As fans anticipated the release of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the pressures that preceded the film were comparable to few Marvel projects. The movie is the second Spider-Man installment under the production of Keven Feige and Marvel Studios, and represents the final piece in the franchise’s 23-film story arc that first began with 2008’s “Iron Man.”
“Far From Home” was seemingly placed with the weight of Thor’s lightning-infused hammer on its back, as it closed out Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and now jumpstarts the franchise’s new direction. Ironically, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is confronted with these same pressures. The red web-slinger is tasked by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the world in a post-Iron Man era, all while balancing his life as a mildly awkward 16-year-old kid from Queens.
It’s a symbolic telling. As Spider-Man, Parker is forced to replace Tony Stark, a hero that was once the face of “The Avengers” and a mentor who built him up to become his successor, and now, has given him the opportunity to take on his former position and lead a new era. And like Holland’s fictional counterpart, “Spider-man: Far From Home” delivers.
It’s clear, Holland has solidified himself as the definitive Spider-man of this generation. The 23-year-old British actor captures the essence of the character, who’s often split between his responsibilities as an Avenger, his desire to garner the attention of his high school crush, MJ, played by Zendaya, and wanting to take a break from the world of crime fighting.
It’s a polarity that’s long-stood in the comics, and one that was effectively carved out by Holland and director Jon Watts. Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Mysterio also added much needed depth to the film. For a “villain” many fans didn’t envision would ever be on the big screen, Gyllenhaal perfectly internalizes the character’s illusionistic elements from the comics and 1990s “Spider-Man” animated series, making his presence one of the more compelling among Marvel’s slough of iconic antagonists.
Unlike 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Far From Home” is unevenly multi-layered, with each act presenting a completely different variation of the film. The first 45 minutes is largely filled with forgettable exposition points, and at times, the movie suffers from rigid tonal shifts and pacing that lessens a few of its emotionally-driven and comedic moments.
But by the start of the second act on forward, the film packs the best action sequences in Marvel’s film canon, and undeniably the most thrilling out of the three Spider-Man franchises. The dynamic between the main characters was a lot stronger, especially with Zendaya as MJ, who frees herself from her thinly-shadowed role in “Homecoming.” And through Watts’ direction, he evenly maintains the film’s teen-comedy feel, while forging its comic book components at an equilibrium.
“Far From Home” doesn’t quite reach the mark of its predecessor, but the film establishes itself as a viable insertion following the events of “End Game.” It’s uncertain what direction the MCU is headed, but with Holland’s Spider-Man at the helm, fans should be excited to embark on the franchise’s narrative travels going into Phase 4, wherever it may take them.