Coming on the heels of the hefty hunk o’ cinematic event that was Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far from Home is, as one would expect, much lighter fare. That doesn’t stop this 23rd and final entry in the MCU’s initial Feige Phase barrage from serving as an effective coda for Endgame even as it presents what is, in many ways, a classic Spider-Man adventure.
Far from Home takes place soon after the events of Endgame: Peter Parker’s school, like the rest of the world, is dealing with the practical challenges of having half a student body that vanished five years earlier suddenly return—at the same age they left. Everyone knows about the Avengers’ sacrifices—Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is mourned and mythologized in particular. For his part, Peter (Tom Holland), a guy whose father figures have an especially short lifespan, is trying to mostly ignore the big questions associated with trying to fill his mentor’s shoes in favor of keeping his eyes on a more personal, but no less daunting goal—telling MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. To do so, all he needs is an upcoming class trip to Europe, a Murano glass necklace and some time that doesn’t involve web shooters and saving the world.
You won’t need spider sense (or, as Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May calls it, “Peter tingle”) to know that last part ain’t gonna happen, and Peter soon finds himself teamed up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and a self-proclaimed costumed refugee from another reality, Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), facing creatures called elementals that, according to Beck, will destroy the world if not stopped.
But it’s a mild one.
It’s at this point I’m going to violate my usual “no spoilers” approach on one aspect of Far from Home. For two reasons: First, if you thought a classic Spider-Man comics villain like Mysterio—a villain who was first introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #13 in 1964 pretending to be a superhero, no less—is not going to be a villain in the film, well, I’m not sure what to tell you. Second, if you’re looking for evidence that Marvel at the movies will be just fine without Thanos, the MCU’s take on Mysterio in particular is worth noting and worth celebrating.
The dark days and sadder efforts of superhero movie-making have a few things in common. Foremost among them? A maddening tentativeness when if comes to letting a character born, nurtured and beloved on the comic book page actually survive the transition to the Big Screen with character and costume intact. That might not seem like such a big deal. After all, the basic physics of clothes and the human body make some things easier to draw than to actually drape on a human form. But too often, the aversion to vibrant colors and outlandish outfits is just part of a larger problem—a lack of respect for, or confidence in, the power of the source material. For other studios, this remains a frustrating Achilles’ heel, one intertwined with that pesky tendency to whiff on core character traits and such.
This may be why the treatment of Mysterio in Far from Home was so reassuring. This wasn’t because I’m a diehard fan of the villain—Quentin Beck is probably not in my top 10 of webcrawler foes—and in the bigger universe, Mysterio is at best C-tier. (Man, how I long for a good Doom.) But that made seeing his incredibly garish (shiny green and rich purple) and outlandish (fish bowl helmet!) costume from the comics faithfully rendered all the more satisfying. Just as with Hela’s horns in Thor Ragnarok, the willingness to retain the “crazier” aspects of a character’s costume—and to make them work—sends a message to comic book fans that, superhero fatigue be damned, there’s plenty more to come. (I single out comic book fans only because they are more familiar with how much is still out there.) Mysterio, along with Michael Keaton’s Vulture, makes two C-tier Spider-Man villains in a row brought to life by great actors and solid scripting in the MCU. Granted, the prospects of a Rocket Racer or Big Wheel) remain remote (probably for the best), but there are still so many great villains we’ve yet to see. (It wasn’t just the costume—the sequences showing off Mysterio’s “illusion” powers are among the best in the film.)
And, oh, the rest of Far from Home works great, too. It’s (relatively) small, sincere and funny, and has more than your usual MCU allotment of post-credit bombshells. Though a comparatively recent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is already Tom Holland’s fifth film as Spider-Man in three years. Like so many other casting decisions made in the MCU, he’s proven himself near perfect in the role. No Golden Age lasts forever, and the MCU will eventually stumble—but as long as they can spin box office (and audience) gold from relatively low-grade material like Mysterio, it won’t be Holland’s Spider-Man that is the first to stumble.
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Chris McKenna (written by); Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (based on the Marvel comic book by); Erik Sommers (screenplay by)
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Remy Hii, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Cobie Smulders
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Michael Burgin is the Movies Editor for Paste. He has the proportional strength of your average human his age.