Updated: Dec 21, 2021
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is showing no signs of stopping. It is, perhaps, easing off on the accelerator a little, following the mammoth success of Avengers: Endgame (2019) (which is currently yapping at the heels of James Cameron's epic Avatar (2009) for the mantle of Highest Grossing Film Ever). Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) is the first post-Endgame entry in the series, closing what has been termed ‘Phase Three’ of the MCU. Whilst very much picking up where Endgame left off, Far from Home is effectively a John Hughes summer school trip teen comedy with added 'superhero'. Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man, played by an ever-engaging Tom Holland) still holds a candle for MJ (played again with deadpan humour by Zendaya), awkwardly trying to plan a way to tell her how he feels. Not if Nick Fury (a typically droll Samuel L. Jackson, in his tenth MCU appearance) has anything to do with it, however. He calls Spider-Man into action alongside a very effective Jake Gyllenhaal as 'Mysterio', a superhero from an alternate dimension Earth who has been enlisted by Fury to deal with a new threat: The Elementals. But Parker wants a break from the heroics, amusingly declining Nick Fury’s calls. He has other things on his mind.
Far from Home does a fine job of bridging the gap between the Endgame and the next 'phase' in the ongoing MCU juggernaut. This could have resulted in it seeming to exist in a kind of limbo with a lot of exposition to handle, thus hampering it from telling a story in its own right. However, it navigates this by quickly and efficiently dealing with unanswered questions from Endgame and getting on with re-introducing us to the main players. There is nothing particularly ground-breaking in terms of story in Far from Home, though the script is sharp and witty and the fun is to be found in the confident camaraderie amongst the cast.
Jacob Batalon again plays Peter Parker's best friend Ned, now joined by girlfriend Betty, played by Angourie Rice. (Think Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and you've pretty much got it). Tony Revolori returns as Spider-Man fanboy Flash Thompson, and Martin Starr’s Mr. Harrington, though rather ineffective as a figure of authority, is the embodiment of any teacher who has felt harried by an unexpected turn of events on a school trip; dropping his camera into a canal in Venice is the least of his problems. MCU stalwart Jon Favreau also returns as ‘Happy’ Hogan, mentor to Peter and romantically interested in Peter’s aunt May (Marisa Tomei).
Mentions of 'multiverses' are perhaps a sly nod to the charmingly mind-bending animated adventure Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018), as are the uneasy, reality-defying nightmare sequences which also allow director Jon Watts to acknowledge his background in horror. Michael Giacchino’s eclectic score jumps from evoking the sharp, staccato rhythms and repeating patterns of Bernard Herrmann to the swirling, melodic drama of the best of John Williams’ action scores, often in the same scene, imbuing the predictably slick action sequences with an intriguingly off-kilter quality. It is arguably his best work in an MCU film so far.
Much like Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) was a sparky antidote to the doom-laden Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Far from Home is a breezier, lighter affair following the emotional onslaught of Endgame. Marvel Studios are keeping their cards particularly close to their chest with regards to what happens next, but a funny, yet arguably divisive mid-credits scene hints at the inevitability of a third ‘Spider-Man’ film. The Scarlett Johansson-led Black Widow (2021) is the next confirmed entry in the MCU but, as Dan discussed in his review of X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), Disney are working their way around the ‘Monopoly’ board of Hollywood studios, snapping up anything that takes their fancy and, handily, any outstanding Marvel characters that haven’t yet been subsumed into the MCU. So, anything can happen and Marvel fans can rightly salivate at the prospect.
| To be continued... |