Spiderman: Far From Home (2019) review

Best described as a palette cleanser after the emotional devastation of Avengers Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home is a (slightly) lower stakes affair, with a well paced narrative, albeit with some tonal issues. It boasts a compelling villain and mostly funny jokes, that’ll send it down as one of the better standalone MCU flicks. I still feel that ENDgame would’ve been a more fitting finale to phase three, but there you go.

Where Far From Home excels is in its well rounded, likeable characters. The cast from Spiderman: Homecoming returns, in addition to MCU alumni Nick Fury and Maria Hill. The greatest strength is the seemingly genuine chemistry between Tom Holland’s Peter and Zendaya’s MJ. As per the Spidey formula, the turmoil of trying to balance a normal life superhero heroics is at the forefront of the narrative, which is a welcome change from the ‘happy-go-lucky’ Peter, so far given to us. Holland and Zendaya both put in the work, creating organic chemistry founded on a teenage awkwardness that is both adorable and cringe inducing.

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The wider cast are also strong, though for the first time in eleven years, Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury seems a bit phoned in. After 10+ appearances, that might be understandable, but it could be time for the one eyed wonder to think about retirement. What is not phoned in, however, is the charismatic aura of Jake Gyllenhaal, now filling the ‘veteran actor’ chasm left by Michael Keaton. His portrayal of Quinten Beck, Mysterio, is menacing, funny, and endearing all at once. The MCU has a fantastic way of taking silly, golden age villains and updating them to be both sympathetic and modernised. Mysterio will go down as one of the greats, up there with Thanos, Killmonger, and the Vulture. There’s a reason Spiderman has a venerated rogues gallery, and I look forward to seeing this universe’s remixes of Doc Ock, Green Goblin, and Venom (please leave Tom Hardy where he is) in the future.

The main negative aspect of Far From Home is in its tone, one of the wider MCU’s weaknesses. Its solo films in particular often come under fire for having too much forced comedy and Spidey is unfortunately no exception. The tone is jarring at times, and key dramatic moments are often defused by a stupid, unnecessary quip. This is fine for the majority of the run, but the balance tips too far into pure (not always funny) comedy. Spiderman is a hero built on his struggles, so when his struggles become a punchline, he is instantly less compelling. Equally, the high school elements at the heart of Homecoming feel out of place here, and annoyingly diminish the impact of darker moments. The cast are still likeable, but it seems time for their role to be reduced as we move into a more adult, traditional Spiderman story.

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Otherwise, however, there is little to complain about. Michael Giacchino updates his already wonderful Homecoming score to be a little darker, with heavier brass instruments and more minor chords. It’s therefore a bit of a shame that the action on screen doesn’t reflect this new direction. What do reflect this though, are the visual effects, which are stunningly intuitive. With a character like Mysterio to play with, the artists are clearly taking joy in going ‘full Inception,’ and the results are a joy to watch. Walls become floors, costumes change in a heartbeat, and some fairly disturbing imagery is shown, which is always welcome in the overly light and fluffy MCU. Finally, director Jon Watts brings a more mature approach to the action, an element lacking in the previous film. There is much more creativity and variety in the set pieces, particularly as characters use their environment to their advantage, which is a nice way to shake things up. The spectacle of the various city’s architecture is also a welcome change from The New York focused battles of prior films.

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In review, Spiderman: Far From Home is a solid solo adventure. Though it has frustrating tonal issues exacerbated by the need to conform to the ‘MCU formula,’ it’s still a well written, fun time with enough twists and turns to keep you invested. I can’t overstate how well the action has improved too, making huge fight scenes a joy, rather than a slog, to sit through. Coupled with some A list acting by Mr. Gyllenhaal, an unsurprisingly brilliant score by Mr. Giacchino, and you have a great, but Far From perfect, globe trotting superhero romp.

★★★★

 

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