A while into this second film in Spider-Man’s third iteration in the past twenty years there is a sense of déjà vu. Despite the refreshing mixture of school vacation trip bonhomie mingled with post Endgame angst, when it comes to the new threat it seems rather over familiar, clichéd even. Could it be that Marvel has finally run aground? Was Thanos so powerful that those who follow him will struggle to impress?
Spoilers after this point.
No actually! Turns out that Far From Home has a nifty trick to pull, one which lifts the film up to a level approaching (though never quite reaching) the high standard of Homecoming. Certainly the first act’s strongest points come from re-acquainting ourselves with Peter Parker and his classmates. The gang are more upfront this time and fun to spend time with while the simmering chemistry between Peter and Mj is played with conviction by the ever bubbling Tom Holland and the ever enigmatic Zendaya. The film also possesses a cheeky sense of humour too; prepare for Peter Tingles and also the Night Monkey! It’s just that when the threats come they seem exactly like the kind of threats we’ve seen before. They’re defeated by a new superhero who becomes known as Mysterio and like the elemental monsters he vanquishes seems exactly what you’d expect a superhero to be. Peter, meanwhile, is struggling to keep up despite acquiring a pair of old school shades that can tap into the Stark network. You’ll love the acronym Stark chose for them.
Though he’s not actually in the film Tony Stark looms large here especially given his mentoring of Peter who feels he cannot be the new Iron Man if that’s what people are expecting and it seems as if they are. An appearance at a school event brings a lot of questions of that sort and later in the film Peter talks about how he is constantly reminded of Stark’s absence. In fact he concludes that the new hero Mysterio- who’s encouragement does have an air of Tony Stark- would be far better leading the cause and so he hands over those sunglasses and goes back to his school pals.
However this signals a turn in the narrative- Mysterio aka Quentin Beck is not, as he claimed to be, from an alternative Earth and has his own agenda. The attacks are faked courtesy of an arsenal of projectors and drones to allow him to assume the Stark mantle. Hereafter the movie takes a meta approach with the audience never sure if what we’re seeing is real or part of Beck’s fantasy world.
Visually striking sequences that call to mind Inception ensue; buildings collapse, floors disappear, multiple Spideys attack and people are shot then not shot. This gives Far From Home a distinct signature of its own. It’s a bold yet also deft move because Thanos’ plot line was always going to be tricky to follow so creating threats that are fictionally invented by means of technology is different enough to take us in a new direction. Course they still have their cake and eat it battering whole sections of Venice, Prague and London with historic landmarks aplenty toppling though the added dimension gives the action a fresh spin.
As ever Tom Holland excels as Parker being the most identifiable of the Marvel superheroes, the film’s story giving him plenty of gymnastics, embarrassing moments and heroic gestures. As a superhero never mind an Avenger, Peter is still the unfinished article and this is so refreshing after many similar characters grow into confident winners so quickly. Even when he ultimately triumphs there’s a sense of desperation about it; he only just gets away with it. Zendaya’s MJ gets more meaningful stuff to do this time round and their awkward chats are a highlight. Away from the dangers, the film manages to deliver snapshots of typical school life that add laughs and character especially an unlikely holiday romance and an amusing sequence where Pete nearly takes out a rival for MJ’s attention with a missile! Jake Gyllenhall proves game as Mysterio and unhinged as the impatient Beck yelling at his minions. Plus you’ve got Samuel L Jackson and Jon Favreau doing what they do as well as ever.
Full on for its entire running time, Far From Home manages to successfully re calibrate the Marvel cinematic Universe moving on from- while still acknowledging- recent events. Breezy, cheeky, heroic and inventive it is another success for cinema’s biggest franchise.