There is no better live action Spider-Man than Tom Holland. He’s so good at everything: his physicality, his look, his age, how he plays Peter, how he acts as Spider-Man. He’s perfect.
High school Spider-Man is so much fun. High school hijinks and comedy are great because everyone can relate. Everyone remembers having those awkward moments as a teenager. It’s so entirely different to follow a kid around in a “serious” super hero movie and that’s the key reason that you’d go see a film like Spider-Man: Far From Home. Having a kid involved in these big conflicts while he’s also worried about how he’ll handle his first kiss and how he finds both of them as difficult and stressful. It is a refreshing side to the big story.
It’s an excellent wrap up to the Infinity Stone/Thanos saga. It doesn’t quite tap into all the depth there like overpopulation, how the revived people reintegrated and relationship dynamics that would be fundamentally altered between people.
But it does give you get enough of a taste for what the new post-Thanos RIP-Iron Man world is like that you feel like you can move on. It provides enough answers to the surface level questions about what happened when people came back, how they aged, how relationships are affected, etc. It even gives you a taste of what the response is now for an Avengers level threat without the world having their big hero six Avengers.
Also, the movie is about Spider-Man and how he’s getting on in this world without his father figure and all the newfound responsibility and infamy he’s webbed up in while still trying to figure out how to navigate high school and nabbing that first kiss from his crush.
Like the first film, Iron Man/Tony Stark plays a role but he isn’t a shadow over the film. Not to say the presence of Iron Man is minimal or passed off. It isn’t. But it is no different than the Uncle Ben Guilt cloud that usually hangs over Spider-Man films. Tony Stark dying is this Peter’s “Uncle Ben” moment and subsequent arc.
We’ve seen Uncle Ben die in 2 films, like 143 times in the comics and 69 times in cartoons. While Uncle Ben existed and passed, or has at least been alluded to in these movies, this is a new grief. And it’s handled really well. Handled exactly how I probably would have handled this if I was a 16-17 year old who just wanted to date a pretty girl and not fail my classes. I could barely manage school, a personal life and sports in high school.
John Watts is back as director and did a really good job with a really tricky spot. He’s got to develop the overarching MCU in the dust of Thanos. But also tell a silly high school kids story where horny teenagers just want to make out. And then also show how a teenager is handling the grief of losing his surrogate father and the boatload of great power and responsibility that’s been thrust on him.
The movie is at its best when it is being most personal. The high school kid moments are great. Supporting characters playing off each other is great. Characters bouncing dialogue and chewing scenery is great. Peter having one on one chats with people is great. When it’s him 1v1 against the villain it’s great. The movie loses some steam when it gets a bit too big and loud.
In a way you can say that the big noise action being distracting is the point, if you want to get all meta about what’s at the middle of motivation for the villains.
The real world themes are played with humour, but do well to accurately capture and comment on modern society from how the news cycle is handled/vetted to people risking their lives so they have the best viral Instagram video. Playing a very modern perception vs reality debate and how people believe what they want these days is pretty fun without getting too preachy, though if you’re the kind of person who might get mad at this then maybe you’re the kind of person who needs a bit of introspection as to why that is.
The realization of Mysterio as a character is excellent and so is the execution of his abilities. Whoever it was that concepted and coordinated this needs to be involved in any future Doctor Strange movies. The personal action scenes with him are full of thrill and wonder and suspense all at once.
The action does grow and get big and loud, but it sticks to what is within his character. There isn’t some random turn where he decides to shoot a blue laser into the sky or unleash a gas to turn people into obedient creatures.
I really appreciate that they’ve kept Spider-Man villains to what non-symbiote Spider-Man villains mostly are: dudes or ladies who want to rob banks or steal technology to become rich and villainously famous. Captain America fights the dudes who want world domination. Thor stops aliens who want to destroy planets. Spider-Man tries to keep the neighbourhood friendly.
The cast is great. I’ve gone on enough about Tom Holland, but Zendaya and Jacob Batalon nail it. They’re the two characters closest to Peter and help represent two of the three ways he’s pulled, with Nick Fury representing the third way.
Zendaya is a treat as MJ. Her chemistry with Peter is wicked and the twist on her being a bit of a “darker” take on MJ’s personality is refreshing. Hopefully we get that red hair soon. Batalon as Ned is lit. Dude’s such a full on shlub with a heart of gold.
John Favreau and Marisa Tomei are great as well. Watching them awkwardly adult flirt is a great foil to Peter and how he navigates his relationship with MJ. The smaller roles of the other students and teachers are well done too. They all feel like people despite being relatively one-note.
Jake Gyllenhaal has a blast playing Quintin Beck aka Mysterio and it radiates through. You can always tell when an actor is on board and all in with what they’re doing and it makes things that much better. He’s chewing it up, being a little hammy, but is able to pull that serious side out. I get a warm feeling when memed actors pull their careers back around and whip ass.
There’s so much potential with this Spider-Man and the stories they’ve crafted around him. There could be a full on Spider-Family movie at some point. Marvel is able to keep pulling off live action versions of things I thought could never exist beyond a cartoon as a kid. This movie is a great ride.
The mid-credits scene is an absolute thriller and makes sure that you want more Spider-Man even after you’ve just sat through his 5th appearance in 4 years. That’s quite something when the exposure has reached the levels it has.
Unfortunately, there may not be a MCU Spider-Man much longer (LINK). So enjoy this while you can before the guy who thought Deadpool was a bad idea gets his hands on another beloved property.