After Avengers: Endgame the question for cinephiles and Marvel fans alike is what next? How do you continue after such an epic culmination of 22 films? The answer, at least presented by Spider-Man: Far From Home, is go back to your roots. Present a smaller scale, more intimate depiction of the superhero life. By no means does that mean that this final film of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a throwaway flick, meant solely to capitalize on the wave of goodwill Endgame wrought. Instead, the filmmakers give us an epilogue of sorts, showing some of the aftermath of Endgame but propelling Spider-Man’s story to the forefront. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that Peter Parker, not Carol Danvers or Sam Wilson will be the face of the MCU in Tony Stark’s absence. The result is a straightforward story void of the bells and whistles of Endgame that is another great entry into the MCU, though not necessarily one we haven’t seen before.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland), struggling with the results of Endgame, is ready for a vacation and in Far From Home, he is visiting Europe with his classmates. Along the way, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) highjacks the trip to enlist Spider-Man’s help to assist a mysterious Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) in stopping the Elementals, a group of monsters representing the core elements of earth, fire, water, and air. But as Parker travels across Europe he suspects that there is a bigger threat to face.
The first Spider-Man standalone in the MCU, Homecoming, was established as a character piece described as a John Hughes movie with superheroes. That trend continues here as a good portion of the film focuses on the relationships between Peter and his classmates Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya). These are the moments that truly work and the basis for most of the humor (there’s plenty) throughout the film. However, the other half is yet another retread of Parker struggling with his other identity. We have now seen Holland’s Spider-Man five times and each time we see a very anxious, very unsure yet eager Spider-Man. The events of Infinity War and Endgame clearly have taken a toll on him but in this, Spider-Man seems like a brand new development for Parker; unestablished and unsure of his own powers. The hesitation, while good for character development, is a little frustrating because, as Nick Fury points out, “You’ve been to space.” He has a point. The experiences that Spider-Man has had should have made him stronger, smarter, and surer of himself. Instead he regresses to the end of Homecoming when he turns down Tony Stark’s offer of being Spider-Man in the Avengers. This retreading of responsibility does not align with the mantra that is at the core of all Spider-Man stories: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This results in a mirror story to Iron Man 3. Stripped of his sense of purpose and void of his mentor, Parker is forced to rely on his own smarts and skills to save the day. There are other parallels to Iron Man 3 too that I can’t reveal due to spoilers but these similarities are almost assuredly done on purpose to illustrate that while Captain America passed on his mantle at the end of Endgame, Iron Man did not. This is an odd creative choice since Iron Man 3 is perhaps the most devisive movie in the MCU.
Visually, Far From Home is uninspired. The CGI of the Elementals is not clean and other visual effects lack the realism of other Marvel movies. In fact, it almost looks as though the movie was rushed through production. This is distracting at first but there is an in story explanation for this. That said, it does seem like the production quality is not on the same level as other films. While some of the sets work, scenes in Europe lack the pop and identity as other Marvel locations like Wakanda, New York, or Asgard. This is distracting because Europe seems untouched by the decimation. Opening scenes in NYC clearly show the aftermath but Europe seems unaffected. In this regard, the film fails to continue to build the world of the superheroes which seems like a missed opportunity.
The cast on the other had continues to own their characters, particularly Gyllenhaal. He is very clearly having a blast and those who remember that he was in the running to replace Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2 will be happy that this is his first foray into Spider-Man’s world. He is the highlight of the film and brings with him an intensity befitting of his character. Holland, despite his character’s hesitancy, is all zealousness, a bundle of energy and in his element as an awkward teen crushing on the girl of his dreams. Zendaya, though still fine as MJ, does not bring anything new to her character to explain why she is the way she is. Martin Starr as the class chaperone and Batalon as Parker’s best friend are the comedic standouts in the talented cast. And since it is a Marvel movie, the audience can expect a cameo and the one the film throws at us is the most exciting bit of fan service in the entire MCU.
Ultimately, director Jon Watts delivers another fun entry into the Infinity Saga storyline but more importantly, by the end, he propels Spider-Man to the forefront of the narrative moving forward. The cast and story carry the film that is otherwise hindered by mediocre visuals. It serves as a perfect epilogue to Phase 3 of the MCU and a more intimate portrayal of the superhero life following the events of Endgame.