SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME; 4.5 out of 5; Directed by Jon Watts; Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers; Starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders and Marisa Tomei; Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments; Running time 129 minutes; In wide release, July 2.
We have been blessed over the past few years with two amazing Spider-Man movies – Homecoming and Into the Spiderverse, the latter of which I deemed the best film of 2018 (and also awarded Best Picture by the Utah Film Critics Association). Since Marvel came on board to include Tom Holland’s version in the MCU, the level of storytelling and character development has vastly improved over the Amazing series and has given us the definitive version of Peter Parker and our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. With the traumatic results of Infinity War and Endgame now fully being realized, Far From Home puts a hugely emotional and humorous coda on the Phase Three films.
It’s really difficult to sum up the plot of Far From Home without spoiling anything, so I’m not going to mention anything outside of the trailers. Be warned, however, that if you’re one of the five people on earth who didn’t see Endgame, major plot points from that are going to be discussed, so venture on no further. Far From Home has Peter Parker (Tom Holland) torn between his desire to live up to the legacy of the late Tony Stark to be the world’s next Iron Man, and his wish to just be a teenager and live his life like any other high school kid. He chooses the latter and escapes to Europe on a school field trip where he hopes to eventually tell MJ (Zendaya) how he really feels about her. The fun is cut short as a superhero from another universe, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), needs to team up to keep the elementals that destroyed his world from devouring ours.
Tom Holland IS Peter Parker/Spider-Man. This isn’t a slight against Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, but Holland embodies the role so perfectly and fully, that the other two just pale in comparison. His sarcastic quips as Spider-Man are a wonderful foil to his complete awkwardness and almost social ineptness as Peter Parker. Stan Lee wanted a character that was very much an “everyman” when he created him so that anyone could identify, and Holland manages this with gusto. As much as the film gives everyone their moment to shine (from MJ, Mysterio, and even Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) this is completely a Spider-Man movie and works even better than Homecoming since we are now fully comfortable with the portrayal from that and the MCU outings.
The heart of the movie though, revolves around the idea of how to live up to the expectations and standards set by those we admire and have lost. Peter looked up to Stark as a father figure, and he wouldn’t be the Spider-Man he is now without the help and guidance Tony provided him. He’s constantly reminded the entire film that there is this huge void left in the world without an Iron Man, so his wrestling with the desire to step up and be that hero should resonate with anyone who has lost someone they look up to.
Which is why this movie is so personal for me. Many in the geek community lost someone who was dear to us about two weeks ago. I looked up to Jimmy Martin as a mentor, and we were like brothers. I wouldn’t even be here writing this review had he not inspired me to become a critic, and Far From Home was the first thing I saw after his passing. I identified with Peter so much more in this than I have with any previous film because I too am wondering how I can even remotely live up to Jimmy’s legacy as he was the friend who helped shape me into the person I am today.
Aside from Spiderverse, Far From Home is the best movie in the entire franchise. From emotional and funny moments, to some of the best action set pieces (including the MCU), to just the sheer joy and fun these characters bring to the screen, everyone is going to have a good time. Hopefully Sony will continue to partner with Marvel Studios, as they finally have the formula down right, and I’m completely happy to keep enjoying experiences like this as long as they will allow it. Oh, and stay till the very end, as there are a mid and end credit scene that will tie into whatever is going to happen in Phase 4.
This is one of the most entertaining and engaging movies I’ve seen all year. I can’t wait to see it again or what comes next for our web-headed hero.