It would be perfectly understandable if fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise thought that April’s “Avengers: Endgame” was the promised climax of Phase 3, the most important and longest storyline arc in over ten years of the interconnected superhero movie series. It was the conclusion to the epic cliffhanger of “Avengers: Infinity War” last 2018 after all. And really, seeing the existentially threatening cosmic baddie first revealed at the end of Phase 1 go down seems like an appropriate saga sendoff, before new stories are told. But that final ending actually takes place in “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” which is actually thematically right.
The second solo Spider-Man movie produced under the rights-sharing partnership of Marvel Studios and Sony-Columbia, “Far from Home” returns current web-head portrayer Tom Holland on his fourth MCU adventures (two solos and two as “part” of a team), alongside director Jon Watts and the rest of the cast from 2016’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” While that film managed to stand on its own story-wise with only setting-necessitated ties to the larger MCU, “Far from Home” actually plays up on the aftermath of the larger storyline involving Thanos. It is hard to explain that without resorting to spoilers.
So here we go: “Infinity War” ended with Thanos using the Infinity Stones to wipe 50% of all life in the universe. Among those affected were Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) and, as we learn in “Endgame” and “Far from Home,” most of his high school class and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), among others. They are restored five years after “Infinity War” (assuming that occurred in 2019, so in 2024) with a changed world. To help them settle in 8 months after coming back from “The Blip,” Peter’s class is given a European tour, which he plans to exploit in order to confess his feelings for classmate Michelle “MJ” Jones (Zendaya).
But this little busman’s holiday takes an unexpected detour when one-time SHIELD boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up during the class tour’s Venice stop. He takes Peter to meet Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a caped figure wielding energy blasts that claims to be from an alternate Earth that was destroyed by humanlike natural forces called the Elementals. Fury and his right hand Maria Hill (Cobie Smoulders) have been tracking and fighting the Elementals across the globe, and need Peter as Spider-Man to help out, citing how most of the Avengers and affiliated heroes are either off-world, or dead.
And that brings us to one of Peter’s current internal baggage going into this film: the death of his mentor figure Tony Stark/Iron Man back in “Endgame.” Sorry for the spoilers, again. Peter is already busy juggling Fury’s Elemental-hunt mission, with keeping up appearances with his class. When he receives an inheritance from Stark that he feels completely unprepared for, he takes solace in the jaded veteran counsel of Beck, whom he starts seeing as a worthy new hero for the post-Avengers world; if only that were actually true, however.
Okay, no more reveals from this point on. What can be surmised even from the pre-release trailers is that Peter is now reluctantly going into the bigger grow-up world of superhero responsibility. His adventure in “Homecoming” was already stretching his friendly neighborhood hero gimmick, and the team-up with Fury and Beck against the Elementals was just unneeded escalation. Suffice to say that Tom Holland nails the characterization of a street hero pondering the prospect of becoming something more after the passing of the giant figure that showed him the way.
But optimally a single actor should not have to carry the burden of making the film a blockbuster, and thankfully the ensemble for “Far from Home” is great. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury does not need much explanation, and it was great to see him do more than cameo. Jake Gyllenhaal as Beck is pretty awesome as the new super-powered figure on the block, and his dynamics with Holland’s Peter is splendid. Beck’s power set is a groundbreaking example of pushing superhero SFX to new heights, though I will not elaborate on that. Finally, the Peter-MJ ship will not be as effective as it was in the film if not for Holland and Zendaya.
The solid characterization for the supporting cast of Peter’s other prominent classmates – Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), and Flash (Tony Revolori) – help to sell his driving sense of responsibility in keeping them safe during this potentially dangerous European trip. His dynamics with May (Tomei) and Stark Industries higher-up Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) provide a sense of heartwarming and humor that every MCU film should never be without. For all intents and purposes nothing can go wrong with “Far from Home,” except perhaps that they might go overboard in mirroring certain story beats from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” three years ago. Whether that is a bad thing or not, depends on you and your MCU franchise investment.
In retrospect, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is the “epilogue” kind of ending for the part of the MCU that revolved around Thanos and the Infinity Stones, where “Avengers: Endgame” was the “climax” kind. It helps to wind down from the cosmic-level storytelling that the franchise took recently, by presenting a “manageable” level of danger. And it cements the blockbuster potential that Sony-Columbia’s sharing arrangement with Marvel Studios has with Spider-Man movies in the future. When not obsessing over film rights ownership, the Friendly Neighborhood Marvel superhero can be the icon that he needs to be.
Image from Den of Geek