There is an instinctive reaction to think of Tom Holland as the “new” Spider-Man after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, having been the third actor to play the role in only twelve years, yet between his introductory cameo in Civil War, his lead in Homecoming and supporting roles in Infinity War and Endgame, his latest adventure may take him Far from Home but it is Holland’s fifth feature appearance, matching the total of the previous actors.
It is eight months since the events of Endgame, the defeat of Thanos and the return of those lost in the incident referred to as “the blip,” but the world is far from recovered, half the population having lost five years in limbo while the rest moved on as best they could, many of those returning finding themselves without homes or jobs.
For Peter Parker, the loss of his mentor and friend Tony Stark has not lessened, but a school trip to Europe should provide a change of pace and scenery, a chance to remove himself from the city which he associates with so much pain, to escape the responsibilities of being the only teenager in the Avengers, and to get closer with his travelling companion MJ.
The tour of the most romantic cities of the old world starting with Venice and Paris, it could not be a more perfect setting were it not for a rival for MJ’s attentions and affections and an incident in Venice where the city is attacked by a water elemental, defeated only by the combined might of Peter in improvised disguise and a new hero who adopts the name Mysterio, but introducted to him by Nick Fury under the name Quentin Beck.
The twenty-third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Far from Home reunites the principal cast of that film, Holland, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon and Tony Revolori as well as director Jon Watts and two of the six writers of Homecoming, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, though it’s form has once again undergone radioactive mutation.
The antidote to the devastating events of the war with Thanos and the subsequent emotional fallout, as well as the intricately conceived web of plot strands woven together through a decade of epic cinema delivered by an ensemble to large to fit on screen in a single scene, Far from Home is a road trip teen comedy where one of the kids just happens to be a superhero on vacation.
Peter focused firmly on the fun, inevitably larger concerns rear their destructive heads, but Watts never forgets that this is a smaller proposition, more personal, though that does not mean that it is in any way less worthy than the other films of the MCU, staging action sequences in new locations such as Venice and Prague as well as a return to London more engaging than The Dark World.
In his first Marvel appearance, Nocturnal Animals‘ Jake Gyllenhaal is Quentin Beck, a natural fit both as a superhero, calm and reserved but capable when he needs to be, and in his easy partnership with Holland with whom he shares most of his screentime, Beck encouraging Peter in a way Stark never did: “Don’t ever apologise for being the smartest one in the room.”
A less crowded film with room to breathe and enjoy the moment, Far from Home also embraces the multi-verse introduced in the animated film Into the Spider-Verse, bringing with it surreal nightmares, and this is the most cartoonish of the recent Marvel films, both in content and the effects, some of which don’t even try to be photorealistic.
A companion piece to Endgame, taking the necessary time to put things back together as much as can be, the final film of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may travel Far from Home, but it is never far from great power, great danger and the responsibility which comes with both, much to Peter’s frustration: “I didn’t think I was going to have to save the world this summer.”
Spider-Man: Far from Home is currently on general release and also screening in 3D and IMAX 3D