Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man heads to Europe in the latest instalment featuring the teen superhero. When it feels like a John Hughes-like romance, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a lot of fun

Film Review by Joseph Walsh | 01 Jul 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
Film title: Spider-Man: Far From Home
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Cobie Smulders, JB Smoove, Martin Starr
Release date: 2 Jul
Certificate: 12A

Jon Watts has already proven himself a capable pair of hands, directing the relatively self-contained antics of Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was a web-slinging version of a John Hughes film, full of wit and charm, laced with adolescent anxiety. It proved a refreshing break from the interlinking plots of the Avengers films. Now Watt is back in the director’s chair for round two, Spider-Man: Far From Home, but never reaches the heights of the first (solo) instalment.

Apart from coming to terms with being clicked out of and then back into existence (now referred to as ‘the blip’) during the Avengers' battle with Thanos, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is also off to Europe with his school pals for an educational vacation and a break from the blue and red spandex. While trying to soak up the cultural delights of Venice while crushing hard on his school pal MJ (Zendaya), Parker finds himself dragged back into action. An inter-dimensional traveller named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), aka Mysterio, has appeared in order to prevent a slew of elemental monsters from destroying the earth. But not all is as it seems.

Gyllenhaal does well enough as Beck, offering a tamer version of his wacky mode seen in Okja and Velvet Buzzsaw. There are some strong visual elements to the character – reminiscent of Doctor Strange – that delight, but as an addition to the overflowing Marvel cast of superhumans, Mysterio is a little weak. Anyone with a passing knowledge of either the comics or the 90s cartoon will also know where his character arc is heading.

A bigger problem is that, in the wake of half the universe being wiped out, the drama now comes across as small fry. After such cataclysmic events, where can you go narratively that doesn’t feel a little limp? As the final film in this phase of the MCU, the movie aims to bring audiences into a new era, but via the same concepts and plot points as the first Iron Man. It’s all just a little lacklustre.

The idea of transporting Spider-Man to various European destinations isn’t as exciting as it sounds on paper. After all, do we care if we see Spider-Man swinging across St Mark’s Square? Didn’t we already see the destruction of London in Thor: The Dark World? Are you overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Peter and MJ crossing the Charles Bridge?

Much more entertaining are the teen comedy elements, especially the awkward sweetness of the romantic tension between MJ and Peter. There are fleeting, but enjoyable, moments shared between Happy (Jon Favreau) and Peter, with the former stepping up as a surrogate father figure. Unfortunately, it’s undercut by Happy hitting on Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) who is reduced to little more than a ‘hot mom’ caricature. We also get jokes about the new Spidey suit being tight on Peter's ‘web shooter’ and gags about his ‘Peter Tingle’, which is goofily adolescent, but well handled.

What works less well is the theme of what it means to step up and be a hero. This was treated with more emotional pathos in the animated joy that was Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Speaking of which, after getting our first Miles Morales story, stepping back into a Parker narrative does feel like a turn in the wrong direction.

The final moments of the film (including two post-credit sequences) accelerate the narrative, setting up what’s to come. It’s a frustrating way to close the movie, but it does suggest the next outing will be more promising.

Released by Disney