July will be Ben’s Month of Reviews. Whilst I am currently on holiday (in York en route to Edinburgh to be precise), thanks to the magic of the Internet I am still able to write a whole bunch of reviews for recent fandom properties I’ve seen recently. First up, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, the second solo Tom Holland film and a film that features the big screen debut of one of Marvel’s coolest villains, Mysterio. How does it stack up? One of the best sequel’s Marvel’s ever done.
Eight months following the events of Endgame and the world is mourning Tony Stark. Peter Parker meanwhile wants to kick back, relax and finish his school year with his friends, all of whom were snapped and came back (isn’t that convenient?) and win over MJ. But this is Marvel, and Nick Fury is having none of it, hijacking Peter’s Europe trip and having him team up with the mysterious Quentin Beck in order to battle the Elementals.
Sounds simple right? And to an extent it is. This film is a decidley lesser affair than Endgame- the events of that film are referenced and linked to Far From Home but the film is mostly self contained. The legacy of Tony Stark, the effects the Snap had on Peter and his friends and how the world changed are all important but, more importantly, don’t overshadow the main story. Unlike Homecoming however, Far From Home is a globe trotting and far more action oriented film that is also considerably darker and complex than the first. It’s the Spider-Man 2 to Homecoming’s Spider-Man (2002). Is it as good as Raimi’s masterpiece? No, but it is my second favourite live-action Spidey film and for good reason.
The film is mainly focused on the idea of legacy. Whilst Iron Man obviously isn’t in the film, his metaphorical ghost is. Peter has lost his mentor and his Europe trip is a way to try and forget that and have fun but his responsibilities as Spider-Man get in the way. Throughout the film, Peter is forced to question his capabilities as a superhero as well as how Tony would want him to be- he joins the fight against the Elementals with hesitation but ultimately with the idea that Tony Stark would want him to do that but one thing Stark didn’t consider is that Peter is 16. He wants a normal holiday and is more worried about his relationships and education than deal with a world threatening event. This puts him at odds with Fury, who sees Peter as simply another superhero and also has Peter look up to Quentin Beck as perhaps the true successor to Iron Man. This conflict is fascinating- part of the strength of this version of the character is that the films can explore the troubles of being a teenage superhero in a far better way than previous versions could- whilst Tobey Maguire worried about rent and his job, Tom Holland worries about romance, friends and a desire to balance his normal life with superheroic deeds. The events of the Infinity Saga saw him play a part in saving the universe but at the end of the day he is still a kid and wants to stay that way. And because he is a kid, he makes mistakes that shape the narrative of the film.
I normally try to avoid spoilers in these reviews but honestly, everyone who reads comics knows the true villain and their motivations and he’s a big, unavoidable part of the film but for the sake of those who aren’t comic savvy I will issue a spoiler warning for this paragraph-
Quentin Beck is the villain and he’s Mysterio. He continues Marvel’s trend of great villains and with Jake Gyllenhaal at peak charisma Beck is a fascinating character. Mysterio sees Peter as a naive kid but ultimately doesn’t see him as a threat, which is a big mistake. Talk to anyone who’s seen the film and they’ll all mention a sequence in the second act that serves as the standout setpiece of the film- it’s a mind-blowing and inventive sequence that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible that cements Quentin Beck as one of the best and most dangerous villains Spider-Man has faced. I would love to see him return in future films, especially if we see Gyllenhaal go full Donnie Darko (aka: insane) next time.
The action in this film is a huge step up from Homecoming. The constant change in location makes the film stand out from the other MCU entries and Jon Watts does a great job making each colourful action scene (oh, and this film is COLOURFUL) feel like a comic book panel come to life. I love how the stakes are higher this time and that it’s not just Peter at risk- his school and friends are also under threat from the Elementals and this is a huge part as to why I think this sequel is better in every way (I do like Homecoming by the way)- the stakes and conflict faced by Peter are entirely personal and everything that occurs in the film is revolved around him, whether it’s the character conflicts and relationships or a city being destroyed. As a Brit it was also great seeing London feature heavily in the climax and being given a better showing than in The Dark World- the Queen’s Guard do things!
To me, Far From Home, like Batman Returns, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, X2, Hellboy II, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and The Winter Soldier, is a superhero sequel that completely surpasses the original. If you’re on the fence about the Marvel Cinematic Universes’s version of Spider-Man, and I know some are, then hopefully this film will dispel any doubt in your mind. It’s one of the best big screen showings for the character.