'Spider-Man: Far From Home' film review: Fun 'Endgame' epilogue & a strong standalone Spidey story
Following up the landmark and game-changing cinematic event that was "Avengers: Endgame" is no enviable task. But after the franchise's star-studded climax, the comic book adventure "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (opening in theaters nationwide July 3) is a great "Endgame" postscript, a strong standalone flick for the famed web-slinger and an exciting first step into the MCU's future.
In short: Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants to enjoy a European summer vacation with his friends - when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a new superhero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) recruit Parker to fight a new threat to the world. Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders and Jon Favreau also star.
The fallout from "Endgame" is fresh on the minds of essentially every fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Frankly, audiences would have probably given the filmmakers a free pass had they opted to just make a light-hearted and fun little Spider-Man standalone flick, divorced from any of the crazy events of MCU. If ever there was a moment of earned respite, "Far From Home" lived in that moment. And rather than just try to immediately rush headlong into a jaunty Spider-Man flick, "Far From Home" instead leans heavily into the fact that the MCU - and Peter Parker as a character - was wholly transformed by "Endgame."
"Far From Home" is upfront with the relative chaos facing the world after "Endgame." The public mourns the loss of several beloved Avengers - and they openly fret about this vacuum, publicly wondering who will step up and take Tony Stark's place. This is every bit as much a meta-question for the fans as it is a concern for the MCU characters who had always just assumed the Avengers would always be around to save the Earth. Marvel's most iconic superhero - Spider-Man - is perhaps the best hero to follow in this unstable new reality that forces Parker to determine his place in a world without the Avengers.
Although "Far From Home" represents the fifth overall appearance in the MCU, this sequel is just his second actual full-length feature. So it's really easy to forget or even realize just who new Peter Parker is to the whole superhero gig. As it turns out, the MCU Spider-Man is not yet the fully realized friendly neighborhood web-slinger from the comics or even the previous movies. Both the Raimi and Webb franchises depicted Spider-Man at the height of his powers - whereas "Far From Home" boldly declares that this version of the wall crawler is still developing some of his trademark superpowers. Peter's not just a kid forced into the crazy responsibility of being a superhero - he's also still becoming the superhero fans know and love.
"Far From Home" depicts this version of Mysterio as coming from an alternate universe - one where he's a hero rather than a villain. Gyllenhaal is well cast as one of Spider-Man's classic and most enduring villains, playing the character with just enough charm to make his heroic turn plausible - but the actor has just enough edge to make a villainous turn not only possible, but convincing. This keeps the audience guessing, and considerably off balance - which is appropriately a fundamental aspect of Mysterio's comic book history.
Especially after the runaway success of "Into the Spider-Verse," audiences are prepped and ready to see new takes on beloved classic characters, and Zendaya finally gets a full movie to rework Parker's famous love interest MJ Watson. The big reveal of "Homecoming" - that her character named Michelle was secretly MJ Watson - was a fun twist that gets fully fleshed-out in "Far From Home." Unlike MJ's classic characterization - that of a popular bombshell, Zendaya gets to develop a wry and guarded version of MJ (who is smitten with Parker all the same).
In true MCU tradition, "Far From Home" includes two bonus scenes after the credits start rolling - and both are worth the wait. The first is capped by the single most exciting moment of "Far From Home" - and has major ramifications for Peter Parker. The second bonus scene appears at the very end of the credits, and hints at the exciting future for the MCU.
The story's antagonistic force only truly takes shape in the film's latter half. The villain's end goal is sadly vague throughout the first half of the film - and it's basically just some cartoon CGI monsters trying to wreck everything. Thankfully, the first half is focused more on Parker's internal conflict about being the next Iron Man that it distracts from the shallow antagonists. At least the final set piece is a thrilling and intense action sequence that more than makes up for the low-energy and vague threats early in the movie.
Final verdict: "Far From Home" forces Parker to question his place in the world and as a superhero, eventually pushing to grow as a hero and as Spider-Man.
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" opens in theaters nationwide July 3. This action-adventure has a running time of 129 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.