As always, this review is spoiler free, and just like with my Endgame review a while back, that means there’s going to be a bit of vagueness, especially because there’s a pretty big reveal fairly early in the movie. If you’ve seen Far From Home, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, there’s no reason not to read on.
Let’s get some context
Spider-Man’s second cinematic reboot began with 2017’s Homecoming. It was a great movie that, in my opinion, really got it right. Previous films had their pluses and minuses, but Homecoming had everything going for it. It presented Peter Parker as an actual teenager with actual teenage problems, on top of the pressure of trying to be a hero. His struggles, uncertainties, mistakes, and triumphs felt very real, and Tom Holland’s portrayal was note perfect. Additionally, Homecoming‘s antagonist was one of the best in the entire MCU, because of the careful attention given to developing the character and showing his motivation. The movie’s decision to devote serious time and consideration paid off by giving audiences a three-dimensional villain that we could disagree with (of course), but still offer sympathy. Homecoming had great pacing, a solid script, and great characters. It’s one of my favorite MCU films, and I was really excited about the sequel.
So does Far From Home live up to Homecoming?
Well…no. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a really good movie, a lot of fun to watch, and I do recommend it highly. However, there are some things about the film that I just don’t think hold up, especially in a post-watching analysis. Let’s break it down.
Here’s what worked
Far From Home continues to present Peter Parker as high school student with high school concerns. He still wants to use his powers and his role as Spider-Man to do good, but also wants to have some normalcy in his life. One of the things that has always made Spider-Man a great character is his struggle with how much responsibility he can, and should, take on himself. Far From Home also addresses the post-Endgame world, with Peter coping with the loss of his mentor and his possible role as inheritor. Tony Stark left Peter access to some pretty serious technology, and made it clear that he intended Peter to take over much of his unfinished work as Iron Man. That’s a lot of responsibility for a sixteen year old kid.
Peter’s internal conflict is intensified by pressure from several sources, including Nick Fury (and let’s be honest…I don’t think many of us would be able to argue with Nick Fury). However, he gets some other things to think about when he meets a new hero: a competent, determined, adult hero who embodies everything Peter admires, and urges him to make his own choices and decide what he wants, which is a marked contrast to the messages he’s receiving from everyone else. One of the most effective things the Spider-Man reboot has done is to embrace the coming of age element of the young Spider-Man stories.
The scenes with Peter and his high school classmates also work really well. Peter’s best friend Ned, who was one of the best parts of Homecoming, has a smaller role, but is still lots of fun. Most of the other teenage characters were mostly background, but still effective in giving the movie the right feel. There are also small but significant moments of character development for the supporting cast that made me wonder what sort of role they’re going to play in the future.
One thing I really loved was MJ. While the nickname is, of course, an homage to the character of Mary Jane Watson, Michelle Jones is very, very different, and the character change was a great idea. The first Spider-Man trilogy introduced Mary Jane Watson as an unattainable girl that Peter patiently loves from afar until she finally has a reason to notice him and accept his worth. That’s a trope that has, frankly, overstayed its welcome. Far From Home‘s MJ is intelligent, competent, and assertive, and pays attention to everyone around her, including Peter. He isn’t in a position of having to prove himself to her; she already recognizes his admirable qualities. It’s a very different dynamic from the “nerd loves the prom queen” scenario, and it makes for a much better story.
One other thing I really liked is that Nick Fury is presented in a more human, less omnipotent role. His power base has been steadily eroding since The Winter Soldier, and Captain Marvel showed us how much fun it is to have Fury take a more active role in events, rather than coordinating from his pedestal. In Far From Home, Fury actually acknowledges the way that his circumstances have changed, and that allows the possibility of an expanded and more interesting role in future films.
Here’s what didn’t work as well
There was a lot going on in this movie, and I honestly think it tried to do a little too much. Some important things were simply not developed enough, which turned a few potentially interesting elements into little more than plot devices. Some of the events feel thrown in for no reason other than to justify something the filmmakers really wanted to include, or force a delay in something that otherwise would otherwise happen earlier. It clutters the movie, and makes some plot points just seem annoying and contrived.
My biggest issue with Far From Home is the unclear and confusing villain motivation. After the incredibly strong antagonist in Homecoming, it was really disappointing to see so little attention paid to the villain in this film. We’re told what his plan is, and why, in a monologue (which, seriously, is just the worst way to handle things), that is short, contrived, and frustrating, especially because after it’s over, it still isn’t entirely clear what the heck is going on. My friend Mike and I spent about half an hour after the movie trying to trace the chain of logic, and finally decided to just accept it and move on.
That idea of just accepting it and moving on is really at the center of everything else I didn’t love about the movie. There is technology that is explained just enough to make you question if it really could function as portrayed in a pivotal scene. Peter’s crisis of confidence leads to a poor decision that just seems a little too quick and a little too forced. One of Peter’s abilities doesn’t work, and then works again, for no clear reason. Personally, I think most of the problems can be traced back to that first idea: that the movie was overstuffed, and therefore couldn’t effectively accomplish all of its goals.
Oh, and I was also annoyed that the mid and post credit scenes completely undercut several of the things that I considered real strengths of the film.
Despite some issues with development and internal consistency, Far From Home is a quality film that was a lot of fun and definitely worth watching. Just try to avoid thinking too hard about some things until after the credits roll.