Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the eighth time in 17 years that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swung into theaters for a solo film. It wasn’t until the webhead’s sixth appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming that you could truly say Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had perfected the Spider-Man formula. By following Homecoming with the jubilant animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the European vacationing Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s clear the studio giants understand that with great power there must also come great responsibility.
The first Marvel movie in the episodic MCU since the pivotal Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home deals with the fallout of the death and devastation wrought by Thanos. Most of this pertains to one momentous death (I’ll withhold spoilers) and the endlessly confusing five-year rapture experienced by half of the population (there’s no sense trying to explain this, even if you have seen Endgame). Far From Home combats the universe-threatening scale of Endgame with a smaller scale, comedic story. (Which is, in my not so humble opinion, the very thing Marvel Studios does best.)
Far From Home opens in Mexico where superhero Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) is combating an Elemental, one of four destructive creatures that derives strength from the earth. When pseudo-government agents and superhero tour managers Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) show up, Beck has the situation under control. Beck, who is from an alternate universe version of Earth where the Elementals won, warns that the Elementals will show up again, and if they’re not stopped, they will destroy Earth in this universe as well.
Meanwhile, high school student and superhero Peter Parker (Tom Holland) prepares for a summer class trip to Europe. Peter, with the help of his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), plans a grand romantic gesture for his crush, MJ (Zendaya). Peter’s plans are foiled when he and his class arrive in Venice only to see an Elemental wiping out the city. Peter is recruited by Fury to aid Beck in his fight against the Elementals. In what is not the first time and what will not be the last (especially if Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have its way), Peter is forced to choose between his personal life and the lives of strangers around him.
Although Spider-Man is the world’s most popular superhero, both Homecoming and Far From Home have opted for an ensemble approach. Supporting characters in Spider-Man’s life include Hill, Fury, and Beck. For Peter, the list is extensive: Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), Ned, MJ, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), teachers Mr. Dell and Mr. Harrington (J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr), and Betty Brant (Angourie Rice). Each of them has comedic chops and is given a chance to shine. A relationship between Ned and Betty, played for laughs brilliantly by Batalon and Rice, is a standout for me.
With Far From Home, Homecoming director Jon Watts returns to the director’s chair. Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, part of Homecoming’s massive writing team, pen the script for the web-slinger once more. By moving the series to Europe, Watts, McKenna, and Sommers successfully separated Holland’s wall-crawling franchise from the previous iterations starring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Setting Homecoming in Queens and Far From Home in Europe have allowed for breathing room from previous films and created a need for Spider-Man to return home to the skyscrapers of New York City in the next installment.
It took six films before Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures hit paydirt with the trio of Homecoming, Into the Spider-Verse, and Far From Home, but now that Hollywood understands what makes Marvel’s signature superhero one of a kind, buying a ticket for a Spider-Man movie is one of the surest bets at the box office.