Because Spider-Man: Far From Home is the first major Marvel Cinematic Universe film set explicitly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the great responsibility resting on its shoulders is twofold. Not only does the movie have to bring its titular hero back down to Earth from the most epic adventure of his life, it also has the vital job of setting an overarching tone and perspective for the next phase of Marvel’s grand cinematic project. The great thing is that the film does all of that and a whole hell of a lot more.
Before you have a chance to settle into Far From Home’s initially smaller-scope story about Peter Parker’s life in the months following Endgame, co-writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers’ script playfully taps you on the shoulder, as if to let you know that it’s aware you’ve come into the movie expecting a wave of information about what’s been happening on Earth now that billions of people have been snapped back into existence.
Far From Home is very much an intimate story about Peter’s life, but it doesn’t try to ignore the fact that the MCU is now a very different place because Peter’s surroundings have a direct impact on the person he is. He’s still a teenager living a double life as a superhero, with an even larger support network now that Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) knows his secret, but he also died, came back to life, and became something of a global celebrity.
The MCU’s Peter being a teenager fighting alongside grown adults has always been one of the more interesting things about this take on the character, because it created an opportunity to contrast the kinds of growth he would go through as a result of his heroics. But director Jon Watts pushes that idea further with Far From Home—because it has to, post-Endgame—by introducing Spider-Man’s popularity with the public as a more important part of who Spider-Man™ is.
Spider-Man’s evolution as a hero in the public consciousness puts a fascinating kind of pressure on this kid from Queens, and Tom Holland navigates it well, skillfully delivering a performance that captures all of the anxieties and stresses that predicament entails. Peter, like all of his friends freshly returned from wherever Thanos snapped them, is growing up, but he’s still a kid, and he just wants to kick back and relax a little bit before the next time he has to save the world. A class trip around Europe provides Peter with the opportunity to do just that, but he packs knowing that now that he’s become an official Avenger, it’s only going to be so long before Nick Fury comes calling with another mission.
Peter’s desire to maintain some degree of balance between his personal and “professional” lives is something Far From Home really begins to emphasise in a way that feels reminiscent of classic Spider-Man comics. Though Peter does want to experience his high school years like a normal teenager, the time he spent Avenging with Tony Stark has left him with a sense of responsibility that makes it difficult for him to fully let go of his Spider-Man persona.
Stark is very much a part of Far From Home’s story, but not in a way that ever draws focus away from Peter or makes the movie feel as if it’s a stealth Iron Man film. But the Sony /Marvel project does feel like much more of a Marvel production compared to Homecoming, which almost seemed like it existed in its own discrete pocket within the larger MCU. When Nick Fury does finally call upon Peter to pump the brakes on his school trip to attend to the pressing Elemental threat facing the world, it’s because Peter truly is part of something far larger than his own neighbourhood now, and he’s one of the few superheroes alive with the kind of life experience to handle the new dangers that are popping up.
For all the confidence Tony had in Peter’s abilities to do the right thing, Fury is apprehensive, and Samuel L. Jackson introduces a new kind of exasperated weariness to his performance that feels fresh for the former SHIELD director. Even though the Avengers were ultimately able to fend off the greatest threat the universe has ever known, Fury understands there’s still so much out there that the world isn’t prepared for—and he needs to know that Peter has what it takes to be the kind of hero he can put his faith in as time goes on.
Fury’s sternness with Peter is balanced out by the solemn, but friendly energy that newcomer Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) brings to the table as a powerful new ally Fury’s partnered with in his fight against the Elementals terrorizing the planet. Far From Home never goes so far as to explicitly spell it out, but Quentin acts as a kind of surrogate mentor figure who gives Peter the kind of inspiration that Stark once would have, encouraging him to have faith in his innate skills and to trust his instincts, even when the people around him doubt him. Beck’s past gives him a reason to encourage Peter to embrace his life the way he wants to while also remembering why he first became a hero. Through their dynamic, Far From Home again comes back to the idea that Peter is learning how to carefully balance the two halves of his life.
But Peter’s arc is only one of the ways Far From Home uses dynamics from classic Spider-Man comics to make its story feel like a step forward for the Spider-Man film franchise, rather than just a riff on something you’ve already seen. Other characters like Zendaya’s MJ (yes, they’re calling her that now) begin to cleave closer to their comics counterparts in small, but significant ways that point to the future people they’re going to become. There are definitely sparks between Peter and MJ, but it’s really her distinct curiosity and blunt nosiness about everything around her that stands out because it feels very much in line with other modern incarnations of Mary Jane Watson. Aunt May has a life and ambitions that are separate from her relationship with Peter, and even Ned (Jacob Batalon) makes the effort to do things in Europe for himself despite the fact that Peter doesn’t want to tag along. Peter having to wear many hats depending on who he’s interacting with is an important part of who the character is, and Far From Home conveys that idea well without ever beating you over the head with it.
Far From Home does lay it on a little thick with the CGI-heavy action sequences, but they’re far from a chore to get through because of how legitimately cool most of them are. At multiple points in the film, Spider-Man flings himself through the air, web-shooters firing as he’s desperately trying to make sure that priceless ancient architecture doesn’t crumble and kill people, and the action unfolds in a way that really feels as if you’re watching a comic book come to life.
With Into the Spider-Verse still fresh in everyone’s minds, Far From Home had its work cut out for it to create action sequences that convey the frenetic, adrenaline rush you associate with webslinging. The film does a solid job of it, but the real visual standout moments all revolve around Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. There’s one sequence in particular that features some of the most imaginative set pieces yet to be featured in a Marvel film that far surpasses anything you saw in Doctor Strange or Infinity War.
What’s most satisfying about Far From Home, though, is that by the end, you have a very solid sense of where things are going for Peter and the gang, and it all feels very right. Just don’t forget to stay for the movie’s two post-credits stingers. It feels like the first step towards something bigger. Kevin Feige has insisted that Far From Home is the end of Marvel’s Phase Three, and while that may technically be true, it’s also more. It’s a big, bold leap for Spider-Man into the future of Marvel’s films, and it’s got a strong upward swing that easily makes it one of the better Spider-Man movies in the character’s history.