Long, long ago (like 2004) in a galaxy (Hollywood) far, far away (in terms of diversity), studio suits feared the odder, cornball elements of superhero schtick. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) looks like his costume was assembled by Steve Martin in The Jerk. “I don’t need you! All I need is this fishbowl! And this 1970s-era shower curtain! And this codpiece rejected by Joel Schumacher! And this jewelry from a weird dad at a local craft fair!” Comic book movies have officially passed what shall henceforth be known as “The Mysterio Threshold,” and it is glorious.
The trailers and general conceit—including its very title—seemed to suggest a fundamental betrayal of what made Homecoming the best Spider-Man movie. Rejoice, for it was all a clever ruse! Although bedazzled in glittery nonsense that gives the illusion of an “Avengers-level event,” the real conflict in Far From Home is Peter Parker (Tom Holland) being torn between living up to the expectations of another dead pseudo-dad and allowing himself to find his own meaning and joy.
Picking up in the near-immediate aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter is determined to take a normal school-sponsored summer vacation. Because Samuel L. Jackson is never, ever allowed to take a break from his job, Nick Fury shows up to ruin everything. Like something out of either Voltron or Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, depending on which of Peter’s teachers you believe, creatures made of various elements are popping up around the globe. With Iron Man forever ensconced in his final suit, the earth, and the rest of the Avengers M.I.A., Spidey is Fury’s last, best hope against the apocalypse. Well, him and the guy wearing the fishbowl/shower curtain/codpiece/craft fair jewelry…
Watching Peter get Laffy Taffy-ed in the opposing vice grips of responsibility and his own desires is just the best version of the character. The universality of Spider-Man has always been in his Sisyphusian quest to summit Mt. Happiness, as the boulder of “doing what’s right” just keeps getting heavier. Writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers and director John Watts were likewise placed between a proverbial rock (big-budget spectacle) and hard place (a teen comedy). The result is somehow just a slight cut below Spidey’s impossibly perfect MCU debut.
As with Homecoming, it is the small things that make Far From Home near-perfect. It is Holland’s ability to genuinely nail Peter’s social ineptitude. It is Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) hilariously rebranding Peter’s “spider sense.” It is Ned (Jacob Batalon) courting Betty (Angourie Rice) while protecting his buddy’s secret identity. It is Zendaya playing up the bluntness and kind-hearted cynicism that has always underlaid MJ’s identity. It is Gyllenhaal permitted to cut with the sharper edges of his melodramatic gifts. It is the credit cookies, which aren’t just fun but may fundamentally rewrite both what you just watched and what is yet to come.
Rumors have said Marvel wants to do at least 7 more Spider-Man movies with Tom Holland. Unless they decide to add some zeros on the end of that, that is simply nowhere near enough.
Grade = A