At The Movies - My Spidey Sense Is Tingling
By Jordan Bosch
There comes a point in Spider-Man: Far From Home when new superhero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) asks Peter Parker (Tom Holland) what does he want.
The impetus for the question is Peter’s reluctance to partake in a superhero mission while on vacation with his class. He’s also under immense pressure from both Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the media to fill the void left by Iron Man. The dichotomy between his heroic sense of justice and his desire to be an ordinary teenager has always been an integral part of Spider-Man’s identity and one of the chief reasons he has resonated so powerfully over the decades.
And the MCU (Marvel Comic Universe) has yet to really explore that, although Far From Home nearly does.
Peters’ answer to the aforementioned question is to join his class and ask out his crush, forsaking his “great responsibility”, and it has consequences - emphasizing the impossibility for him to live just one life.
Marvel and Sony likewise are in a place of questionable identities pertaining to this film.
Any solo Marvel movie coming out in the immediate aftermath of Avengers: Endgame can’t help but feel anticlimactic -even more-so given how little is known about the future of the MCU.
And after Sony’s Into the Spider-Verse, a film they didn’t have a lot of confidence in, wound up becoming not only a huge hit critically and commercially, an Academy Award winner and one of the all-round best superhero movies yet made, the third Spider-Man 2 in fifteen years didn’t seem like an exciting prospect.
This movie stood to address what those studios want for the future of this character and universe, and perhaps chart a bold new direction for fans to engage with. And Far From Home does exactly that, albeit fairly late in the game.
The story sees Peter Parker going on a European vacation with his classmates some months after the events of Endgame. However in the midst of trying to get closer to his love interest MJ (Zendaya), he’s roped into an assignment with Nick Fury and a super-being from another dimension Quentin Beck (later known as Mysterio), to stop monster Elementals from wreaking havoc.
Like its predecessor Homecoming, this movie is quite tonally down-to-earth by Marvel standards, with a chunk of the plot devoted to teen love issues as a counter to the world-threatening nuisance.
It’s where the film gets playful, indulges in the charmingly tourist backdrop of the likes of Venice and Prague, and segregates much of the movies’ comic relief. It’s where director Jon Watts is most comfortable, the teen comedy material feeling the most distinct from the pace, style, and conventions of the Marvel brand, even if it relies on too many of the same kinds of jokes to be all that funny overall. Indeed the best humour and also the films’ smartest gambit comes courtesy of the villains, unknowingly set up several movies ago in a throwaway joke.
The conflict itself marks an interesting novelty for a superhero film; never before has one of this calibre been so comfortable with its own artificiality. And it’s not afraid to have fun while bolstering its serious stakes.
Additionally, this conflict provides ample opportunity to challenge Tom Holland. Peter Parkers’ character arc is one of trying to run from his duty and the weight put upon him in a world without Tony Stark, who even in death casts a long shadow over Spider-Man’s agency.
And while the movie disappointingly doesn’t grapple much with the notion of hero vs. high schooler it subtly proposes, I appreciate the focus on Peter’s insecurities and mistakes.e
He makes a lot of mistakes in this movie, more even than in Homecoming; and though he suffers only mild consequences for them, their gravity and Holland’s performance illustrate how he is still an idiot teenager, but one who’s learning, gradually maturing into a hero.
An important figure in this development is Quentin Beck, and it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the enigmatic Mysterio that is the movies’ greatest attribute.
The character is fleshed out in a way that allows Gyllenhaal to play both a wise and noble confidence and a weird and delightful eccentricity.
And either way he’s always the most charismatic person on screen, single-handedly lifting the film out of the mediocrity it otherwise runs into through network sitcom writing and pacing. Mysterio’s powers are such too that the film can conjure impressively insane, trippy and imaginative visuals that even top the similar effects in Doctor Strange.
There’s one sequence that is so gloriously transfixing, disorienting, and hypnotizing that it overtakes anything else in the film for arresting, evocative imagery –even a swing through New York.
That comes at the end of the movie after a standard superhero resolution, but Marvel fans know to stick around for the end credits; and the mid-credits tag of Far From Home is the first legitimately important one in the MCU, arguably offering something more compelling and significant for the future of the universe than anything in the plot of the movie preceding it.
It’s really good, though it’s also a stunt and a cliffhanger that surely distracts from the rest of the film in terms of dominating the post-movie conversation. But get ready for the Marvel reference to top all other Marvel references!
Far From Home is the last Marvel movie of “Phase Three”, and for the first time in a while there’s no confirmed release date fqor their next title.
There will be one in the next year for sure, Marvel’s too much of a cinematic juggernaut to go silent for too long.
But for now we’re in the dark about what’s next, bar for the hints that Far From Home drops.
The movies’ function is thus to placate its audience by affirming that there is an MCU post-Endgame worth investing in, and it does that reasonably well as a solidly above-average superhero flick.
What it sets up may be greater than what it delivers on, but this is no Amazing Spider-Man 2, it at least knows an inkling of what we want from a Spider-Man adventure.