July 1, 2019

CINEMA | A Fun Illusion – 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Travels Abroad

"Bitch please, you've been to space!"
Tom Holland Jon Watts | Spider-Man: Far From Home

Since 2002, there have been a whopping ten studio films to feature the character of Spider-Man in a significant role. The recent string of Marvel Studios fare, including the Avengers series, has mostly brought new life to the webhead. However, even with last year's stunning animated Into the Spider-Verse, it just simply feels like too much. As such, Homecoming director Jon Watts returns for this version of Spidey's first proper standalone sequel in the otherwise very fun Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Set only months after the world-changing events of Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home uses the aftermath of the most recent team-up films and a school trip conceit across Europe to frame the international superhero action. Tom Holland's Peter Parker feels like he's being groomed to replace both Iron Man and his real-life counterpart as the new central star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Holland continues to do good work by fleshing out the webslinger's deep internal conflict about being a superhero.

Enter a very self-assured Jake Gyllenhaal as the theatrical Mysterio. He brings some nice twists to the picture as a mysterious newcomer Spider-Man must team up with to save the world from new global threats. Gyllenhaal clearly had a lot of fun riffing on his real-life persona and using Mysterio as a metaphor for his acting career and interacting or fooling audiences.

This time around, Zendaya gets much more to do as Peter's primary love interest. Her version of MJ is refreshing as she gives a uniquely refreshing performance. Their chemistry is aces and carries the fun antics of the comically cursed class trip. Theirs is by far the most intriguing romantic element teased as it also cleverly moves forward Peter's arc and conflict of being a hero and being a kid.

Jake Gyllenhaal Jon Watts | Spider-Man: Far From Home

Written by Marvel veterans Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, Far From Home isn't nearly as nimble as its predecessor. Homecoming felt like it seamlessly populated Peter's world with fun new versions of these characters. While the European vacation setup is fun spectacle, it's hard not to miss the familiar setting of Midtown High and Queens. What's most surprising is the third act's clear focus on media manipulation and criticism in the context of fake news and public misconception. It's a bold (possibly divisive) choice for sure.

Supporting players Samuel L. Jackson and Jon Favreau feel like even more contrasting dynamics of this universe contrasting superheroes and family while Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and Peter's new ally brings life to every scene she's in. It's interesting how Watts and his screenwriters pick and choose what elements or characters to include from other films while still trying to balance Spider-Man's iconic supporting cast yet avoiding overly done parts from previous incarnations.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is peak endless fun and a thrilling culmination of the MCU so far as a fitting coda to Endgame. However, it feels very much less of its own thing compared to the lean and mean small-scale of Homecoming as more of an Iron Man style hybrid adventure. The superhero sequel is best when it gets out of its way and purely focuses on the drama of its characters.


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