Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
Released only two months ago, Avengers: Endgame changed the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever. It was the ending of a saga that began over ten years before with 2008’s Iron Man and was a winning, satisfactory wrap-up. And yet it wasn’t even the end of what Marvel calls Phase 3. But if Spider-Man: Far From Home is the epilogue to the Avengers saga, it is an epilogue written in ALL CAPS.
The movie opens shortly after the events of Endgame . The world is recovering from what is being referred to as “the blip,” in which one-half of the Earth’s population disappeared for five years before suddenly reappearing following the defeat of Thanos. This means that while half of the people on Earth have aged five years, the other half is the same age as they were before they disappeared. Conveniently for this movie, it seems as if all of Peter’s classmates most crucial to the plot disappeared just like him, and so their class remains intact, the same age, and ready for their class trip across Europe.
Peter has been looking forward to this trip for multiple reasons. First, he hopes that the romantic European settings could help him woo M.J., whom he apparently developed a major infatuation for while he was in the blip. And second, he hopes the trip can be an escape from the unexpected pressure that has been suddenly thrust on Spider-Man as the world looks to find the next Iron Man. Unfortunately for Peter, his trip is overtaken by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., who need his help fighting off four giant creatures based on the natural elements of the planet—earth, wind, fire, and water—called Elementals. Fortunately, a soldier from another version of Earth named Quentin Beck has traveled from another dimension to help.
The decision to release Spider-Man: Far From Home so near to the release of Avengers: Endgame seems to come into conflict with the decision to set the film in various European cities, rather than returning to the New York high school of the previous film. The release date timing would suggest that the movie might deal with the immediate aftereffects of Endgame, such as Peter coping with the return to a high school classroom after fighting alien creatures in space and disappearing for five solid years, but the setting forces the movie to blow over that entire experience as if it all happened off-screen. For example, when this movie opens, Peter is already completely head-over-heels for M.J. and ready to profess his love, even though there was barely a hint of an attraction in Spider-Man: Homecoming. That’s not saying the attraction couldn’t have developed off-screen, but it might have felt more genuine had this movie come out a year after Endgame, instead of barely over two months.
How this movie most closely ties into the events of Endgame—and be warned, a major spoiler for Avengers: Endgame follows—is its question of who will fill the void left by the death of Tony Stark. Nick Fury, the world’s media, and even Tony from beyond the grave seem to want Peter to pick up that mantle, but Peter is not so sure. The crux of the movie is him deciding if he is ready to be a leader. It is a lot to ask for a teenager who is comfortable just being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. When Quentin Beck shows up from another dimension looking like Thor reborn, Peter thinks that maybe he might be better suited for the job.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the biggest addition to the cast as Beck, the mysterious man who shows up out of thin air to help fight the Elementals, quickly earning the nickname of Mysterio. Mysterio is the highlight of the movie, with Gyllenhaal creating some sort of mix between Iron Man, Thor, and his character from Nightcrawler. Aside from a very awkward scene in the middle that is a lazy and unnecessary exposition dump, Gyllenhaal shines. And his chemistry with Tom Holland as Peter is terrific, both onscreen and off, as anyone who has seen one of their joint interviews can attest.
One of the biggest problems with the movie, though, is the action scenes. They are a wild blur of special effects that makes it incredibly difficult to tell what is going on from one moment to the next. Perhaps that is intentional, given the direction this movie goes in with its lead villain, but nevertheless, they generate little interest and make it a little too easy to zone out and wonder where in the world are the rest of the Avengers. It is another side effect from having this movie come out so soon after Endgame that it doesn’t seem reasonable that Peter is forced to handle things on his own, even when characters are referring to the events of the film as “an Avengers-level event.” Sure, Iron Man and Cap are gone, but where is Sam, Bucky, Wanda, and the rest?
There is a lot of fun to be had in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Tom Holland is great, again, as Peter/Spider-Man, the villain is terrific, and the movie has plenty of laughs to go around, but it might be the first movie in the MCU to feel like it is out of place. The unnamed next film in the franchise is not expected for another ten months and it feels like Far From Home maybe would have worked better had it split the difference between Endgame and whatever that film ends up being.
Spider-Man: Far From Home opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Stadium Landing 14 in Renton.