Spider-Man: Homecoming was one of the standout successes of 2017, offering a genuinely new superhero film to the Marvel canon. Homecoming re-energised the Spider-Man character after a plethora of outings, injecting youthful, electric energy through Tom Holland’s outstanding debut. Hope was, therefore, high that its follow up would meet or surpass the energy of the first outing. However, while Far from Home is highly entertaining, it never quite offers any difference to the raft of Marvel superhero films that have come before it.
Spider-Man: Far from Home picks up directly from the finale of Avengers Endgame, with a high school video that provides some great tongue in cheek moments alongside a Whitney Houston classic. This humour continues throughout the first 30 minutes, with some brilliant comedic references to the disappearance, then reappearance of millions of people. Something the more serious Avengers Endgame brushed over in one of its many plot holes. Humour is well-timed, playing to the strengths of its predecessor Homecoming perfectly. However, what starts in the same vein as Homecoming quickly continues the Endgame story. And while clever in construct, it never allows Tom Holland’s awkward teenage Spider-Man to shine in the same way he did in his first film.
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Once again, as with Captain Marvel and Ant-Man and the Wasp, you can’t help but feel that a fantastic individual character is being used purely as a filler to something bigger; rather than being celebrated as an individual. This has been a real problem in recent non-Avengers Marvel outings as the Marvel universe has increasingly sacrificed character development over cinematic universe stories. In turn, creating films that expect audiences to have seen every other movie in the series. This never allows for a step on point for someone new to the franchise.
However, Far from Home is also full of love for the Spider-Man character despite these core weaknesses. The final film, a visual treat from start to finish, with some of the best action set pieces seen in any Spider-Man film outing. Much of this is achieved by cleverly taking the character out of New York, offering a fresh feel to the action that ensues while giving the character a more global dimension.
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Tom Holland is at the heart of this and remains one of the best actors to have donned the suit. However, his character does feel slightly more restricted in its organic development after the brilliant introduction made in Homecoming. Another key strength of Far from Home comes from Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the enigmatic Mysterio. A beautifully nuanced character, playing with audience empathy while complimenting Holland perfectly.
But for all the positives, there are also substantial problems in the film’s narrative. First amongst these is the character development of MJ (Zendaya), her strong feminist character, full of intelligence and dry wit, replaced by a shallow and stereotypical love interest. While best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) has no opportunity to develop his character further, becoming a comic sidekick rather than a supportive figure and wingman to Holland’s Peter Parker. In a similar vein, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) also feels out of place, a character who is purely there to achieve links to Marvel’s cinematic past and future plans. Once again, this places the cinematic universe above the individual characters and stand-alone story.
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The result is a film that feels like a filler and reset rather than a sold stand-alone adventure. And while the end tantalises more exciting things to come, it feels very much like a return to the Toby Maguire trilogy ethos by the end, rather than a continuation of the Homecoming journey.
Spider-Man: Far from Home is entertaining, action-packed and humorous, but offers little character development. Instead, it opts for a safe Marvel formula over a continuation of Homecoming’s new and fresh ideology. Despite a strong cast and excellent production effects, the result is a delightful but slightly forgettable Spider-Man outing.