The second solo film for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man refuses to linger too long under the weighty shadow of Avengers: Endgame. Instead, it takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe on its first steps in a new direction, with action aplenty but also an incredible sense of fun. Spider-Man completes the next stage in his evolution into one of the world’s most important heroes, with a film that feels every bit as necessary as it is enjoyable.
Still reeling from Tony Stark’s death – his ghost hanging like a shadow over the whole movie – Peter Parker (Tom Holland) tries to move away from his grief by embarking on a school trip to Europe. He intends to use the opportunity to let MJ (Zendaya) know how he feels about her. Instead, Nick Fury forcefully recruits Peter into helping him defeat other-worldly beings called the Elementals, teaming up with the awe-inspiring Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall – the only man capable of pulling off sexy in such a garish costume). Poor Peter then has to try and balance the demands of saving the world with scoring the girl of his dreams, in what has to be the very definition of first world problems.
To give more away would be to ruin a brilliant midpoint twist, equal in consequence to that seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Those who know Mysterio from Spidey-lore may smell a rat early on, but this brilliant turning point flips the film on its head. It also paves the way for some spectacular visual sequences in which Spider-Man has to fight through trickery and false imagination. When not doing that, director Tom Watts capitalises on Spidey’s gymnastics abilities, with flips and mid-air stunts littered throughout some breathtaking action set pieces. This spills-and-thrills approach, with all the grins and enjoyment it can spare, makes Far From Home fantastic enough to just sit back and admire.
That being said, the film’s driving force does not come from any laughing matter. With an explicit George Orwell reference – just in case anyone misses the point – the mistrust of fake news and perception filters through Far From Home, which is why Mysterio is the perfect new character for this kind of story. Rarely does the film try to be particularly solemn, but these meaningful undertones added to an otherwise breezy watch, stop it from feeling forgettable.
Holland is ever charming as Peter Parker, a little less dorkish than before but still with that infectious energy. Gyllenhall delivers a performance weighted with a hero’s authority. While Mysterio’s motivation and fate arguably mirror those of a Homecoming character a little too closely, he is nonetheless spectacular to witness. The entire cast, including the gleeful return of a pre-MCU fan favourite in the post-credits, simply look like they are having a ball. Constantly evolving throughout is the relationship between MJ and Peter, which shrugs off its predictability with a wonderful chemistry that never once relies on sappiness – for which Zendaya, with her razor wit and slightly intimidating aura, deserves massive credit.
Far From Home will lead the MCU into fascinating new terrain now the Infinity Saga is over, and it does so in a carefree and bounding way that is joyful to watch. Picking up where Homecoming and Endgame left off, the latest Spider-Man film ensures his place as one of the most likeable superheroes of our time. A joyous trek through Europe after the gloom of Thanos and Endgame is exactly what the doctor ordered.