Spider-Man: Far From Home Review: The (MCU) Kids Are Alright
Any Spider-Man: Far From Home review has to do two things well, just like this film. The first is that it has to discuss how this film serves as a coda to Avengers: Endgame and, arguably, the entire MCU to this point. However, a review of this film should be just about this movie, which is far more summer teen comedy than superhero blockbuster, at least in parts. In what is essentially a running joke about Marvel Studios pictures, these are elements that should spell disaster for a film, but instead it’s a pure delight from the opening frame to the last. Pop culture sadists who wanted the next MCU film to be as heavy and grief-filled as the prior two Avengers films will be disappointed, but Spider-Man: Far From Home is exactly what MCU fans needed, whether they knew it or not.
Of course, unlike other MCU films, this movie is something of an anomaly. Marvel struggled in the past combining “set-ups” for future films with standalone stories, especially early in Phases one and two. Yet, Spider-Man: Far From Home is simultaneously all set-up while still effectively a very personal and emotional story. Only, this is a problem because, as far as we all know, this represents the final of the five films in the initial partnership between Marvel Studios and Sony/Columbia Pictures, which technically owns the film rights to Spider-Man. We have a lot to discuss, so here is how this Spider-Man: Far From Home review will go. First, we talk business and the potential for this unprecedented partnership to continue. Then we will offer up a spoiler-free review, followed by a more in-depth look at some of the biggest moments in the film. So, up, up and away, web!
The Future of Spider-Man and the MCU
As we’ll discuss in the spoilery part of our Spider-Man Far From Home review, the movie sets up some major things for the future of the MCU. Yet, we have no idea if our favorite Web-Head will ever appear in another Marvel studios film. After the unmitigated failure of their last Spider-Man reboot, Sony agreed to let Marvel include Spider-Man in their universe with a five-picture deal. Spider-Man would appear in three films produced solely by Marvel Studios and Disney: Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame. Then the character, along with his MCU pals, would appear in a pair of Sony-produced films. Marvel Studios gets the proceeds from the team-up movies, while Sony gets to take home the receipts from the solo efforts. It’s a deal that worked for Sony then, but will they want to continue despite their success?
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the fourth-highest earning Spider-Man film and the best Spider-Man debut film after the first film featuring the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man. It earned more than $880 million on a budget of $175 million, a definite hit. However, Sony’s Venom film earned more than $850 million on a budget believed to be $100 million, without any help. Also, the animated Into the Spider-Verse earned a respectable $375 million on a budget of $90 million. Put another way, Sony’s Spidey profits are on-the-rise so they don’t need the clout of the MCU as much as they did. Yet, if the partnership were to continue, Sony could continue to eat at the lavish Disney buffet as Spider-Man would be a central fixture in the future MCU as long as Marvel Studios has access to him. If there’s no announcement of an extended Spidey deal at SDCC, Spider-fans should worry.
UPDATE: So, Tom Holland saved Spider-Man in the MCU by reaching out to senior executives at both companies, urging them to make a deal.
Spider-Man: Far From Home Review – Spoiler Free
Perhaps a large deciding factor about the continuation of Spider-Man in the MCU will be if Spider-Man: Far From Home tops the box office receipts of its predecessor. Given that most every person who saw Avengers: Endgame will be curious about the world after the Snap, this is a real possibility. Lackluster box office performance by the other non-MCU Marvel film, Dark Phoenix, suggests that nerd culture fans were saving their ticket dollars for this outing instead.
The Movie Is a Delightful Teen Comedy
Spider-Man: Far From Home is, at once, two movies. One is about a superhero fighting monsters, but the other is a more familiar story. Peter Parker feels enormous pressure about what he’s supposed to be and just wants to feel like a kid. After all this character has been through, he just wants to go to Europe with his friends (and two hapless teachers). He also, maybe, wants to kiss the girl he likes. What’s great about this movie, especially after the nonstop action pace of the past two Avengers films, is that the storytellers make us care about these kids. This is, perhaps, our best look at what a world with Avengers and mad titans is like for everyday folk. Outside of a pair of selfies and a set of international accords, this is not a part of the world we get to see very often.
Like most others, our review of this part of Spider-Man: Far From Home is overwhelmingly positive, because of the time we spend with Peter (and his pals) out of costume. As with the last solo film, there is a sequence on an airplane. However, rather than a battle with a Big Bad, it’s full of great jokes and character moments. This version of Peter Parker is a mess, and his role in the battle to save the universe did not prepare him for perfume allergies and running into your crush after using the bathroom. The young actors who make up the core group of Peter’s classmates is spectacular and could easily carry a film with no costumes or superheroics at all. The opening scene is also perfect, because it’s an exposition dump delivered in the most high-school way possible.
One of Spidey’s Best Film Outings
Of course, while Peter is an important part of things, a Spider-Man: Far From Home review should focus on the Spider-Man part, too. In the first solo film, we saw exactly what a “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man” was all about. This time, we do not see Spidey stopping bike thieves nor is he chomping at the bit for more superhero action. This gives the Tom Holland-version of the character a chance to tell a very familiar story in a unique way. Spider-Man is all about responsibility, and this film deals with the ramifications of him ignoring that responsibility in a way Uncle Ben never showed us. The culmination of this part of the story ends in a sequence that, if described, you might think could only work in a cartoon. Still, even though he’s not stopping petty criminals, we get to see quintessential Spidey action.
The other thing this film does exceptionally well is show the toll that being a hero takes on our costumed adventurers. Other MCU solo films have done this before, but only with adults. That Peter is still a teenager, not to mention one who had five formative years of his life stolen from him, puts this in a new perspective. The other Avengers we know all chose this superhero life. Tony Stark led a company. Thor led his father’s army. Even puny Steve Rogers constantly got into fights because he couldn’t help being a hero. This Spider-Man was chosen, however, and he never stopped to think about if being an Avenger was what he truly wanted. Yet, by the end, we see that Spider-Man was born to be the hero that Tony knew he could be. Though, the ending may not be as rosy as you think.
Spider-Man: Far From Home Review – Spoiler Full
We are now at the point of the Spider-Man: Far From Home review that will get into major spoiler territory. So, if you’ve not seen the film, bookmark this page and come back when you do. Because you are definitely going to have questions.
The Mysterio Fakeout
Just like with the slow-burn reveal that “Vers” of the Kree Starforce was actually U.S. Air Force test pilot Carol Danvers, we all know Mysterio is a villain. Still, even though we know this, Jake Gyllenhaal’s version of the character is so damn charming viewers will end up hoping Mysterio is who we know he is. One thing that helps with this fakeout is that we don’t know what his, pardon the pun, endgame will be. For this reviewer, it didn’t really become clear until Nick Fury (more on that later) tells Parker he wasn’t ready for EDITH, the AI drone army Tony Stark left him. (The name is a perfect Tony joke: Even Dead I’m The Hero.)
When Peter suggests Mysterio “try on” the glasses, an audible gasp of realization went through the crowd. The inclusion of technology and bit-part characters from past films was just an added stroke of genius. What also helps sell the lie is that both Fury and Maria Hill are so quick to ally with Quentin Beck. We know he’s not ultimately a hero, but their presence allows us to believe that he might just be from another reality. Also, worth mentioning, just because Beck lied about his origin doesn’t mean that there isn’t a multiverse. If the Sony partnership continues, I’d not be surprised if there wasn’t a clause that would allow for Holland to provide his voice for a future Spider-Verse story. (Though, I’d imagine Feige and company would insist his memory gets “wiped” or some such by the end of it.)
The Nick Fury Fakeout
The reveal of Talos and his wife Soren likely shocked moviegoers who don’t frequent spoiler forums like the one on Reddit. There were many wild “leaks” that spoke of Norman Osborn and Sinister Six set ups at the end of the movie. Yet, one leak that many laughed at was that Spider-Man actually doesn’t deal with Nick Fury at all. While they thought this might be the start of a version of the “Skrull Invasion” storyline from the comics, that doesn’t work in this continuity. Instead, it’s played as a joke that both lands and makes you want to immediately rewatch the film. Even though I’d seen that leak, I’d dismissed it so rapidly that the reveal was just as shocking as if I’d gone in cold. It’s a big risk, too. Fans might find the out-of-character behavior as a flaw, not realizing it’s foreshadowing until too late.
If Spider-Man ends up exiting the MCU, this scene works as just a gag. Nick Fury, who knows the Skrulls, wanted to take a vacation in space. It could even serve as a way to justify Fury’s presence in a post-Endgame sequel to Captain Marvel. If Spidey does continue in the MCU, Talos and Soren are a bridge to Spidey from the cosmic side of the MCU. What Fury’s business on the Skrull ship might have been could be expanded into something larger, setting up the next team-up film. Whether it’s a just fun gag cameo or a sign of things to come, unfortunately, depends more on what happens in the boardroom than the writers’ room.
Just Call It “Spider-Sense” Already
I admit, that the first time that Aunt May called spider-sense a “Peter tingle,” I laughed. However, the callbacks to that joke weren’t my favorite. Nonetheless, it played a big part in Spider-Man’s arc throughout the film. While his sticky limbs and webs are his more iconic powers, the spider-sense is a huge part of what makes him a spectacular Spider-Man. In comics, with interior monologues for pages and pages, this can be explained. Visually, it’s tough to represent. The MCU took a subtle approach thus far. Fans know that the spider-sense is what allows Peter to dodge bullets, swing through the city, and other amazing things. In the movie, this is all subtext. Peter just instinctively knows how to do these things. They establish early on that he’s not in tune with this power, and it represents that he really isn’t ready for the big job.
During the amazing sequence when Mysterio traps Peter in an Inception-worthy strata of illusion, Spidey seems not to have a spider-sense at all. This might seem like a plot-forced weakness. In reality, it’s the storytellers’ way of showing us his central problem. Instead of trusting himself, trusting his own instincts, Peter is looking outside of himself for his power. Instead of being a hero in his own right, Spidey wants to be the sidekick. When he realizes he’s all the world has, he gets in tune with this sense. The villain, his replacement mentor who betrayed him, no longer has power over him. He’s “just a guy.” The climax of the film is a problem that seems out of Spidey’s power set. Yet, he’s able to use all of his skills, including inventing his way out of trouble.
A Triumph All-Around
No matter what the box office looks like for this film, MCU fans would be fortunate to get more of this Spider-Man. Now that he’s ready to accept the mantle of the public face of the Avengers, another key element from the Spidey comic made its way into the story. Instead of the next Iron Man, he’s the Spider-Menace who killed Mysterio. The theater burst into applause when JK Simmons as a new version of J. Jonah Jameson appeared onscreen. That he’s the head of “The Daily Bugle dot Net” is also a great gag. The revelation about Spidey’s secret identity isn’t as big of a deal as it seems, I think. The MCU isn’t big on secret identities, and personal lives only get in the way of the action anyway.
So, whether Spidey comes back in this form or not, the films we got with the MCU Spider-Man were all excellent. Just like in the comics, Spidey is the most human of all the heroes. These movies also show the value of patience in this sort of storytelling. Both previous Spider-Man franchises tried to make the character the Spidey from the comics by the second act. The MCU, instead, took its time and shows us Peter growing into his powers and personality. For that reason alone we should be so lucky to get two or three more movies to see that arc play out.
There is some confusion about how many movies Tom Holland has left in the MCU. Initially, insiders reported that the deal spanned five films, however Tom Holland said he was signed up for six, including three solo films. Deep in a longform profile of former Sony executive Amy Pascal, she confirmed that it covered six movies. So, considering Holland and Pascal are the sources, there is almost certainly a third solo film coming.
Did we leave anything out of our Spider-Man: Far From Home review that you think we should have covered? Tell us in the comments below or by sharing the article on social media.
This post has been updated to include information about the Sony and Disney deal that brought Spider-Man back to the MCU.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.