As Spider-Man: Far From Home swings into cinemas, Redbrick Film Critics bite into Marvel’s first entry in a post-Endgame MCU
Editor’s note: these reviews contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. Proceed with caution.
Romana Essop – Film Critic
Ever since the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming in the summer of 2017, fans have been eagerly anticipating further appearances of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first instalment in Jon Watts’ new branch of films proved that there was indeed room for another web-shooting crime-fighter, with Holland taking the world by storm with his charming portrayal of Peter Parker and his secret super identity.
Since 2016, Spider-Man has appeared in a number of MCU movies, including the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame, to which Far From Home is a direct sequel. As a huge father-figure and role model for Peter Parker, Tony Stark’s death leaves the teenager struggling with grief and an increased sense of responsibility. The consequential focus on Peter’s character is one of Far From Home’s greatest strengths.
Jon Watts never lets his audience forget that Spider-Man is still just a teenage boy and that this in itself makes him unlike any other Avenger. As a result, this film is unlike earlier stand-alone superhero films from Marvel: it is action and comedy and coming-of-age all rolled into one. Watts continues the character development he started two years ago, incorporating the events of Marvel releases in between where necessary, and successfully showcases a realistic and therefore relatable protagonist. Although none of us can say we’ve developed superhuman abilities from a spider bite, we can at least understand and empathise with Peter’s emotions.
Tom Holland puts in an impressive performance as the film’s protagonist, bringing the same charm and likeability to the role as he has in all of his appearances as Spider-Man so far. With such energy and enthusiasm in every scene, it’s no surprise that Holland has become somewhat of a fan favourite, as his performance pays homage to the keen-to-please, excitable high-school Peter Parker often associated with the original Spider-Man comics.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a welcome addition to the Spider-Man cast, playing the superhuman Mysterio from another dimension who brings his fight against the Elementals to Parker’s reality. Holland and Gyllenhaal’s scenes feel natural and easy, clearly showcasing the close friendship the two boast off-screen.
Equally, the rest of Far From Home’s supporting cast bring their usual humorous appeal which helps to maintain the comedic flair we’ve grown to expect from the MCU, with Jacob Batalon’s appearance as Ned proving to be a huge source of entertainment once again. But, in keeping with the youthful age and limited experience of Spider-Man, Watts plays with light-hearted comedy even more than perhaps expected, yet still manages to strike a perfect balance with the much-needed action that defines the superhero sub-genre.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is an impressive film with acting, characters and direction to be commended. An entertaining and less emotionally taxing addition to the MCU compared to the likes of the Avengers movies that came before it, this movie is well worth your time.
Matt Taylor – Film Editor
Legacy. What we leave behind. Who we want to be there to pick up the pieces after we’re gone. These are the ideas that permeate Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel Studios’ first entry in a post-Endgame MCU – and they have never been more prevalent. The sacrifices of Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark run through Far From Home’s very veins, and force Peter Parker into the most vulnerable position we have ever seen him in.
Far From Home sees Peter and his classmates on both a vacation to Europe and a bounceback from ‘The Blip’. Sadly for Peter, Nick Fury has other ideas for him, and wants to recruit him to work alongside newcomer Mysterio to take down the Elementals before they can destroy the earth, as they did in Mysterio’s own dimension.
The MCU’s version of Spider-Man has somehow proven divisive among fans since his introduction in 2016’s Civil War – but everything about Far From Home is a resounding success. From someone who grew up obsessed with Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, Far From Home may be the best live-action Spider-Man movie to date. Everything about it is superb: the cast are perfect, the action visceral, the story tight-knit and personal, the ramifications of it huge. I’ll be damned if I can find a flaw with it after one viewing.
Most every cast member returns from prior MCU films: Tom Holland is on better form than he’s ever been as Peter, who, after spending three films telling people how much he wants to grow up, really just wants to relax on his vacation. This doesn’t sit well with Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury, who’s insistent that Peter help him and put aside his school issues – even though all Peter wants to do is spend time with MJ, the girl he really likes. Jackson is perfectly stoic, and actually gets more to do here than he usually does in his MCU appearances. Zendaya’s MJ may be the best love interest Peter Parker has ever had on the big screen. She and Holland have perfect chemistry, and some of the film’s best scenes are simple conversations between the two of them. It’s newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal, though, who really steals the show as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. Bringing with him talk of alternate earths and a multiverse, he is an enigma from the very beginning – but Gyllenhaal is absolutely electric in the role. Beck is easily up there with the best characters in the MCU, never anything less than absolutely gleeful. His action scenes feel beautifully new and intense, and the way the production team have brought his costume to life has to be applauded.
Everything about Far From Home shines. Like Homecoming before it, it takes the Wall-Crawler and does something entirely new with him – a miracle after the number of times we’ve seen a Spidey film since 2002. Its bigger moments are superb, its smaller ones perfectly tender: director Jon Watts and co have scored the biggest home run in Spider-Man history. Truly spectacular.
Samuel Zucca – Film Editor
While not being the most ardent follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I always found Spider-Man to be one of the more familiar and lovable onscreen superheroes. From Sony to Marvel, live-action to animation, played by multiple actors over what is now seventeen years and eight films since Tobey Maguire’s first outing, the character has managed to retain an essence of boyish charm and innocence throughout his various incarnations.
All of this has led to a point of instant recognition for audiences, and that has been all the better for the various Spider-Man films. Last year’s Into the Spider-Verse managed to innovate the style completely, introducing a new protagonist, Miles Morales, accompanied by a whole new animated multiverse. It was one of the most creatively unbound superhero films in recent years, and all the better for it. Tom Holland’s first film as the protagonist, in Homecoming, also benefited from the legwork done by the Maguire and Garfield films, taking us right into the life of Peter Parker, and his web-slinging alter-ego, with no origin story needed.
All of this now leads us to the latest entry; Far From Home, where our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is now completely unshackled, and an ocean away from Queens on his grand European tour. The globetrotting sequel is quite a cliché, and the film certainly has its fair share of stereotypes, portraying an almost cartoonish fantasy of places like the Netherlands or Austria. These are very minor issues however, as the setting certainly suits the tone Marvel is going for here, creating a superhero film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s filled with plenty of gags from the very start, and Tom Holland fits in perfectly as the film’s goofy centrepiece. After all, Marvel usually is at its best when it embraces the levity inherent in the genre – Guardians of the Galaxy is a prime example, and still my personal favourite. And as great as The Dark Knight trilogy is, it’s most certainly the exception, and too-serious superhero movies usually end up as enjoyable as bone-dry cake.
Far From Home also manages to nail the emotional familiarity inherent in its character. Peter Parker is no billionaire playboy or alien god, and the film does not let you forget that he is just a regular sixteen-year-old, despite his extravagant CGI costume. The rest of the cast manage to carry the film’s many relationships quite honestly, with Jake Gyllenhaal joining a pantheon of acclaimed actors. His Quentin Beck perhaps fits the least into the film however, and it seems uncanny seeing him in a Spider-Man film of all places. As a whole Far From Home could be a romance movie, as Peter continues to pursue Zendaya’s MJ, and we are introduced to a few other couplings that are awkward, funny, and only continue to add to the film’s levity.
Far From Home admittedly may not reach the artistic majesty of Into the Spider-Verse, and the action scenes (as I find with most Marvel films) can be a bit of a snooze, but the characters and relationships remain intact, and they feel true.
Grace Baxendine – Film Critic
After the excitement of Avengers: Endgame earlier this year, the next Marvel movie was always going to have trouble living up to such an enormous cinematic accomplishment. And yet, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a refreshing follow-up and great addition to the Marvel universe. Toning down on the crazy time travel storylines of Endgame, this latest instalment is the perfect start to the next chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Set after the events of Endgame, Peter Parker is mourning the loss of Tony Stark – though the film never allows Stark’s spirit to die. We see much of his iconic and brilliant technology in the movie, and Stark himself is constantly being alluded to. Iron Man has left an enormous legacy for Peter to draw from and this is very clear throughout the entire movie. In true Iron Man fashion, Parker even creates his own armour at one point, seeming all too similar to the beloved Tony Stark.
The cast are all fantastic, with Jack Gyllenhaal as the dashing Mysterio; Zendaya (The Greatest Showman) as Peter Parker’s new love interest, MJ; and Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury, who perfectly bridges the film with previous Marvel films – something Marvel never fails to do. The comedy, like many MCU masterpieces, is sharp and well-placed, alongside some seriously good action sequences. Gyllenhaal especially delivers a very competent performance portraying a thoroughly well-thought-out character, who steps up to his role when the film picks up speed.
Peter himself, mourning the loss of his father figure and longing for a normal life, is captured very well through intimate character development, as well as playing off previous Marvel storylines. There are some very brave plot moves by co-writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, who explained that many ideas for the ending were tampered with initially, but ultimately there was only one way it could all go – and the end result is excellent. Bold, effective, and something which gives Far From Home a really original twist for a superhero movie, no doubt paving the way for Spider-Man’s uncertain future in a potential Spider-Man 3.
As with Endgame, the fundamentally human and heartfelt focus of the storyline, mixed with witty script writing and the visually sensational aesthetics of the action, really make Far From Home something special; a real triumph leading the way for more greatness from Marvel films in the future.
Todd Waugh Ambridge – Film Editor
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.