After making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain America: Civil War (a movie that made over a billion dollars), Spider-Man starred in three MCU movies—his own Homecoming as well as the next two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame—and also was the subject of a hugely successful non-MCU animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
A second MCU film was inevitable, especially since it was a moneymaker for both Disney (who control the MCU) and Sony (who control the film rights to the web-head). The hype on the movie started late due to Marvel Studios wanting to avoid spoiling Endgame (recall that Spidey was one of the ones who turned to dust at the end of Infinity War).
Apparently releasing the movie in 2019 was at Sony’s insistence, which affected the marketing, and also the storyline, as this was now to be the first film after the chaos of Endgame. Planned as the coda to Phase 3 of the MCU, Far from Home was designed to look at the world in the wake of Thanos’s destruction. Returning from Homecoming were director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.
After going to a great deal of trouble to establish that Peter Parker is a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (a theme of both Homecoming and Infinity War), this movie sends Spidey to Europe on a school trip, putting him out of his element by sending him to Venice, Prague, Berlin, and London (as well as his home of New York, plus a small town in the Netherlands).
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Prior movies had already given us the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Venom, the Lizard, Electro, the Rhino, the Vulture, the Tinkerer, and the Shocker, but one of the great things about Spider-Man is that he’s got a huge rogues’ gallery to choose from. In Far from Home, we get Mysterio.
First appearing in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #13 by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Mysterio is Quentin Beck, a special effects artist and stuntman who grew frustrated with the lack of recognition for his work. So he decided to use his skills to frame Spider-Man for some crimes and then pose as a hero who would then bring Spidey in. He continued to be a thorn in Spider-Man’s side over the years, wanting revenge for his early defeats at Spidey’s hands, including joining various incarnations of the Sinister Six. He eventually committed suicide, and several other folks took on the mantle of Mysterio after him.
Back from Avengers: Endgame are Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Marisa Tomei as May Parker, Jacob Batalon as Ned, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill (kind of). Back from Spider-Man: Homecoming are Zendaya as MJ, Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington, Tony Revolori as Flash, and Angourie Rice as Betty. Back from Iron Man is Peter Billingsley as William Ginter Riva (he was the scientist Obadaiah Stane yelled at in the movie). Back from Captain Marvel are Ben Mendelsohn as Talos and Sharon Blynn as Soren in the post-credits scene. Back from Spider-Man 3 (ahem) is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson (the first time a Marvel character from a non-MCU film has reprised the same role in the MCU, and if they want to do that again with Michael Chiklis in a Fantastic Four film, I’d be perfectly fine with that…).
Newly arrived in this film are Jake Gylenhaal as Mysterio, J.B. Smoove as Mr. Dell, Remy Hii as Brad, Zach Barack as Zach, Dawn Michelle King as the voice of E.D.I.T.H., and Numan Acar as Dmitri.
There was a brief moment when it seemed that Marvel Studios and Sony weren’t going to renew their agreement to coproduce Spidey films that were part of the MCU, but that didn’t last long—these movies make too much money, and the word of mouth on the Spidey films was generally awful between 2007 and 2014, thanks to three mediocre-to-awful movies. However, they kissed and made up, and the next Spidey movie with Holland is currently scheduled for a July 2021 release. Watts, McKenna, and Sommers are returning to direct and write, and Zendaya is confirmed to be starring alongside Holland. (Batalon and Simmons better be also…)
“Don’t ever apologize for being the smartest one in the room”
Spider-Man: Far from Home
Written by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
Produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal
Original release date: July 2, 2019
We open in a small town in Mexico that has been devastated by a tornado. Nick Fury and Maria Hill show up. Hill is skeptical as to what they’re doing there, but Fury says that several reports were that the tornado had a face. Then a creature materializes, and then a guy in a costume also materializes, and the latter faces off against the creature to destroy it.
Cut to Midtown Science High, where a student news program does an in memoriam clip with Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and the Vision, and in which the newscasters complain about having to start the school year all over again after they were “blipped” back into existence. But the school year’s over now, and some of the kids are taking a science-filled trip to Europe, including the DaVinci Museum in Venice, and also Paris.
May Parker is doing community outreach and hosting a fundraiser to help those displaced by “The Blip.” Spider-Man is there as a guest, and Happy Hogan also arrives with a big check from Stark Industries. Hogan and May also flirt a bit, which weirds Peter Parker out a lot. Hogan also informs Peter that Fury wants to get in touch with him, but Peter doesn’t want to talk to him. Sure enough, Fury calls and Peter sends him to voicemail, which does not make Hogan happy. (“You do not ghost Nick Fury!”)
Peter talks with Ned about his plan for the Europe trip, which involves buying a blown glass flower for MJ in Venice (preferably of a black dahlia, which is her favorite flower because of the murder), and also sitting with her on the plane and watching a movie with her. Ned prefers his alternate plan of being two American bachelors in Europe.
The initial phase of the plan fails rather dismally. Ned tries to get Betty Brant (one of the student newscasters who is sitting next to MJ) to switch with Peter because of a perfume allergy, but Mr. Harrington overhears and immediately goes into seat-switching overdrive, leaving Peter stuck sitting between Harrington and the other chaperone, Mr. Dell, while MJ is now sitting next to Brad. (Brad is a student who was not blipped, so he’s five years older and now in class with them; he is also very charming and good-looking, which annoys Ned and Peter no end.) Peter has to listen to Harrington carry on about his miserable life, including his ex-wife, who pretended to be blipped so she could leave him. (He held a funeral and everything.)
Ned sits next to Betty, and the two of them hit it off and begin dating by the end of the nine-hour flight, much to Peter’s confusion.
They arrive in Venice at a hotel that could charitably be called a dump. (Apparently Harrington didn’t do much by way of research for this trip.) The kids are on their own for the afternoon before going to the DaVinci Museum later.
While some kids hang out in Piazza San Marco (including MJ making friends with a bunch of pigeons and Ned and Betty being adorable and Flash Thompson doing one of his “Flash Mob” livestreams), Peter goes to a glass store to buy a black dahlia in glass for MJ.
Suddenly, the water starts moving on its own, nearly capsizing the gondola Ned and Betty are riding in. The water forms into a humanoid figure, and Peter left his costume (which he hadn’t intended to bring, but May packed it for him) at the hotel. He tries to fight the creature and rescue people, and is only really successful at the latter. However, the costumed figure from Mexico shows up and dispatches the creature.
That night in the hotel, the kids are watching news footage of the attack, and the kids wonder if this is the new Iron Man. At one point he’s referred to as “il mysterio,” which the kids latch onto as a nickname for him.
When Ned and Peter return to their room, Ned is tranq’d by Fury, who is tired of Peter not answering his calls. Fury gives Peter a pair of glasses from Tony Stark, which link him to E.D.I.T.H., Stark’s latest AI. (It stands for “Even Dead, I’m The Hero.”)
Fury brings Peter to a headquarters for whatever proto-S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury and Hill are involved with now. (It’s never given a name.) Present is also “Mysterio,” whose real name is Quentin Beck. Beck says he’s from a parallel Earth (Peter immediately nerds out over the notion of multiverse theory being correct), and on his Earth, four elemental creatures destroyed it. They then came to this Earth. He stopped the earth and air elementals in Mexico, and they just took care of the water elemental. That just leaves the most powerful one: the fire elemental. If it follows the pattern, it’ll appear in Prague.
They want Spider-Man’s help, but Peter just wants to have his vacation. Besides, he’s a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This is a little big for him. Fury is not impressed. (“Bitch, please, you’ve been to space!” “That was an accident!”) But Peter really just wants to enjoy his vacation, and it’s not like he did much good against the water elemental, really—it was all Beck. Besides, if he disappears off to Prague while his classmates go to Paris, his secret will be out and it will ruin his and May’s lives.
Fury appears to agree, but then manipulates events so the school trip gets an “upgrade” to Prague, which they go to by a bus driven by one of Fury’s agents. At a bathroom break, Peter is given a new black costume, so he has plausible deniability when he’s seen fighting the fire elemental. (Brad also takes a picture of Peter while he’s changing clothes in a back room with a female agent. He plans to show that picture to MJ.)
When they’re back on the bus, Peter tries to use E.D.I.T.H. to erase the picture off Brad’s phone, but instead manages to call a drone strike down onto Brad. Peter manages to destroy the drone without anyone noticing.
They arrive in Prague, and Fury at least did right by them in the lodgings department, as they’re staying in a luxury hotel and they each get their own room. The fire elemental is likely to strike soon, and Peter wants to make sure everyone’s safe, so he has E.D.I.T.H. arrange for everyone in class to get free opera tickets, for an opera that’s four hours long. The other kids are not happy about this, as there’s also a big festival in town, though Ned helps Peter out by talking up the opera along with Harrington. (Dell just repeats that this wasn’t his idea.)
MJ wants to sit with Peter at the opera, and he’s devastated that he can’t take her up on it as he has to go fight the fire elemental.
Harrington and Dell both fall asleep within a few minutes of the opera’s commencement, and Betty, Flash, MJ, and several other kids decide to bag the opera and check out the festival. Ned’s protestations fall on deaf ears.
Spider-Man, now dressed in the all-black outfit Fury’s people made for him, is in position, as is Mysterio, waiting for the fire elemental to attack.
Ned and Betty enjoy the festival, though Ned is nervous, and they get on a ferris wheel. The fire elemental attacks right when they’re at the wheel’s apogee, and everyone runs away, leaving them trapped up there.
Spidey and Mysterio attack and try to minimize the damage. When Betty sees someone who looks like Spider-Man, Ned insists that it’s a European ripoff named Night Monkey. In the midst of the fight, a piece of debris lands alongside MJ, who is watching the fight. She snags it. This will probably be important later.
Mysterio decides to make a suicide run by diving right into the fire elemental, but manages to survive, destroying the creature.
Fury tries to recruit Spider-Man and Mysterio both, inviting them to return with him to their Berlin HQ. Beck says he’ll think about it. Peter just wants to go back to his vacation.
Beck invites Peter for a drink at a bar. They talk, and Peter decides that Beck is the person who should get E.D.I.T.H. The note Stark put with the glasses said it was for the new Iron Man, and Peter doesn’t think that’s him—he’s just a 16-year-old kid. Beck is a real hero, and it should be his. He instructs E.D.I.T.H. to add Beck as an administrator and hands them over. Beck acts very reluctant to take the glasses, and refuses several times, but finally takes them.
After Peter leaves, the illusion of the bar drops, and Beck smiles. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
It turns out that the entire thing was faked by Beck and a team of disgruntled ex-Stark Industries employees. Beck raises a toast to himself and his fellows. Beck developed the holographic technology that Stark demonstrated at MIT in Captain America: Civil War and dubbed “Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing,” or B.A.R.F. Beck was fired shortly after Stark discontinued B.A.R.F. because Beck, he said, was “unstable.” (The rest of the movie will bear that diagnosis out.) But Beck isn’t the only one pissed over Stark giving his tech a comedy name and then dropping it. Also part of his gang are William Riva Gint (last seen failing to re-create the ARC reactor for Obadiah Stane), who built the drones used to do the damage done by the holographic elementals, Victoria Snow, who hacked Fury’s satellites to help confirm the “attacks,” Janice Lincoln, who learned that Stark was bequeathing E.D.I.T.H. to a teenager, and Gutes Guterman, who came up with Mysterio’s backstory.
And now he has E.D.I.T.H. The only way to get noticed these days is to wear a cape and have super-powers, and since they weren’t appreciated while working for a narcissistic man-child, now that he’s dead, they can be appreciated as “Mysterio.”
The school trip (which, to Dell’s frustration, has been very short on science) is cut short before going to Paris because the kids have been attacked twice now and all their parents want them home. They’re leaving on a flight to London first thing in the morning, and then home.
Peter doesn’t want the night to end, and he tells this to MJ, and they go out for a walk. While on the Charles Bridge, Peter says he has something to tell MJ, and she gobsmacks him by saying that he’s Spider-Man. Peter tries to deny it, and when she points out all the times he disappeared and Spider-Man showed, Peter says that that wasn’t even Spider-Man in Prague, it was Night Monkey. That’s when MJ whips out the debris she found, which has the exact same webbing on it that Spider-Man uses.
MJ drops the debris by mistake, and it activates, projecting a hologram of one of the elementals.
Both Peter and MJ realize quickly that the whole thing was fake. Peter admits that he is Spider-Man, and he needs to get to Berlin to warn Fury. Only then does MJ admit that she was only about 65% sure that she was right, and she’s thrilled. (Peter is less than thrilled when MJ says that the only reason she was even paying attention to him is because he’s a superhero.)
They go back to the hotel. Peter changes into his “Night Monkey” outfit. (MJ can’t help but admire how good Peter looks with his shirt off.) Ned comes in, and tries to pass off that Peter’s going to a costume party, but then finds out that MJ knows the truth. (Peter says he told her, but MJ corrects him that she figured it out.) Peter asks Ned to call May and have her call Harrington and Dell to tell them that he’s going to visit relatives in Berlin, in order to explain his absence from the flight the next morning.
Beck is going over footage of the battles, and rehearsing for the big event where a major elemental attacks and Mysterio saves everyone heroically. In the midst, one of the projections is wonky, and Riva says that one projector is missing. Beck has him track it, which he does to the Charles Bridge where Peter and MJ realized what it was. Beck is not happy (and at one point threatens Riva with drones).
Spider-Man hitches a train to Berlin and is picked up by someone he thinks is Fury. It turns out to be another of Beck’s illusions to try to find out what he knows and who else knows. Beck overwhelms him with illusion after illusion, showing MJ in danger, changing the appearance of his costume, having multiple Spider-Men pile atop him, attacking him with a zombie Iron Man that rises from Tony Stark’s grave, and so on. Then Fury shoots Beck, and asks Spidey who else he told, and only after Peter does so, does he reveal that he’s still Beck and it’s still an illusion. It wasn’t even Fury who picked him up, Beck had him the whole time.
As the coup de grâce, Beck maneuvers Spidey to be hit by a train. But Spider-Man is made of sterner stuff, and manages to board the train rather than be clobbered by it. However, once he settles into a seat, he passes out.
He awakens in a jail cell in Broek op Langedijk in the Netherlands, next to four drunk football hooligans (who very generously give him one of their Royal Dutch Football Association T-shirts, because he looked cold). They tell him he was passed out at the train terminal, and they assumed he was drunk. The guard is on a break (talking to his pregnant wife, according to the football fans), and so Peter just breaks the lock and walks out. (He passes the guard, who is indeed on the phone, and wearing Peter’s mask, telling his wife that he has arrested Night Monkey.)
Borrowing a phone from a fruit vendor, Peter calls Hogan, who flies a Stark jet to pick him up in a field of daisies. Hogan stitches up his wounds, and Peter, not for the first time, feels the weight of being “the new Iron Man.” Hogan points out that nobody could live up to being Tony—not even Tony. Stark was his best friend, and he was a mess, and he encourages Peter to not try to be Stark, but to be Peter. To that end, there’s a suit fabrication machine on the jet, and Peter goes to work at it. (As he manipulates the machine with verve and ease, Hogan looks at him with an avuncular smile, as the scientific enthusiasm is very familiar.) Hogan says Peter should do the costume, Hogan will provide the music, and he puts on “Back in Black,” prompting Peter to say, “I love Led Zeppelin!” and prompting all the old people watching to weep. (It’s an AC/DC song, just to be clear. Although Living Colour did a great cover of it…)
Hill detects another manifestation of an elemental, in London. Fury calls Beck, who pretends to be shocked, and says he’s on it.
In London, the kids arrive for their layover, and they get a bus tour of London until their flight home. However, Guterman is driving the bus, and he abandons the bus on the Tower Bridge, where the elemental is going to attack. It’s much bigger than the other ones (thanks to E.D.I.T.H.’s greater resources). To Beck’s relief, Fury says the Avengers aren’t available, so he can “stop” it on his own.
Hogan calls Fury and tells him in code that Beck is a bad guy. (Beck is tapping Fury’s phone, so the call just sounds like Fury telling Hogan to fuck off.) Peter watches the “Flash Mob” videos to find out where his classmates are, and finds out that they’re on the bridge. Before heading there, Peter gives Hogan the black dahlia flower and says to give it to MJ if something happens to him.
Spider-Man dives right into the elemental, where he finds himself in a sea of drones, which he then sabotages. Beck is livid, trying and failing to reassert control. The hologram dissolves, and now it’s obviously a bunch of drones attacking London.
Spidey asks Hogan to save his friends, and he lands the jet near where MJ, Flash, Betty, and Ned are. (“I work with Spider-Man,” Hogan says. Flash’s eyes go wide and says, “You work for Spider-Man?” “I don’t work for Spider-Man, I work with Spider-Man!”) Beck then blows up the jet, so Hogan instead leads them into the Tower of London, where they have to defend themselves against one of the drones. MJ has a mace and Hogan a shield, which he tries and fails to throw at the drone. (“How does Cap do that?”) Each of them wind up confessing something (Betty that she has a fake ID; Flash that he’s wasted his life with his stupid videos, though Hogan reassures him that Spidey found them because of those stupid videos; Hogan that he’s in love with Spider-Man’s aunt).
After fighting many many drones, Spider-Man tracks Beck down on a bridge and confronts him. Beck orders the safeties off the drones—they hold their fire on the bridge because of Beck’s own proximity—and they fire more wildly, which results in Beck himself being shot several times, eventually succumbing to his wounds. Peter retrieves the glasses from Beck and orders E.D.I.T.H. to stand down.
Riva, seeing the writing on the wall, runs off with a jump driving containing all the data on their little escapade.
MJ finds Peter, mace still in hand, but is relieved to see that the day is saved. Hogan gave MJ the flower, but it’s broken; however, MJ says she likes it better that way, and they kiss.
The kids fly home. Ned and Betty have ended their relationship amicably on the flight home, to Peter’s further confusion. May meets Peter at the terminal and later he sits down with May and Hogan to try to find out what’s going on between them—and it turns out that they’re not even sure, as they each have a very different idea of what their relationship is.
MJ and Peter go on a “date,” which involves her swinging around the city with him. She’s overwhelmed and, while she’s grateful, she also never needs to do that again.
A news story comes on over the jumbotron at Penn Station: Beck recorded a message before he died which, aided by footage doctored by Riva, makes it look like Spider-Man was responsible for the drone attacks on London and Mysterio’s death. Beck also reveals that Peter is Spider-Man. This scoop is presented by J. Jonah Jameson of TheDailyBugle.net.
Peter is, to say the least, devastated, especially since Jameson includes a picture of Peter’s face.
Meanwhile, we learn that the people we thought were Fury and Hill were actually the Skrulls Talos and Soren. Talos contacts Fury, who is apparently on a space ship or space station or some such. Talos explains that he did give the glasses to Parker like Fury told him to, but he had to bluff his way through a lot of it because he didn’t actually know where any of the Avengers are, and they kind of screwed up with Beck.
“I think Nick Fury just hijacked our summer vacation”
Far from Home is serving two purposes, and while it balances those purposes well, and is enjoyable as hell, it leaves me a bit disappointed in the end. Not overwhelmingly so, just wishing for more in both instances.
One purpose is the fallout from Endgame. Big-picture, we see the nightmare of people reappearing five years after they disappeared while the world moved forward without them, in particular with classmates and relatives who are all five years older while you haven’t changed. There are also the housing and job issues, which we see May in the midst of, working to help place people who’ve been so aggressively displaced.
The thing is, it’s not even close to enough. There are limits as to what can be done about this sort of thing in a series that only does two or three two-hour movies a year. This is where a TV series or, y’know, a monthly comic book is a better storytelling medium for superhero stories, because the deep consequences can be explored. It’s not a coincidence that the fallout from the Sokovia Accords was best shown, not in any of the MCU movies, but on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Closer to home, we’ve got the more direct fallout of Tony Stark’s death, and his naming of Peter as his heroic heir. Throughout his comics history, Peter Parker has sometimes been at a low ebb and given up the mantle of Spider-Man, most famously in the historic “Spider-Man No More!” tale in Amazing Spider-Man #50 (which Sam Raimi did a version of in Spider-Man 2). Far from Home does a lovely job of riffing on that—Peter doesn’t actually give up being Spider-Man, but he does hand off Stark’s legacy, as those are jet-powered boots he doesn’t feel worthy to fill. He’s just a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, not a guy who saves the world.
This is, of course, a total disaster, and it’s amusing in that it’s utterly predictable and still a well-played surprise, all at the same time. It’s predictable because Mysterio first showed up in 1964 as a villain, and he’s never been anything but that.
However, just a few months ago, we had Captain Marvel, where the Skrulls—who have never been anything but antagonistic since they showed up in Fantastic Four #2 in 1962—turned out to be sympathetic and victimized and (somewhat) friendly. So anyone who’s been keeping up with the MCU has already had those expectations upended. (The post-credits revelation about Fury and Hill is an amusing coda to that ambiguity about Beck; more on that in a bit.) On top of that, Beck is supposed to be from an alternate timeline, something that just played a big role in Endgame, so it’s possible that this is the equivalent of a Mirror Universe Mysterio, where in the other world he’s a hero.
Those doubts linger right up until that wonderful scene in the bar, where Beck toasts his team after having tricked Peter. Beck wants to be the next big celebrity hero, never mind that you become a famous superhero by saving people, not endangering them, certainly not by blowing up a bus full of high-school kids…
The best part of Beck’s long con is that his gaggle of disaffected Stark employees is rooted in the MCU’s history. The continuity hits from Iron Man and Civil War enhance the experience, and give much more texture to Beck’s campaign beyond “crazy guy wants to be famous.”
Having said all that—I felt like an important part of Spider-Man’s character was missing here. We all know that with great power comes great responsibility, and nobody feels that responsibility more than Spider-Man. It feels like he has to learn a lesson he’s already learned several times over in this movie—I just didn’t buy that the Spider-Man I’ve been reading in comic books and watching on various TV shows and movies since the 1970s would even hesitate to help out when Fury asks him, much less out-and-out refuse. Hell, forget that—I don’t buy that the Spider-Man who sat by his phone waiting for a call from the Avengers, and who stowed away on Ebony Maw’s ship, would refuse to help Fury, Hill, and Beck stop the elementals.
On the other hand, one of the things I like about this movie (and its predecessor) is that Peter and his fellow Midtown High students act like teenagers—not what grown-up screenwriters vaguely remember teenagers acting like, but actually like stupid, judgmental, petty, silly teenagers with overexaggerated senses of their own importance, an inability to think things through, and a certain simple (but not simplistic) view of the world. And there’s an argument to be made that Peter just wants one break, one vacation where he doesn’t have to save the city or the world or the universe.
The movie also takes Spidey out of his element, which is both appealing and not. The location shooting is gorgeous—I will never object to anything taking place in Venice, one of my favorite locales in the world—and it continues the MCU’s tendency toward more global thinking. (See also, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, all of which have significant chunks of story taking place in Earthly locales that are not the United States.)
But I also feel like we’re missing bits of what makes Spidey wonderful here. Probably the most quintessential Spider-Man scene written for this movie didn’t even make the final cut—it’s redone as a short film as a home video extra, “Spider-Man’s To-Do List,” and includes Peter going down a checklist of things he has to do before vacation, including getting a dual headphone adapter, picking up his passport (“Peter Parker here to pick up a passport, please,” and I wonder how many takes that took…), selling some action figures so he can buy MJ’s present, and stopping the Manfredi gang. The banter between Spidey and the cops is epic, and that whole sequence is magnificent from start to finish, and I hate that so perfect a Spider-Man bit was deemed too inconsequential to even be in the final movie. If you’re telling Spider-Man stories, you make room for scenes like that.
The movie does, at least, continue Homecoming’s excellent work in showing the real-world consequences of life in the MCU, whether it’s Peter offhandedly mentioning that Thor went from being a myth to being someone they study in physics class, or the menu of in-flight movies Peter has to choose from: The Snap (with a picture of the infinity gauntlet as the movie poster), Finding Wakanda, Hunting Hydra, an episode of Nova that features Dr. Eric Selvig, and a documentary about Stark’s life called Heart of Iron.
As is typical for the MCU, whatever plot problems there may or may not be, there is nary a bad performance. Tom Holland is just as stellar as he has been in his other four appearances, Zendaya is superlative, playing MJ as the Goth chick who is struggling with her own attraction to Peter as much as he is with his to her, and both of them are too buried in their own teenage angst to figure it out for most of the movie (though tellingly, MJ manages to break through it first). And just in general, MJ is a delight; her waxing rhapsodic over the word “bo” is epic. Jacob Batalon is back for more as Peter’s best friend Ned, and he remains the best, and Tony Revolori manages to make Flash Thompson even more annoying with his “Flash Mob” videos, and yet also makes him real with his love of Spider-Man and his disappointment that his mother couldn’t be bothered to meet him at the airport. Jake Gylenhaal continues the MCU tradition of the person who seems to be friendly and turns out to be evil that goes all the way back to Obadiah Stane in Iron Man. He also nicely plays the character’s instability and psychopathy, although you gotta wonder about the fact that this large group of disgruntled ex-Stark employees are all okay with blowing up a bus full of high school kids just because their dead boss was a douche. (Having said that, I love that Mysterio’s costume design is basically the character’s comics look, but also uses elements from the movie versions of Thor, Doctor Strange, and the Vision—it very much comes across as a test-marketed superhero outfit, which is perfect for what Beck is doing. I also really really really love that one of Beck’s gang is a writer who comes up with his outlandish superhero origin story.)
And then we get the mid- and post-credits scenes. These scenes tend to range from cute little Easter eggs to important plot points to self-indulgent nonsense. The two in Far from Home are both of critical import, as we get J. Jonah Jameson—played by J.K. Simmons, YAY!—doxxing Peter Parker and the revelation that the Fury and Hill we’ve seen for the whole movie—who have seemed rather off-kilter all throughout—aren’t actually Fury and Hill, but Talos and Soren. In a movie filled with great performances, I’m particularly impressed with Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders, as they play Fury and Hill as just a wee bit off. It’s beautifully done. There are even hints, from Hill calling Fury “Nick” (after it was a plot point that he hates being called that in Captain Marvel) to “Fury’s” reaction to Peter asking if Captain Marvel is available by saying, “Don’t invoke her name.” It’s subtle, but that’s not the way Fury would say it—however, it’s totally the way Talos would, and it’s the only time the Fury mask drops and Talos comes out. Which only makes sense, given how much Carol Danvers means to him.
For all that I’ve criticized the movie, it’s still tremendous fun, a perfectly balanced mix of adventure, heroism, angst, youth, and fun. Spider-Man has always been one of the younger of Marvel’s heroes, with all the amusement and baggage that comes with. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun and delightful and enjoyable, and I gotta say, I totally cheered when Peter and MJ kissed.
Next week, we’ll start our look at the non-MCU 2019 releases, starting with Shazam!
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in the new anthology Across the Universe: Tales of Alternate Beatles, edited by Michael A. Ventrella & Randee Dawn, and which features a bunch of stories showing alternate versions of the Fab Four. His story “Used To Be” has them as adventurers in an epic fantasy setting. Check it out!