over it. Joining the Avengers? He’s already trying to skip it. In fact, it’s the first time we’ve seen Tom Holland’s Parker stand for something in his control. He wants to just be a kid and have fun on his science trip.
Two years on, and everyone now knows a little more about how to treat these characters. It’s Holland’s fifth appearance as Spidey in the last three years – that’s as many as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield combined. While he may not be the definitive Spider-Man, or Peter Parker, in some people’s eyes, audiences can certainly see him become more comfortable in the role.
And then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal. For those of us familiar with our movie history, it’s nice to finally see the actor don a cape and appear in a Superhero movie. Mysterio is a character who fans have waited to see on the big screen for decades, and the actor doesn’t disappoint.
As soon as we learn more about the character and his motivations, Gyllenhaal is truly given his time to shine as an actor. Particular praise should be given for those dreamy sequences audiences are treated to in the film’s third act. What was once reserved for Saturday morning TV has been upgraded for the big league.
It’s a shame Gyllenhaal’s time in the MCU appears to be over before it really began – but surely nothing is off the table for Marvel and Sony at this point.
Overall, Spider-Man: Far From Home is better than its predecessor in almost every way. The characters are more grounded with more intimate problems. The set pieces and story beats flow better with more excitement. Parker’s place in the MCU has finally come to fruition as he develops into more than just a “mere side-player among heroes who are bigger and greater than him” – my own words from 2017. This time, we see his capabilities in leading the franchise into brand new areas.
It’s been a great few years for Spider-Man fans. We’ve been treated to more than we could have imagined with content including our favorite neighborhood hero. For the first time in a few years, I’m excited to see what happens next.
What did you think of Spider-Man: Far From Home? Let us know in the comments.
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