Remember back when Peter Parker was a ‘friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’? His stories were intimate, personal and tied to his New York City roots. Despite their faults, the two previous series captured that element of the character very well. The MCU has taken Spidey in a different direction. They are much more interested in Spider-Man the Avenger and connecting him to their sprawling cinematic universe. I kinda miss the old days.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” saw the MCU rewrite many of Peter Parker’s most defining story arcs in order to both “modernize” the character and firmly tie him into their ever-expanding, multi-billion dollar cash cow. His second solo film “Far From Home” doesn’t exactly change course, but it does do several things that makes it a much better and more satisfying installment.
First, while it certainly doesn’t dramatically change Spidey (played by Tom Holland), the film stresses his desire to be a ‘friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’. In his first MCU movies we saw Peter Parker caught up in the excitement and allure of being an Avenger. The events of “Avengers: Endgame” have clearly changed his perspective and he struggles with his desire to be a kid again versus the responsibilities of being an Avenger.
Another welcomed change comes in the handling of some of the side characters. Tops on the list is MJ played by Zendaya. In “Homecoming” every second of her screen time was spent selling her as a rebellious, eccentric loner with few discernible human qualities. “Far From Home” strikes a much-needed balance with the character. MJ still stands out among her classmates, but she’s given more layers and is finally allowed to emote. The same with Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). He’s still there to add humor, but this film makes him feel like more than simply comic relief.
I credit many of these changes (rightly or wrongly) to a more compact and focused writing team. “Homecoming” had six writing credits while this film sticks with two – Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Along with returning director John Watts, they are tasked with wrapping up one MCU phase and kicking off another while also expanding Peter Parker’s story. The results are pretty impressive.
The story sees Peter trying to put the events of “Endgame” behind him by going on a class trip to Europe. No Spider-Man, no Avengers. Just a getaway to spend time with his friends and finally tell MJ how he feels about her. Easier said than done. While in Venice, Italy a huge water monster attacks the city but is fought off by the mysterious, super-powered Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal).
To complicate matters Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up. He and Beck (aka Mysterio) tell Peter that the water monster was one of four Elementals. The most dangerous (Fire) is projected to attack Prague and they need Spider-Man to help defeat it. Peter declines but Fury has a knack for getting his way. This obviously puts a damper on Peter’s desire for a life of normalcy especially when he finds out there is more to the Elementals than meets the eye.
Just as before Tom Holland proves to be the ideal choice to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man. His look, demeanor, earnestness, and naïveté all fit well with the character. It has always been the writing that has either helped or hurt him. Here (aside from a few small residual gripes) the writing and Holland click from the very start.
Back to the supporting side, Gyllenhaal is very good in what is a much different spin on Mysterio’s story. Jackson can do Nick Fury in his sleep. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan and gets several fun scenes. The one remaining sour note for me is Marisa Tomei. Again, it’s no fault of the performance but the writing. Give me Aunt May over Sexy May any day.
“Far From Home” was a nice surprise and a welcomed step up from the previous Spider-Man film. It’s a breezy, light-hearted and fun MCU installment that adds depth to Peter Parker’s world while setting things up for an interesting third film (whatever you do, stay for both end-credits scenes). It may not completely cure all of my ills with the MCU’s changes to Spider-Man’s story, it certainly excites me for where things are at and where they are heading.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
Spider-Man is the ham!
Good that this is better, I know I saw the previous one but can’t remember much about it other than being disappointed. Will be doing this, eventually, when I’ve caught up (if I don’t snuff it in the meantime!)
A lot of people really liked the first film. I was like you though and left disappointed. This one was a really nice surprise.
Glad you liked it, Keith. Not for me, though.
I can understand that, especially if superhero movies have kinda ran their course with you. This is definitely more of that. For me, it was a nice improvement from the last film.
I do want to see this as I’m a fan of Spider-Man and the MCU!!!! Yet, I’m just taking time off for now as I’ll try and watch it later on.
Definitely bookmark this one to watch. I actually enjoyed it better than Homecoming. You’ll have fun with it for sure.
I was definitely a fan of this movie, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. I like how you received the message about Peter’s changed attitude towards being an avenger between movies. I didn’t even think about that. I’m always focused on technical aspects and sometime miss some of those more meta elements. Great review, sir.
Thanks Dave. I had a great time with Far From Home. My whole family did. I was really surprised at how well written it was. And it definitely left things in an interesting place.
I’m in the middle of watching the MCU films, and look forward to eventually getting up to this one (hopefully it’ll be out on DVD by that time).
Good! I’ll be anxious to hear what you think.
I’ve now seen 4 MCU films:
Iron Man 2
Only 19 more to go… 🙂
(So far, Thor is my personal favourite.)
This had the bad luck of me watching it after Stranger Things 3 which was so awesome, so I liked it even less than I normally would. I thought it was waaay overstuffed and really clumsy, but I did like the visuals in the film
Do you I still…ahem…haven’t watched Stranger Things! I know…ridiculous. I’ve got to fix some of these TV voids I have.
It’s the best thing out of TV and movies released so far this year. I swear it’s worth paying for Netflix just for it 😂
You like this one a bit more than I. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fun time with it, but I actually like Homecoming a little more. I think both of us and Peter desire that Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man to “the next Iron Man.” Yet, like you, I’m looking forward to see where they take the character.
I’m totally with you on wanting Aunt May over Sexy May. The difference in how well they’re written is especially glaring because I just recently rewatched Raimi’s trilogy where Rosemary Harris gave us the perfect Aunt May.
We’ll have to disagree on Ned. I still thought he was just comic relief. They just framed all of his jokes with that microwave romance. It was cute & funny, but I feel they could get a lot more from that character.
Oh you are so right, Harris is such a great Aunt May. It just seems the MCU wants to distance itself from those older family story beats. I don’t get it.
As a whole I do agree with you on Ned. I guess I found him to be a little more grounded this time around even though (as you mentioned) that whole romance thing was pretty flimsy.
Finally saw this and as much as I do think it was an improvement on Homecoming, it still has gone too far away from certain aspects of Spideys story to resonate well with me. Trying to basically make Stark a stand-in Uncle Ben, doesn’t work at all. Aunt May and the whole Happy story lame. A few things I really liked. Holland is the strength of both movies . He is great as Spidey/Peter. Zendaya as MJ was much better than the first movie. Her character was more rounded and she has chemistry with Holland. Gyllenhaal was solid as the villain, although I wasn’t sold on him being another bad guy because of Stark. Iron Man 3 anyone. So decent but still not there. I’m mildly excited for the next movie and hopefully will have zero Iron Man references and that will be fine by me. I want a Spidey story. I would give this 5.5 web shooters out of 10.
I agree with each of your strengths and weaknesses. I do have to ask, what did you think of the mod-credits scene? I won’t spoilt it for anyone else but I have to admit, I really got a kick out of it.
I did enjoy the post-credit scenes. Be interesting how that all plays out.