(Warning: This review may contain some SPOILERS!)
More than any other film in the history of Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Far From Home has a tough act to follow. Not only is it the follow-up to Avengers: Endgame (now tracking to be the highest-grossing film of all time) but also the last film in the MCU’s Phase 3 and the epilogue to the Infinity Saga. It seems apropos that it should be a Spider-Man film that comes with such great responsibility. What’s a friendly neighbourhood web-slinger to do under all that pressure?
Go on vacation, of course!
Following the earth-shattering events of Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been forever changed. Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow are gone and half the world’s population has reappeared to radically different circumstances. A newly returned Peter Parker is trying to acclimate while grieving the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. As Spider-Man, he’s being hounded with questions: Will he take over for Iron Man now? Will he lead the Avengers? Do the Avengers even exist?
It’s a lot to handle and just this once, Peter wants to forget about being Spider-Man and focus on being a kid. Having chosen to attend a European field-trip, all he wants is to profess his feelings to his crush, MJ on a romantic visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Unfortunately for Peter, former SHIELD Director Nick Fury has other ideas. The earth still needs protecting and Spider-Man is needed, especially after an attack from one of the deadly storm-like monsters dubbed the Elementals. The world needs a new Iron Man, and Tony chose Peter as his successor. Fury is looking to Peter to rise to the occasion.
Enter Quentin Beck, AKA Mysterio, who appears in Venice to help Spider-Man take on a water-based Elemental. Beck is introduced as a costumed hero from another world (Earth-833), which the Elementals have destroyed. He is working with Fury to track them down, and prevent Peter’s world (Earth-616) from suffering a similar fate. As observed by Peter’s classmates, he’s like Iron Man and Thor rolled into one, super-powered and courageous. With Tony gone, there is a mentor-shaped void in Peter’s life and he jumps at the opportunity to have a super-powered big brother figure reassure him and perhaps absolve him of the pressure of filling Iron Man’s armoured shoes.
But though Peter tries to duck his obligations, it becomes clear that he needs to confront them before he can move on. It’s a great metaphor for a film that must contend with the significance of its placement in the MCU timeline. Director Jon Watts takes this challenge by the horns, maintaining a light-hearted tone by diffusing the heavier elements with comedy. The fallout from Endgame is addressed with a hilariously earnest tribute to the fallen heroes, set to Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You”. Worldwide repercussions are still ongoing, with Aunt May throwing fundraisers for those displaced by the event now referred to as “the Blip”. At Midtown High, students who survived the Blip have aged five years (“My little brother is older than I am now”), while Peter and his friends Ned, MJ, Betty and Flash have not. This creates conflict when Peter’s new classmate Brad (once a scrawny underclassman, now a muscular hunk) becomes his love rival for MJ.
It’s worth emphasizing that, like it’s predecessor, Far From Home is as much a coming-of-age teen romance as it is a superhero film. There are super heroics aplenty (the fight sequences are duly spectacular, with two in particular that are absolutely mind-bending) but Peter’s mission to woo MJ is always at the forefront. The influence of Brat Pack classics like Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club is woven into the fabric of Watts’ Spider-Man films, full of awkward hormonal exchanges and set to awesome eighties-inspired soundtracks. As much as we’re rooting for Peter to beat the bad guys, we’re equally invested in seeing him get the girl.
Peter is not the only character with summer romance on the brain. His wingman Ned finds love abroad, while sparks fly between May and Happy Hogan, much to Peter’s dismay. All of the supporting characters are given plenty to do, making it a treat to see them again. MJ especially is given new shades to her character, with her sardonic façade slipping away more often to reveal the vulnerable girl underneath. The dynamic between Peter and MJ is winningly sweet and their love story is worth the price of admission on its own.
The other great love story in this film is between Peter and Tony Stark– a tough act to follow if ever there was one. The spectre of Tony is palpable throughout the film; no matter where Peter goes in the world, Iron Man is unavoidable: in murals, vigils, tributes, newspapers, TV screens, etc. The film makes Tony’s presence felt without ever relying on flashbacks or holograms — it uses the resources that previous MCU films have provided: magazine covers, bits of footage from Iron Man and Captain America: Civil War, and of course oodles of Stark-tech.
Peter spends much of the film grappling with the idea that the world expects him to somehow replace Tony. But Tony never wanted him to be the new Iron Man; he chose Spider-Man because he believed in Peter. Only when Peter realises this and begins to believe in himself is he ready to emerge from his mentor’s shadow and take on the great responsibility that comes with being an Avenger.
You can book tickets for Spider-Man: Far From Home at Cineworld Leicester Square now by clicking this link!