*DISCLAIMER* I will attempt to write this review with as little spoilers as possible (although it is hard to tell what constitutes as a spoiler nowadays) because Sony, surprisingly, did a good job of not revealing the big twists or major plot points in the trailers.
It is also worth noting before I go any further that I am not particularly fond of the previous entry, Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s important to know that because this sequel is coming from the same creative team, but I went in with an open mind hoping I would enjoy it.
A MODEST IMPROVEMENT
Far From Home represents a modest improvement over its predecessor. The movie gets to develop some of its side characters, like MJ, in a way Homecoming wasn’t able too, and Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is memorable (albeit underdeveloped).
Much of the same issues of Homecoming are still present in Far From Home, Peter doesn’t face enough consequences to grow in meaningful ways. The screenwriters lean on the MCU and Tony Stark as a crutch when they should be focusing on the most important character of all, Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Far From Home has a surprising amount of plot and characters it needs to address. It needs to push the story of Homecoming forward and also deal with the ramifications of Endgame. It does some of this well, while other parts sort of get swept aside.
Endgame didn’t have as big of an impact on the narrative as I initially expected, even if the movie constantly references it. The social implications of the five-year “blip” of Thanos’s snap are played mostly for laughs. Some of it is quite funny, but the decision to play most of it for laughs feels like a wasted opportunity to add some real emotion.
The thing Far From Home does do well is it continues to foster the relationships and dynamics between the high school characters. MJ (played by Zendaya) was underutilized in Homecoming, acting more as a character that spits out one-liners than contributed much to Peter’s life.
Here, Peter and MJ’s relationship as friends and as a potential couple gets the proper screentime. Tom Holland and Zendaya work well off one another and seem to have really good on-screen chemistry.
IRON MAN…WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Spider-Man has an Iron Man problem in the MCU. A huge part of Peter Parker’s character in the MCU thus far is his relationship with Tony Stark, which is touching and leads to many heartbreaking moments (“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good“). While that can be a strength, Spider-Man is defined by Iron Man’s problems and not Peter Parkers’.
His conflicts have little to actually do with himself so much as he accidentally gets caught up against villains that have a grudge against Tony. This leads to conflicts and narratives where Spider-Man isn’t all that interesting of a character and feels more like Iron Man’s understudy.
Far From Home deals with this issue better than Homecoming, but frequently Spider-Man feels like a passive protagonist where other characters force him into action instead of him making hard choices.
Conflict is drama. Far From Home feels lacking in personal conflict for our hero. Spider-Man shouldn’t be fighting Iron Man’s battles.
MYSTERIO IS TERRIFIC
The biggest question most will have going into this movie is, how is Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio? Gyllenhaal is the standout the film.
I won’t go into much detail but there is a sequence just beyond the midpoint of this film involving him that is absolutely outstanding and everyone will be talking about it. One of my criticisms of Homecoming was the lack of creative action sequences and while I don’t think director Jon Watts takes full advantage of the visual potential of Spider-Man, the action is much improved.
However, I wanted more out of Mysterio as a character. There is a great deal of mystery (no pun intended) surrounding him and the movie wants to hold onto that mystery for so long that it robs the character of his development.
The first half of the story is dull because the film wants to keep the mystery surrounding certain characters (not just Mysterio) when it doesn’t need to. This creates a narrative where it feels like the tires are spinning in place when the twists are easily predictable anyways.
I’m in the minority with my feelings towards Homecoming and most readers will probably disagree with my criticisms of both Homecoming and Far From Home. So, if you like Homecoming you’ll dig this because it doubles down on much of what fan liked and improves on the action.
For me, as someone who dislikes Homecoming more overtime, Far From Home is a moderate improvement, but still has much of the same problems. I wouldn’t have a big problem with these movies if I didn’t find Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and Spider-Man boring. That’s not Tom Holland’s fault (Holland is good in the role) but he is written in a boring way.