This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
hayden’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The MCU’s treatment of Spider-Man is something I have a love-hate relationship with. There is no doubt that the various creative teams behind Peter’s most recent cinematic appearances have got a lot right and have pushed such a beloved character in new and interesting directions. But for every cool, innovative, or accurate portrayal, there always seems to be a new fault; something either dumb or just nonsensical, if one were to consider the fundamental lore of the character. However, Spider-Man: Far from Home gets more right in a well-rounded sense. This is a very entertaining film that pays homage to nearly everything it should; classic Spidey, the Avengers films, and Homecoming Spidey. It has become apparent that on a rewatch, my appreciation for Far from Home has flown way up, with the overwhelming positives thankfully blinding me to its numerous faults.
Let’s get it out of the way. My biggest problem with Tom Holland’s second solo, web-slinging adventure is the lack of clarity around his origin. Now, I tried very hard on this rewatch to see everything for an MCU Spidey, as the vision of Kevin Feige and the team of creatives behind the various appearances of this Peter, and, unfortunately, as a character that is still yet to be fully fleshed out. Within the next year, we will (hopefully) get what will be Holland’s sixth appearance as Spider-Man in this cinematic universe, yet we the audience still have no idea why he’s here in the first place. We know it wasn’t Tony that inspired his crimefighting pursuits and we definitely know it wasn’t Cap’s crimes in Civil War that convinced him to don the web shooters. We know this because Peter said to Tony, in 2016, that he felt some responsibility for having his ability. So, is this just a self-driven mission? Is Peter doing all of this just because he’s a swell, all round lovely guy? I don’t know and I really don’t care what they choose at the end of the day. Truly, I just hope they do choose something to fill this void.
My theory? I am honoured you asked. If you look at the way this universe’s Aunt May is written, she appears to be very happy-go-lucky, pretty fun, a bit flirty, and definitely a bit of a laugh. For someone who, in nearly all versions of mainstream Spider-Man lore, lost their husband when Peter was the age he is here, she really seems to be on top of the world. Thus, this leads me to think the writers in charge of this version of these characters, if they get their act together and do anything at all, are going to cancel the “From great power comes great responsibility” speech of Ben’s and come up with something new entirely. And as I said above, I really don’t care what this is, but so far we’ve seen this Peter leave May entirely helpless as he travels to space, we’ve seen him kill in cold blood, we’ve heard him only shallowly explain his motives and we’ve seen him want to give up the mantle of being an Avenger, all in the span of, what, 5 years? If this version of Spidey is to really go down as the strongest, the team at Marvel need to get a better grip on why New York’s arachnid saviour really is what he is.
With that aside, let me fire out everything I love most about this movie. Firstly, I think this is the funniest superhero film to date, a title that stretches all properties and studios. Holland is so on-top of his chemistry with Ned here and, although we see less of them together, every moment is gold. Everything between Betty and him is hilarious, with Peter’s confusion being beautifully entertaining. Likewise, every super awkward exchange between him and MJ is perfect, and just how a failing, nerdy high schooler would interact with the girl of his dreams. Fury feels pretty forced though, with one of the cringiest jokes of all time rearing its ugly head some 30 minutes in. Also, I like Happy the most here than in any of his other appearances. His relationship with May makes for some comedic moments, and his scene with Peter in the Netherlands is quite a touching moment. A special mention also goes out to Mr Harrington and Mr Dell, for being the dead set best teachers to go on an international excursion with.
The first time I saw Far from Home, I had a major gripe with how much Peter went on and on about his responsibility as the next Iron Man, as the next Tony Stark. And it really erked me, because I wanted to see a Spider-Man that took responsibility and had his origin with Uncle Ben and had a strong moral code. But for whatever reason, I resonated with this struggle a lot more today. Peter doesn’t want this responsibility – he wants to help out in his neighbourhood where he can and, most importantly, enjoy his youth. So, when he comes across Quentin Beck, a man who just single-handedly saved the entire planet, Peter sees the perfect out. Do I believe that a Spider-Man deeply in-touch with the morals of responsibility would hand over E.D.I.T.H. to a total stranger? No, I don’t. But would a teenager struggling with the duality of identity? Yeah, he definitely would. And for that, I’d say that Far from Home builds on the titular character from his previous outing with Vulture very well. Peter doesn’t know what he wants in the grand scheme of things, but he knows what he wants in the moment – he literally spells it out to us, which also helps in the praise of these ideas.
Similarly, the reveal of Beck as Mysterio bothered me a lot the first time, because it was so obvious to so many of us in the audience that he was the villain – it felt almost an insulting twist (similar to that in WandaVision). I felt that the shock factor on the viewer was almost non-existant, and that fuelled my drive to prove this movie’s mediocrity. However, I must say that the reveal plays very well, if viewed through Peter’s eyes. As mentioned above, he can finally feel the burden of being the next Big-Boss Avenger, if you will, when he gives Beck access to Stark’s security system. You can see his change in posture and dynamic altogether when he knows that everything is back to normal; right up until he finds the illusion tech. The distress that Peter shows to Happy, MJ and to a fraudulent Nick Fury is so immense, and Holland plays it very well. Although this reveal may have felt cheap to the audience, I think it undeniably hits different if you can appreciate the position of Peter.
Spider-Man: Far from Home is a fantastically entertaining piece of genre cinema. It has all the gags, all the action, all the interesting character drama and touches on ideas (in league with the understanding of children) of trust, responsibility, and consequence to keep the story thematically relevant. Peter could very well be on his way to a fully fleshed out identity in the MCU yet – we’ll have to wait and see. For a film I once labelled as ‘pretty good,’ I’m relieved to say that this film is in fact pretty brilliant.