[The following review contains SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Far From Home, Avengers: Endgame, and several other MCU films. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
Welcome, True Believers one and all, to Spider-Man: Far From Home! And I do mean True Believers—newcomers need not enter, because this Phase Three epilogue was made only for the most diehard of Marvel Cinematic Universe fanatics, packed full of more callbacks, Easter eggs, and crowd-pleasing cameos than you can shake a web at! Don’t worry, though: it isn’t all mindless fan service; director Jon Watts also does an excellent job of building on the themes he introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as continuing his hero’s character arc following the events of the previous two Avengers flicks.
In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker finds himself at a crossroads in his crime-fighting career. Traumatized by the battle against Thanos and his forces, devastated by the loss of his mentor, and adrift on a planet that has fast-forwarded five years in his absence, the wall-crawler is beginning to seriously doubt that he’s qualified to protect the universe. Yes, “with great power comes great responsibility,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re always ready to carry such a burden when the time comes; no matter how much Nick Fury insists that Spidey should step up and fill Iron Man’s rocket boots, Peter is still a frightened, insecure teenager underneath the spandex, and part of him just wants to hang out with his friends, confess his feelings to the girl he loves, and enjoy some of the normal childhood that “The Blip” nearly stole from him.
The antagonists, too, echo Homecoming’s blue collar baddies. In what should come as a surprise to nobody familiar with the source material, they are not, in fact, inter-dimensional monsters, but rather ordinary people attempting to capitalize on the extraordinary circumstances into which they’ve stumbled. The enigmatic Mysterio is, in reality, a disgruntled Stark Industries employee seeking retribution for (what he perceives to be) the grave injustices he’s endured. With Earth’s Mightiest Heroes splintered beyond recognition, the world that once “mistook” his genius for insanity now craves a new savior, and with the aid of his high-tech holograms and combat drones, Quentin Beck is determined to fill that void—even if he has to fabricate his own threats and put countless innocent lives at risk in order to do it.
These relatively low narrative stakes make Far From Home feel like a breath of fresh air. From its very inception, Marvel Studios has been producing films that are meant to support the architecture of a greater franchise, each installment laying the groundwork for the next leg of the journey: Iron Man teased The Avengers, which in turn foreshadowed Infinity War. Endgame, however, lacked the company’s trademark post-credits stinger; for the first time in recent memory, the series had no loose plot threads to tie up, no predetermined course to follow. Thus, in terms of its story, ol’ web-head’s latest adventure is essentially a blank slate. Watts takes full advantage of this creative freedom, adopting a laid-back, leisurely pace that allows him to flesh out his ensemble cast and explore more mundane conflicts—relationship drama, farcical misunderstandings, et cetera. Of course, he also delivers plenty of spectacle; the main villain is, after all, the “Master of Illusions,” leading to trippy, disorienting set pieces that are every bit as imaginative and visually ambitious as anything in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, or Doctor Strange.
To wrap this review up before I start rambling too much: Is Far From Home the best Spider-Man movie to date? Well… it’s difficult to say right now. Into the Spider-Verse is damn near perfect, and Sam Raimi’s original trilogy remains undeniably iconic. Regardless of its precise ranking, it absolutely deserves every truckload of money it’s earned so far. Honestly, I was initially skeptical that the MCU would survive in the wake of Thanos’ defeat, but those doubts have been definitively laid to rest; make mine Marvel, now and forever!