Spider-Man: Far From Home sees our young hero Peter Parker (Tom Holland) still processing the events of Avengers: Endgame; he’s lost his mentor, Tony Stark, and he and most of his friends have been blipped back into a world where five years went by without them. Peter is eager for the opportunity to take a break: a school trip to Europe, where he intends to pursue his new-found crush on MJ (Zendaya). But of course, fate has other plans, as Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) pops up to recruit Peter to battle a new peril: the Elementals, monsters from another universe who threaten to destroy the planet. Luckily, Peter has help in the form of Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a resident of the Elementals’ alternate Earth, who is powerful, heroic, and totally trustworthy…
I’m sorry to say that the first half hour of this film was painful, being almost entirely devoted to high school drama and “comedy”. Yes, those things made up a significant portion of Spider-Man: Homecoming, but in that film, Peter’s fellow students were tolerable, certainly no worse than boring. Here, most of them – Ned, Flash, Betty, Peter’s love rival Brad, and especially the chaperones – are cringeworthy, and given too much screentime to deliver jokes that aren’t even funny. Zendaya as MJ (who is now referred to as MJ throughout instead of Michelle, though she’s still no Mary Jane Watson) isn’t annoying, simply by virtue of being quiet and snarky instead of in-your-face, but I still found it hard to buy or care about Peter’s attraction to her. Rather like with Harry Potter and Cho Chang, if I wanted the male protagonist to win the object of his affections, it was more because I cared about his happiness than because the girl was a well-rounded character who was a good match for him.
Fortunately, once the main plot involving superheroics and soul-searching gets going, it makes up for the more irritating and less interesting content. Once again, things are turned up a notch from Homecoming, but this time in a good way. Continuing in the same vein of doing things as differently as possible from previous Spider-Man films, having him move between different European locations like a spy movie gives a nice dose of variety. Tom Holland is still excellent as Peter Parker, still balancing the strength of a superhero with the vulnerability of a teenager who feels in over his head, and is even more unsure of himself following the death of his greatest supporter. I would have liked a little more time spent on Peter’s feelings about Tony, though.
Then there’s Mysterio. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, and you know anything about Mysterio, you’re going to see the film’s big twist coming a mile off – but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining; the resulting plot developments lead to some fantastic mind-bending moments and action set pieces in the second half. The general concept of Mysterio is adapted very well into the established world of the MCU; even his traditional look, complete with fishbowl head, is brought to life without being laughable. Jake Gyllenhaal is clearly having a great time in the role, portraying Quentin Beck with plenty of charisma and panache. Finally, there’s a surprise cameo in the mid-credits scene that is absolutely wonderful.
Compared to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the superhero element of Spider-Man: Far From Home is even better – but the high school element is much, much worse. So overall, it balances out to be about the same quality. Rating: 3.5/5.