Spider-Man: Far From Home is in the unenviable position of following an Avengers movie; never mind the fact that said movie is now the highest grossing movie of all time. Marvel movies that follow Avengers movies are usually, how exactly do I put this? Okay, they mostly suck. Let’s go through the list of the esteemed group that Far From Home has now entered, of the movies that followed Avengers team-ups and famously (as far as this blog is concerned) are fucking awful.
Following the success of Joss Whedon’s first Avengers team-up, Iron Man 3 made over a billion dollars at the box office despite being only half the movie Iron Man was – though at least one and a half more movie than Iron Man 2.
In a strange role reversal, Ant-Man, despite its storied production problems, was probably more successful than it deserved to be thanks to the disappointment surrounding Age of Ultron. If you’ve kept up with the series then you already know I hate the Ant-Man movies, so I’ll only waste a little more time on them: Infinity War’s staggering cliff-hanger mean’t that Ant-Man’s low-stakes fun was a bad fit for the follow-up to the snap. While it’s placement in the series makes sense, thanks to Scott Lang’s importance in Endgame, Ant-Man and the Wasp feels completely inessential.
So, where does Far From Home fit in this specialized category? Unsurprisingly, it is the best post-Avengers MCU movie so far and, due to Marvel’s new slate of films missing an Avengers movie, Spidey will hold that title for at least the next five years.
Now, I love Spider-Man, I thought Homecoming was great, and anytime Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is on screen in any MCU movie is an absolute joy; even when he’s turning to dust (no, you’re crying!). Yet, overall I was disappointed in Far From Home. As I said, I think it is a good movie but there is a tension here that pulls this sequel in two different directions. This is both a sequel to Homecoming and Endgame at the same time, and despite the welcome inclusion of Nick Fury and Maria Hill (okay, it wasn’t actually them, but that had no impact on the plot) the movie’s biggest strength is constantly fighting its biggest weakness.
As a sequel to Homecoming, Far From Home is great. It’s a little annoying that Peter decides that he’s into Mary-Jane between movies (perhaps he was doing a full background check to make sure her dad wasn’t a super-villain, Tony does have the technology and this cinematic universe plays fast and loose with the personal freedoms of the populace) but the sweet teen comedy wrapped up in a superhero action adventure story is a formula that still sings when you have characters and performances this good. Homecoming was great because it played with the idea that Peter wanted to be an Avenger more than he wanted to be himself (that goes for his alter-ego as well).
Homecoming and the first two Sam Raimi Spiderman movies are great because Peter’s heroism actually has a huge effect on his personal life. Homecoming has Peter ditch a party to Ferris Buller his way to an arms deal, thus showing were his priorities lie. Spider-Man 2 opens with Peter trying to deliver a fucking pizza. This is the sequel to the biggest superhero movie of the time, and it’s confident enough to show how human its hero is from the very beginning. Far From Home switches Peter’s priorities to a more Raimi-inspired direction. This is Tom Holland and company doing tried and tested Spider-Man. When he wants to see an opera with his crush, fucking elemental creatures attack Venice. In Homecoming, the chance to be an Avenger was used as a symbol for Peter wanting to grow up too fast, thus he refuses the call at the end of the movie. Far From Home has this adulthood thrust upon him through Tony Stark’s dying wish. Herein lies the problem.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is not a good sequel to Avengers: Endgame. As much as Tony’s faith in Peter will be rewarded in future movies, Spider-Man is not the next Iron Man. I would argue that the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t need a new Iron Man. Does Robert Downey Jr’s departure leave a charismatic and comedic hole in proceedings? Well, guess what, all of your heroes are comedic and charismatic. The symbolic Iron Man suit is not a good fit for this corner of the franchise and it gets in the way of an extremely enjoyable superhero rom-com.
Ticking the romance box
I love Peter and Mary-Jane. I’m not usually a shipper (I know I’ve definitely said that before) but I want these crazy kids to make it. The scene in which the two swing around Manhattan is absolutely hilarious, and MJ’s mini-arc into being more open is sweet and well-handled.
Wasted Great Villain Corner
If you were shocked at Mysterio being the real villain, allow me to patronize you for a minute. This is how trailers work: all of the footage released of this movie had Spidey and Mysterio joining forces to take on personality-free monsters. We don’t see any other recognisable villains. This always means that the supposed hero is going to be the actual villain. Okay, I’m done. Jake Gylenhaal was fantastic as Mysterio – unlike the Vulture in Homecoming (whose best feature is that he is played by the wonderful Michael Keaton) ,Mysterio got some hefty screen time, even after he did his heel turn. He may also be the most prescient, on-the-nose, superhero villain of our era: as he gives us spectacle and flashing images so that we believe him. His death is still fucking stupid though, very much inkeeping with Spidey villians accidentally killing themselves.
Far From Home falls short of being a truly great Spider-Man movie thanks to the Avengers weighting it down. I hope the next one will be more standalone – and give Tom Holland’s Peter Parker more time to shine on his own terms.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via ScreenGeek.Net)