Peter Parker just needs a vacation, but the entire MCU rests on his shoulders in this refreshing, light step into a new era of Marvel storytelling.
There is a moment in the middle of Spider-Man: Far From Home when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) tells Peter Parker (Tom Holland), “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” This is just about the most on-the-nose observation possible. While Peter Parker feels this pressure in the aftermath of the events of Avengers Endgame, director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers certainly had the same daunting task. How do you move forward after two universe-breaking, mind-bending, emotion-wrecking Avengers films?
You take your superhero on a vacation with his friends! You make a (comparatively) light, romantic comedy of superhero errors that deftly deals with the weighty issues at hand.
Peter Parker and his classmates go to Europe, and all he wants to do is to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her – and maybe they’ll kiss! Of course, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) have other plans. A bunch of Elementals have decided to try and destroy the world – and oddly they seem to be following Peter’s itinerary around Europe from Venice to Prague, to Berlin, to London. Along the way, the only thing that Peter wants to do is duck his responsibilities. He questions whether they should be his responsibilities in the first place, whether or not Tony Stark should have trusted him with his legacy.
Luckily enough, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives right on time to save the day, mysteriously. He’s got interdimensional powers reminiscent of Thor and Dr. Strange – he could be the new Iron Man, taking that heavy mantle off the shoulders of Spider-Man. And then things go awry. Things aren’t as they seem, and Spider-Man must make the choice whether or not to follow his calling or to have a personal life.
This is such a necessary film in the wake of The Infinity Saga, before diving right into Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes a cue from Iron Man 3 and lets our surviving, present main character breathe and regroup. Iron Man was deeply traumatized after Avengers and needed to spend a film working through his grief, his place in the world, his identity – so is Peter Parker, and so is the Marvel audience. We’re in danger of superhero overload (if we’re not there already). We’ve had seven superhero films already this year, let alone the few dozen in the past eleven years, and the MCU came to a head with Endgame. We know that Marvel is planning some big things for Phase 4, a new saga of some kind. And I’m game – but we all need a minute to breathe before getting into it. This was the perfect film for that.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a superhero film without great action and a maniacal bad guy – but I’ll save the spoilers for those of you who didn’t watch the trailers (I’m a devout non-trailer-watcher, if I can help it) and I didn’t know anything about this before walking into it. There are plenty of delightful twists and turns along the way. There’s plenty of heavily CG’d action, and Jake Gyllenhaal does an excellent job (as expected) of seeming as though he could be our new Captain America or Iron Man. He’s a charismatic, excellent actor, and he hams it up wonderfully.
Working like a teen road-trip rom-com, Spider-Man: Far From Home is hilarious, with fantastic comedic timing from the supporting cast. Particular standouts are Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove (Mr. Harrington and Mr. Dell) as well as Jacob Batalon and Angourie Rice (as Ned and Betty, Peter’s classmates). I want to watch a comedy just starring them! It’s fun seeing both sides of the curtain, with Peter the superhero trying to keep his identity hidden and his classmates being swept along for the ride by S.H.I.E.L.D.
With Spider-Man: Far From Home, Watts and his crew exceed audience expectations with a smooth, funny follow-up to the heaviness of Endgame. Holland is at his emotional best, and this gets us on the exact right footing to swing into whatever else the MCU has planned for us in the future.