Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Chris Mckenna, Erik Sommers, Stan Lee (based on the Marvel comic-book by), Steve Ditko (based on the Marvel comic-book by)
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon,
The box office powerhouse that is the MCU returns to cinema screens with its first entry since Avengers: Endgame (2019), a film which closed the curtains on the arcs of several characters and fertilised the ground for several others. One of those with plenty of life left in them is Spider-Man, with Tom Holland returning as our favourite web-slinger in Far From Home - a tale of growth, betrayal and, the most emotive of all topics, teenage romance.
Following the universe-altering events of Endgame, Far From Home is far more localised, confining itself almost entirely to one continent, namely Europe. We rejoin Peter as he tries to deal with the loss of his mentor and surrogate father figure Tony Stark, while also attempting to juggle his eagerness to become a true Avenger and his desire to be a normal teenager with normal teenage problems.
Specifically, the aforementioned teenage romance, with the film dedicating a whole subplot to Peter's budding relationship with MJ, played wonderfully by Zendaya. It is a charmingly innocent and naive plotline, which again serves to bring the MCU narrative (ironically) closer to home following the far flung and fantastical events of the previous few entries. Holland is brilliantly awkward as the shy teenage Peter who, despite fearlessly saving his friends from falling rubble a few scenes earlier, hilariously channels every young boy's greatest fear - talking to girls.
Meanwhile, Peter is also catapulted into a brand new threat, one which, due to the briefly explained absences of the other Avengers, he must tackle largely on his own. With an expert comic timing and an infectious likability, Holland continues to cement his dominance as perhaps the best live-action Peter Parker and Spider-Man, perhaps being the first actor to nail both roles simultaneously.
Gyllenhaal is fantastically charming as Quentin Beck, later given the name Mysterio. Sadly, any sense of madness that he offers to the role feels a little restrained, perhaps due to the MCU's typically kid-friendly approach to filmmaking. It's not a direct criticism, but given a little more freedom with the role Gyllenhaal likely could have given us not only a powerful character, but also one who demonstrates a real sense of derangement (he certainly possesses the talent to do so). Otherwise, his inclusion into the MCU is wholeheartedly welcome, and he is a worthy talent to take on one of Marvel lesser-known but still wildly acclaimed Spider-Man affiliate.
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan is also another welcome returning face and, while his character seems to have undergone a largely unacknowledged personality transplant since his last appearance, his new relationship with Peter is one which is endlessly endearing and joy to witness grow.
Truly, the strengths of this second Spider-Man film lie with its characters - all of which, new and old, are an absolute joy to watch on screen. Where the film falls down though is with the story, specifically with how it is presented to us. Oftentimes, many plotpoints are offered to us via swathes of exposition, which typically feel awkward and distracting. The opening moments, for example, serve as little more than a 'catch-up' session, which allows the audience to remember and understand the events of Endgame. It's an interesting and quirky approach to sharing such information, and fits with the more humourous tone of the Spider-Man films, but this doesn't prevent its inclusion from still feeling clumsy. Other moments in the film suffer from the same issue, with Mysterio's introduction also feeling a little wordy, while the lack of other major characters suffers from the reverse, with their absence explained away via throwaway lines barked by Jackson's Fury.
Being the first film to follow Endgame has certainly had an influence on Far From Home's composition, with a little too much screen time dedicated to tying up any loose ends and introduce new threads. It's a process which should be allowed to happen more naturally, and one that Marvel has proven many times before that it is capable of doing.
At the end of the day it is the cast that keep this film alive, and the relationships between them them offers the most meaningful moments. The special-effects are of the high standard that Marvel typically supply, while the films desperate rush to get everyone up to speed is at the expense of a more fluid narrative.
In one line: Far From Home offers an endearing and hilariously innocent advancement of Tom Holland's titular character, but lacks the deft storytelling which the MCU has largely been able to master.