Avengers: Endgame irrevocably changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The apocalyptic time-travel epic not only wrapped up a decade of narrative threads and character arcs, but set up a whole new world in which half of the population has blinked back into existence, five tumultuous years after being blinked out of it. How will the MCU address such universe-altering consequences?
The answer, as Spider-Man: Far From Home proves, is with the same considerable wit, boundless energy and tonal levity that made 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming such a joy. In its opening minutes, Far From Home establishes its post-Endgame world with a hilariously flippant extended gag sequence that doubles as a handy catch-up reel for those who skipped the second- biggest box office hit of all time. (Spoilers follow, if you too are in that camp.)
The good news is that Thanos is dead and dusted. The bad news is that Tony Stark is dead too. And while the world is clamouring for Spider-Man to take up Iron Man’s mantle as lead Avenger, poor Peter Parker (Holland) really needs a break. Just as Iron Man 3 saw Stark haunted by his trip through the Chitauri wormhole in Avengers Assemble, Endgame’s endgame casts a shadow over Parker, now grieving his mentor’s untimely death and hoping to relinquish his super-suit for a little while — less a Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man-No-More than a Spider-Man-not-right-now.
An upcoming school trip across Europe is just the opportunity Parker needs to both put his heroism on hold and declare his feelings for the brilliant, beautiful, and slightly terrifying MJ (Zendaya) — hatching a romantic plan for the holiday involving the Eiffel Tower and her favourite flower, the black dahlia (“Like the murder”). Ned (Jacob Batalon), meanwhile, reckons he and his best bud will be “American bachelors in Europe”, bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) has become a swaggering vlogger who broadcasts to his #flashmob, and teacher Mr Harrington (a consistently hilarious Martin Starr) is still one lost student away from a total breakdown.
Faces Endgame’s monolithic legacy head-on, before leaving it behind to embark on its own globetrotting adventure.
Just as Homecoming was a whip-smart John Hughes-inspired teen comedy that also happened to be a Spider-Man movie, Far From Home would fly by without any interrupting superheroics. The impeccable Spidey-sense of humour from the previous film isn’t quite as well-honed here (a recurring gag about J.B. Smoove’s teacher believing in witchcraft never lands, while Ned and Peter’s golden double-act gets less screen time), but returning director Jon Watts clearly relishes the coming-of-age touchstones afforded by his teen hero, this time combining the Hughes influence with a Eurotrip-inspired vision of Europe (a brief jaunt to the Netherlands is improbably populated with windmills, tulips galore, and kindly sports hooligans).
But superheroics do, inevitably, interrupt when Nick Fury (Jackson) hijacks the school trip, recruiting Spidey to battle destructive elemental creatures alongside Jake Gyllenhaal’s newly arrived hero Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio — purporting to hail from the same alternate dimension as the monsters. Watts nailed the localised Queens setting of Homecoming, but clearly delights in the possibilities of taking the friendly Spider-Man out of his neighbourhood — Parker now contending with crumbling architecture, crowds of sightseers, and enemies unaffected by his webs. The director gets maximum mileage out of Spider-Man’s status as the most acrobatic Avenger, punctuating the action set-pieces with dizzying flips and thwips, most effectively in a slick showdown on London’s Tower Bridge.
After Homecoming saw Parker working under the tutelage of Tony Stark, the Iron Man-shaped void brings three new potential father-figures into his life. Mysterio, in a typically non-traditional MCU twist on the source material, is now his co-worker and confidante, offering companionship and empathy for Parker’s latest loss. And then there’s Fury, Jackson back on mischievously imperious form, both lamenting that Earth’s most available hero is a literal schoolkid and relishing the chance to brandish his considerable authority over him. And after spending much of Homecoming fielding Parker’s needy voicemails, Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan now bonds with the youngster through their shared grief and fear of Fury — all while striking up a secret relationship with Aunt May (Tomei). It’s testament to Watts that these character threads dovetail neatly without jostling for screentime, bringing even more emotional depth to the MCU’s Spidey-verse.
If the buddy relationship between Parker and Beck initially feels bland, Gyllenhaal later shakes up his vanilla heroism, the film switching up a gear just as it appears to be going through the motions. There’s no equivalent rug-pull to the Vulture reveal in Homecoming — anyone who took Spidey Comics 101 will see a major development coming — but Watts stages his upping-of-the-stakes moment with a jolt of energy that spurs a wickedly fun second half, boasting surprising ties to the minutiae of the MCU that reach right back to the franchise beginnings. Not only that, but Far From Home unexpectedly delivers the series’ most thrillingly mind-bending imagery since Doctor Strange had his third eye opened by The Ancient One.
Despite everything else going on, Far From Home charmingly never loses sight of Peter’s quest to ask out MJ. The couple’s would-be-romance is sweet and endearing, but not sickly in the slightest — and Zendaya shines, dropping razor-wire zingers with deadpan delight. Tom Holland remains a note-perfect Spider-Man — still funnier and more believably teenage than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s incarnations. While Far From Home finds him desperate to take the weight of the world off his shoulders, Holland never loses the ebullient spark that makes him one of the MCU’s most endearing figures.
Far From Home is a looser film than Homecoming, with pacing that occasionally slackens, and a compulsion to give every minor character time to shine. But it’s a light-footed summer blockbuster that faces Endgame’s monolithic legacy head-on, before leaving it behind to embark on its own globetrotting adventure. The MCU doesn’t need a new Iron Man yet — Far From Home proves it’s more than safe in the web-slinging hands of Spider-Man.