So is Spider-Man: Far From Home one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best movies?
While it’s certainly in the discussion for Top 5-8(ish) - no, it’s not one of its very best.
But is it one of the MCU’s smartest and most strategic and proof positive Kevin Feige and the mad chemists at Marvel Studios are at this timestamp in Hollywood history playing 4D chess while everyone else (besides Disney proper) is playing checkers?
That’s an full-on yes.
Marvel and Sony had something of balancing act to play - how to follow-up the pop culture avalanche that was Avengers: Endgame. The sort-of-finale of 11 years and 22 movies that took over the world after years of anticipation just a few months ago could have, and by all rights should have, sucked all the oxygen out of the room for the foreseeable future. And judging by the disappointing recent box office performance of … well, just about everything since … it appears it may have done just that.
But director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers have powered up the paddles of a defibrillator for MCU fans and maybe for the North American box office in general. If you’re feeling any cinematic malaise after the cathartic exercise of emotional closure that was Endgame, Far From Home is just what the doctor ordered.
After beginning with something of a short tease, the film quickly introduces you to Peter Parker (a seemingly more confident Tom Holland) in a post-Endgame/post-Tony Stark world, explaining the mechanics of the new five-year-later MCU reality (and coining the official terminology). Doing it in a high-energy, highly-comedic fashion, the sequence not only cleanses the palette of the earnest, bittersweet ending of Endgame, but gives fans permission with a wink and a nod to move on and to look forward to the future with anticipation.
Expertly played. More and more, Marvel Studios scheduling looks a deliberate and meaningful sequence of films that play with and against one another and its a moviegoing pleasure to see how the pieces fit together.
Far From Home never takes the foot off the gas after the laugh-out-loud intro, playing mostly and best like a teen comedy for much of the film’s first half - interesting not only for the astute tonal shift from our last visit to the MCU, but because in 2019 the genre itself is nearly extinct. Perhaps because it hasn’t been done as well as this for a while.
Peter and his friends’ romance-preoccupied misadventures in Europe are interspersed with the introduction of Jake Gyllenhael’s Mysterio and how Nick Fury and Maria Hill play into the action - the center of much speculation among hardcore fans.
While we won’t spoil the particulars of either of these things, rest assured Marvel Studios continues to be very respectful of the comic book source material … while at the same time ingeniously cashing in chips it put on the table in previous films, going all the way back to the first.
The unexpected deftness of the juxtaposition of elements from the comic books and movies is one of the true pleasures of discovering Far From Home and we’ll leave it at that, but you may want to bring a pencil and paper to keep track of all the callbacks to previous films.
There are also sequences not even hinted at in the trailers that take their inspiration straight from the page but are powered by MCU mythology, and we’ll also leave that at that.
From this point on the story evolves into more traditional/superhero/action fare, but not before letting Zendaya as ‘MJ’ break free of her supporting role in Homecoming to instantly graduate into one of the more appealing non-superhero characters in the MCU. The young actor’s nearly effortless blend of confident intellect and quirky wit along with teenage vulnerability and insecurity is perhaps the best part of Far From Home aside from its many clever continuity surprises. The film misses her when she’s not on screen.
While the MCU ‘MJ’ is more of less a wholly new character, Zendaya promises to turn her into one of its best.
Does Peter/Spidey learn to live in a post-Tony Stark world? We don’t think it’s a spoiler to confirm yes, of course he does. But the journey he goes on to get there is just half of the point of Far From Home. The film is equally a journey for fans so that they can turn the page to the new, very promising future of the MCU. And judging by the palpable buzz of the audience that stayed ALL. THE. WAY. TO. THE. END. OF. THE. CREDITS, it’s one of the more accomplished Marvel Studios sure-fire hits to date.