Spider-Man: Far From Home
The official end of Marvel's Phase 3 offers a lot of laughs, a big heart and more than enough hope for the future.
Here's the great thing about the recent batch of Spider-Man movies: they are, like their protagonist, smaller, friendlier and far more humble than their superhero contemporaries. Crucially, they're about a teenage boy firs, and superhero stuff second, which not only keeps them grounded in about as much reality as films of this genre can hope for, but also provides for an endless source of conflict as the two themes inevitably clash.
The extreme version of that incompatibility was explored in the original (Tobey McGuire) franchise, with Spidey declaring he was "Spider Man no more". Far From Home takes one step back from that level of angst, compelling Tom Holland's character not to retire the suit but leave it hanging in the closest while he goes on a European field trip with his classmates. Fair enough, too, since he and the other Avengers did just save the universe from annihilation. Who are we to begrudge him a little down time?
Of course, the aftermath of the recent Avengers films (especially the 'snap') lingers long in the memories of everyone on earth, both for those who never left, and those who became dust and then returned. That divide is given a neat comedic angle in Far From Home, too, by virtue of some of Peter Parker's classmates now being five years older and more mature — which proves especially problematic in the case of Australian actor Remy Hii who emerges as a handsome rival for Peter's romantic crush, MJ (Zendaya).
For Peter, though, the impact of the Endgame conflict vests squarely in the loss of his friend, mentor and father-figure, Tony Stark. To make matters worse, not only does he have to grapple with that loss in virtual secret solitude, he's also constantly being asked whether he is to be Tony's heir-apparent in replacing Iron Man as the lead Avenger. A Venetian/Parisian holiday alongside MJ and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) looks to be the perfect way to leave all these worries behind for a while. That is until world-destroying monsters rear their giant heads and imperil his friends and strangers alike.
This time, however, Spidey isn't alone. A mysterious new hero with remarkable powers emerges in the form of Mysterio, played by a terrific Jake Gyllenhaal. Mysterio and Peter seem like kindred spirits, blessed as they are with extreme intelligence, reluctant heroism and sensitive souls. As with the previous Spidey movies, and indeed the MCU at large, it's these intimate, quiet connections that continue to drive this universe forward far more so than the bombast of the battles and special effects wizardry. Which isn't to say there aren't still some phenomenal effects in Far From Home, including an intensely trippy, mind-bending sequence that comfortably rivals its equivalent in Dr Strange.
Holland remains the perfect casting for Peter Parker: baby-faced and eminently likable, he absolutely captures the sweaty awkwardness of a teenage crush absent the confidence to actually act upon it. Zendaya, too, gets much more screen time in Far From Home, and immediately proves she's worthy of it with a witty, nuanced and really quite tender performance. Some old hands also return to bolster the supporting cast list, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and the man who started this whole thing off back with the original Iron Man, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Their presence, along with the constant allusions to Tony Stark, remind us that this is still an MCU movie, but never so much that it loses its distinct and unique feel. Its "Spidey sense", if you will.
Overall, Far From Home isn't quite as polished as Homecoming, nor as resonant as Endgame. But it makes up for it in humour and heart, serving as both a fitting end to Marvel's Phase 3 and a launch pad for the new era to come.