The sun rises, and the sun sets. Winter becomes spring becomes summer becomes fall, and then back to winter. The tides rise and fall. And Marvel has a new superhero blockbuster in theaters. Such is the way of things. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been ubiquitous for over a decade, and not even the narrative finale that was “Avengers: Endgame” will slow it down. The Marvel franchise is entering it’s next epoch, and ushering us toward this “Phase Four” is “Spider-man: Far From Home.”
And “Far From Home” is a decent enough film. Peter “Spider-man” Parker (Tom Holland) is (spoilers ahead) back from the dead, or “The Blip,” as the film dubs the universal culling of life caused by the villain Thanos in “Infinity War.” While “Endgame” saw many of those lives restored, the world is still coping with the heroic sacrifices that restoration required. In particular, Parker is grappling with the loss of his mentor, Tony “Iron Man” Stark. To escape the stress of filling Stark’s shoes, Parker plans to slip away and enjoy his high school trip through Europe.
Unfortunately for Parker, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other plans, as a new world-ending threat is making appearances in Europe. Outside Parker, the only hero available to combat this threat is Quenton “Mysterio” Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), an interdimensional warrior who takes a liking to Peter. Thus, Spider-man finds himself caught between aiding Fury and Beck while keeping his identity secret from his vacationing classmates, including his crush MJ (Zendaya). Things are only made more complicated when the true nature of the apocalyptic threat and Mysterio’s connection to it come to light.
There’s a certain frivolity to many scenes in “Far From Home,” especially following the epic scope of “Endgame.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as there’s a good deal of fun to be had in the cartoonish antics of Parker’s teenage classmates and their flustered chaperones. Holland himself does a good job of playing the anxious young teen striving to be a hero, as does Zendaya playing the flippant, sarcastic MJ.
The movie has the all quips and banter that the Marvel movies usually mistake for characterization, and it even manages a few fun characters in the process. Make no mistake, it’s still a Marvel movie, and as such, the climax wouldn’t be complete without an extended action sequence full of infrastructure exploding and Spider-man making death defying flips on his webs. Despite the film’s somewhat lighter tone, Parker manages to take quite the beating during the action sequences.
There’s a line between serious and silly “Far From Home” valiantly tries to walk, but it doesn’t always keep its balance. In some moments, it leans into its comic book goofiness, with Parker pulling off a superhero stunt while his classmates’ backs are turned. Other times, it’s deconstructing its comic book roots, with monsters that are quite literally movie magic and a villain who refers to an “Avengers-level threat” as a spectacle to be built. There’s an ambitious combination of storytelling styles on display, but the juxtaposition can be jarring.
There’s also the elephant in the room that is accessibility. “Far From Home” isn’t a movie that makes concessions for those who haven’t seen all 23 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie mostly assumes you know who Tony Stark was, why he’s gone, and what sort of relationship he and Peter Parker had. And that’s not even touching the references to “Captain Marvel” or “Doctor Strange.” “Far From Home” isn’t quite incomprehensible without context, but the more movies that are made like it, the sooner that will be the case.
“Spider-man: Far From Home” isn’t a Marvel movie that distinguishes itself, like the exceptionally good “Thor: Ragnarok,” but it doesn’t make any great gaffs in the process either. If you enjoy Marvel movies, “Far From Home” is like most of them, and its palatable enough on its own merits as well.