SPIDERMAN: Far From Home (Directed by Jon Watts, 129 min., USA, 2019)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC With Marvel fans still reeling from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home is here to officially close out the ‘Infinity Saga’ and bring an end to phase three. Reuniting Tom Holland’s Spidey with Homecoming director Jon Watts, this installment of the Spiderman saga introduces Jake Gyllenhaal into the MCU fold as Quentin Beck aka Mysterio. Honestly, it’s a little odd to see Gyllenhaal back in the blockbuster game and with Disney, of all studios, after his unfortunate turn in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time — a miserable experience that had the actor swearing off the popcorn movies for good. Far From Home became instantly infamous among the Marvel fans for its teases trailer, which, hitting too soon after Infinity War, let the air out of one of the most heart-breaking deaths in the MCU.
Far From Home picks up a few months after the events of Endgame with Parker going on a school trip to Europe, where he hopes to confess his true feelings for MJ. The problem is Nick Fury crashes his holiday to recruit him for a team-up with Mysterio — a refugee from another timeline, specifically from Earth-833 — to take on the newly-appeared Elementals. These are monsters made of earth, wind and fire who seek to destroy our planet like they did Mysterio’s. While this is all transpiring Parker is still trying to find his footing after the events of Endgame (which are now referred to as “The Blip”), and deal with the widespread expectation that he will fill Iron Man’s shoes. The film bounces between this and the fact that Parker just wants to be a normal kid, despite the fact that he finally got what he spent the entire last two films trying to attain: Avenger status.
Truth is, Far From Home is frustrating and underwhelming. The film wants to lean hard into what everyone loved about Homecoming, that John Hughes-eque teen innocence vibe, but to justify that we would have to forget the events that have transpired so far (like Parker fighting in the shit only to watch Iron Man, his mentor, kill himself to stop Thanos). As such, the film plays this weird game where it wants to have its cake and eat it too. Improbably, the script has Parker, who has just sacrificed himself to help to save literally galaxies of people, telling Nick Fury he’d rather go hang out with a girl who may or may not like him, than save his own planet. Fury brilliantly replies, “Bitch please, you’ve been to space,” which more or less sums up my thoughts about Far From Home. This tonal imbalance is further aggravated by the fact that we’re supposed to be surprised that Mysterio is a bad guy. I will give writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers bonus points for Quentin Beck’s driving motivation, and getting to watch Gyllenhaal chew the hell out of that scenery in that last act isn’t too bad either.
I don’t know what I had a harder time believing: That after having 59 heroes on screen in the previous film they couldn’t find anyone to help Spider-Man other than Mysterio, the guy who just showed up from a universal rift, or that Marvel would allow the event they spent 10 years working toward to be forever referred to as “The Blip.” (I’m sorry, but this really drives me crazy!) Far From Home has some great comedic moments, but the fans are smarter than this lazy script which attempts to redeem itself with an ending that’s just the inception of twists that Marvel could just retcon later. At its best, Far From Home feels like a Disney+ movie of the week, and after Endgame the new height of the MCU bar is a bit out of this film’s reach. You could chalk it up to Marvel fatigue, but we should call it like it is: it’s just not as good as Homecoming, and a lackluster endcap to the stellar phase 3.