(Note: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to follow.)
The 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the eleventh Spider-Man film (third in eight months), and the sequel to both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Endgame (tired yet?), Spider-Man: Far from Home arrives with a peep. Overshadowed by Endgame and normalized by the endless stream of MCU movies every year, the latest wall-crawling adventure is nevertheless a fun and worthy installment.
Far from Home picks up after the events of Endgame. The world is recovering from "The Blip," the five years between the loss of half the population and everyone's sudden return. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is one of the revenants, but he's reeling from the death of Tony Stark. The beginning of the film suffers as a result. Far from Home has a lot of placeholder stuff that slows things down. It's very much a tweener film, as opposed to a standalone sequel.
Peter tries to snap out of it because his high school class is going to Europe. He's crushing hard on MJ (Zendaya) and the feelings are mutual. Meanwhile, in a bit of a reach, Betty Brandt (Angourie Rice) is introduced as Ned's (Jacob Batalon) girlfriend. Made by the Homecoming team of director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the film spends a lot of time in teen comedy territory, a welcome breather from the apocalyptic gravity of Endgame. Holland is sweet and easy to root for, Batalon is goofy and kind of annoying, and Zendaya remains a fidgety mystery. Her MJ is a cross between three different Joseph Gordon-Levitt characters. She's a big squinter.
Far from Home also introduces Jake Gyllenhaal as one of Spider-Man's greatest foes from the comics, Mysterio. Quentin Beck appears to be a new ally and mentor to Parker, but looks can be deceiving and the new villain adds a dose of needed trickery to the story. Mysterio and Spider-Man team up to battle the Elementals, CGI monsters who essentially appear in the forms of Sandman, Hydro-Man, Molten Man, and Cyclone (more comic villains) and are responsible for killing Beck's family. As Spidey tries to avoid trouble and concentrate on MJ, he's inevitably sucked into a cosmic battle that unfolds in an explosive, sometimes trippy, final act.
Speaking of trippy, Far from Home is very influenced by last year's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In addition to its acid test visuals, Far from Home also introduces the concept of a multiverse to the MCU. Mysterio claims to be from Earth-833, a planet in a parallel universe. The revelation opens infinite possibilities for the future of Spider-Man. As we saw in Into the Spider-Verse, there are many versions. Perhaps we'll meet zombie Spider-Man, or Spider-Girl, Peter Parker's daughter, or maybe Miles Morales will show up in the MCU.
While Far from Home works as a lighthearted action flick, I can't help but yearn for Spider-Man in his prime. Enough of Parker's coming of age, I want to see him cocky and kicking ass like he does in most of the comics. The best version yet is the courageous Peter Parker from Into the Spider-Verse who's killed about five minutes after showing up. Give me a movie of that guy. That's a superhero. But I digress...
Gyllenhaal's addition is likely what Far from Home will be remembered for. Villains are the one thing the MCU has struggled with at times. Here, the villain is complex, a step ahead, and played by a world-class actor who sells out for every role. There are moments when Gyllenhaal is so good, he's out of place, like when Orson Welles lent his voice to Transformers: The Movie. His presence gives the film instant credibility and danger, however. Knowing Spidey is up against a villain of this caliber is important. Mysterio is the best live-action Spider-Man villain since Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
Spider-Man: Far from Home fits in nicely beside the rest of the MCU. It also features mid and end credits scenes that'll make fans yearn for the next sequel. Marvel continues making fantastic popcorn fare audiences will undoubtedly eat up. They know their people. These movies may not always be sophisticated, and this one isn't, but they're marvelous spectacles — the comics brought to life.