Spider-Man Far From Home movie review: Swinging for the fences

The newest Spidey installment has a lot of ground to cover - but it all strings together for a thrilling and humorous second half.

Oh man, is it an uninteresting summer for movies. Not bad – just boring. The Disney monopolization since it took over Fox Studios is already evident – this year’s top box office earners all come from the mouse, and if you’re not up for some animated sentient toys or live action adaptions of Aladdin or The Lion King, and you’re not interested in the underwhelming sequels/reboots/remakes from other studios, you may just be out of luck. Spider-Man: Far From Home is an interesting case – it’s released by Sony but with creative input from Marvel Studios, owned by Disney. And it’s a mostly good superhero movie – some parts are even really good. It’s just not really a Spider-Man movie.

Here’s what I mean. After Avengers: Endgame (released just a short two months ago) forever changed the status quo for the entire universe post-Thanos, this entry had a lot of explaining to do. No spoilers here, but Far From Home had to do a lot of the heavy lifting and explaining, there was no time for in Endgame – and it does so with humor and a brisk pace. But it’s not until a few minutes in that our beloved Peter Parker (Tom Holland, continuing to carve out his own legacy with the character) even shows his face because of this. He’s chatting with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) about their summer plans, which include a trip to several European countries during which Peter will make romantic moves on classmate MJ (Zendaya) and hang up the Spidey suit.

Or so he thinks. His plans are quickly discarded when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appears in his hotel room one of the first nights back on the trip, calling him back to duty. There are elementals (creatures made of pure water, fire, air and earth) ravaging places across the globe, and with the Avengers largely unavailable, Fury turns to a reluctant Spidey. Leading the charge is brand new hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who, donned in an emerald green suit and helmet like an opaque fish bowl, uses some unspecified form of magic to fly and shoot energy at enemies.

There’s a lot going on. And that barely covers the main plot in the opening act of the movie. Remember, there’s MJ, the school trip, friendships and rivalries with fellow classmates and continued Marvel Cinematic Universe world building also thrown in the mix. Due to these elements, the first half of the film can feel confused – never dull, constantly humorous, but disjointed.

When it all comes together in the second half, though, the film soars higher than the Big Ben. Director Jon Watts has mostly learned from his stumbles in 2017’s Homecoming – the humor is better, he continues to help minor side characters shine and, best of all, his camerawork has gotten better. Something sorely lacking in Homecoming was some of the camera tracking didn’t feel like Spider-Man – unlike Sam Raimi’s original trilogy or even the Marc Webb duology, the camera was largely grounded and at a roomy distance.

Here, when Spidey soars, you ride with him. There’s a few beautiful examples of tracking shots following the webslinger as he scales up buildings, leaps over explosions, swings between bridges. It’s how a Spider-Man movie should be, and the third act provides some of the most exciting Spider-Man action sequences yet captured on film. That’s quite a statement considering this is the eighth film to follow the hero (including last year’s animated Into the SpiderVerse, which should be considered mandatory viewing for any fan of Spider-Man, or movies in general).

Holland is giving fans of the Raimi trilogy a strong case for why he should be considered the best Peter Parker over Toby Maguire. (For what it’s worth, Andrew Garfield did an underrated and excellent job as well.) He’s playing a more worn down, world-weary version of the character here after what he faced in Endgame – there’s a marked difference between the character here and the character in Homecoming. Holland’s youth still allows him to tap into Peter’s more carefree side, but he understands now just how his actions can have consequences.

It’s important to remember that even though this iteration of the character was introduced as early as 2016, we’ve already seen him in five films – that’s as many as Maguire and Garfield combined. MCU producer Kevin Feige is playing the long game with this character’s arc – we’re going to see him go from the excitable apprentice to Tony Stark to a mature character who suffered due to his power, just like Stark himself and other great characters in the MCU. It’s an arc that’ll unfold over numerous films, and Far From Home takes a big step forward.

In all that’s going on in this movie, though, it’s inevitable something gets forgotten, and it’s becoming glaringly obvious the character origin has been swept away. This isn’t a knock against Holland’s acting or how Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers wrote the script – but the version of the character we see in the MCU isn’t Peter Parker as he appeared in the comics or even was presented in the Raimi trilogy. Hallmarks of the character such as financial struggles, his homemade suits, even his glasses. Not to say he won’t grow into the more traditional role as time goes on – I did just say they’re playing the long game with the character – but there’s too many MCU elements leaking into the movie, most notably his relationship with Stark and access to his technology, that chip away from the character’s roots. He’s a guy who can shoot webs and battle enemies, but he’s not Peter Parker.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. In fact, it’s something that’s quite easy to forgive when a movie produces a final act this thrilling and satisfying. The action, character development and world-building are superb – plus, it ends on an ending tease almost as good as Infinity War’s. It may not be perfect as a whole, but the third MCU Spider-Man movie will be at the top of every fan’s wish list once they exit the theater. Stick around for those post-credit scenes, folks – there’s two, and they just may be reminders about why we fell in love with this cinematic universe in the first place.