Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal
Synopsis: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments)
Runtime: 2 hr 9 min
Release Date: July 2, 2019
*Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame are below*
It's been several months since the Avengers saved all those lost from Thanos' destructive snap, returning them safely back to their families and friends. But for Peter Parker (Tom Holland), one man's absence still remains painfully close--Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who sacrificed himself to kill Thanos and his army, saving the world in the process. Tony was a father figure and mentor to Peter as he took him under his wing and guided him as he navigated his new superhero life. Because of this personal connection, Peter feels the loss more than his classmates, who, though paying tribute to him, have since moved on with life.
It's this rather somber feeling within Peter that permeates Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film that takes Spider-Man out of his friendly neighborhood for the first time and across the world to Europe, as he tries to live a normal life (at least for a couple days) on his class's field trip. But, as one would predict, things go awry very fast, forcing Peter to once again rise to the occasion to protect his friends and be the superhero everyone expects him to be.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is one of the rare sequels that improves on its predecessor, at least from a character standpoint. It focuses on some actual character growth and maturity within Peter, something vastly lacking in Homecoming. Much of this stems from him grappling with the loss of Tony and the impossible task of trying to fill his shoes, as well as his yearning for a brief normal life but never having the chance to have it. There's some refreshing dramatic material here--where for the first time we get to see Holland show off some acting beyond the usual laughing and having fun. We also see Happy (Jon Favreau) get significant screen time as he takes over Tony's mentorship, attempting to console and inspire Peter as an Avenger. We even get a few honest moments as he pursues a romantic relationship with MJ (Zendaya). Yes, it's still a cheesy teenage romance--amplified by another romance between Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Betty (Angourie Rice)--played entirely for laughs--but there is substance and a palpable chemistry between Holland and Zendaya, making for enjoyable exchanges.
Beyond some new, grounded character material, Far From Home also sports a more engaging narrative that offers several surprises along the way. Jake Gyllenhaal, playing in his first superhero film, gives a strong performance as Mysterio, a man who helps Peter battle Elemental creatures hell-bent on destroying cities. The character of Mysterio blends well with the themes of the film, as Peter sees him as someone who he aspires to be--a seasoned superhero with knowledge and experience from his trials, and his admiration even leads him to further places as the film progresses.
The most disappointing aspect of Far From Home is its overdose of CGI action sequences. This is a crime most Marvel films commit--but this film takes it to new levels in the final act. The only minor pass that can be given is that some of the events do indeed require vast amounts of CGI, as it's directly tied to a character. But the problem here is the action simply goes on for too long and is shot so that you can't comprehend much of anything. Spider-Man is one of the most grounded superheroes in the MCU--he isn't a god, he doesn't fly (though he does glide in this film), and he doesn't have superheated energy pumping from his fists. Yet, sadly, we get very little action that engaging--especially in the final act. The first half of the film yields some entertaining sequences, but by the film's end, you'll likely be more exhausted than anything else, which is disappointing when you look at the positive thematic elements of the film.
Spider-Man: Far From Home improves on its predecessor by bravely diving deeper into Peter's emotions as he deals with Tony's death and his own future as an Avenger--even if it's still bound determined to deliver silly laughs other places. It also delivers a more engrossing narrative, filled with several surprises (as always, make sure you stay through the credits, as these scenes have actual ramifications for the future) and a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Though its final act suffers from more Marvel CGI overload, the character and thematic material make up for it, delivering a solid superhero outing.
Written by Anthony Watkins, June 8, 2019