Fair warning, there will be significant spoilers in the middle part of this review. Read the next few paragraphs then skip to the bottom for the final score.
There’s a sort of formula you come to expect from a superhero movie. It’s a template that almost every film in the genre adheres to, from genuine “films” like The Dark Knight and Infinity War, to fan-service movies for the most in-the-know audiences like Endgame and Days of Future Past, to the dregs of the medium like Fan4stick and Batman & Robin. Comic Book movies simply flow a certain way.
They start out usually with some kind of a bang, then ease you slowly along from there, establishing the players before having a big second act fight. Then there’s an immediate drop in tension as everyone regroups and resets and gears up for the big finale fight. That’s it. Whether it’s Batman 89, Thor: The Dark World, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, or the two crappy Ghost Rider movies we don’t talk about, that’s the formula.
Spider-Man: Far From Home in that regard feels like two movies put into one.
It too begins with a bang, has a great mid-film action sequence, and a baller final fight, but the way those beats are presented in the story happen…twice. This is a two-hour movie: In the first two minutes there’s a bang, at the thirty-minute mark, a medium sized fight, at an hour mark there’s a big fight, and then everything resets and we do it over again. Mind you, the story doesn’t reset, but the way the story hits its notes does. It’s very weird to watch the movie unfold, so much so that I was almost distracted by it.
It’s like watching a two-part movie series—like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, or The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock—but trimmed up and condensed into one two hour package. It made for a movie that never slowed down, never caught its breath, and never let up.
The result is one of the MCU’s best films and the best Spider-Man movie thus far.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE
Five things I loved:
- Mysterio – Everything about this character was done to perfection. Let’s start with his look: In the comics, he’s a guy in green spandex, with a big cape, and a fishbowl helmet. He’s that in the movie but everything has an extra layer of pizzazz to it and it works. Changing his character’s origin story worked too; in the broadest strokes it was faithful (he was still a guy using illusions) but his new motivation gave him a storyline that was an extension to the broader MCU storyline. I can’t get over how hilarious it was to see Jake Gyllenhaal running around for half the movie in a mocap suit. It was so on the nose I loved it. Speaking of…
- Jake Gyllenhaal – One of the best actors of his generation stepped into the weird and silly world of comic book villainy like an old pro. He captivated and stole every scene with a performance I couldn’t look away from. He had a few different roles to fill and he brought a different style to each aspect of the character of Quentin Beck. My only regret is that he was a one-off. Or was he…
- The Mid-Credits scene – Kudos to Marvel for dropping a huge cliffhanger after the official “end” of the movie. After ten years if you don’t know to stay in your seat when the credits start to roll you deserve to miss what comes next. Bringing back JK Simmons to play the role he was born to play was *mwah* and revealing Peter Parker’s identity makes the two-year wait for Spider-Man: Home Alone (or whatever they call the next one) unbearable. My only gripe was no tease of Norman Osborn.
- The story – What worked best about the movie was the way it balanced Peter Parker and Spider-Man, the kid with kid friends and a crush on MJ, to the hero in over his head only because of his lack of self-confidence. For a movie that was so relentlessly paced, it’s remarkable how well balanced it was. As I said in the opening, you can break the movie in two and find in both halves all the beats you’d expect in a comic book movie. The bang opening with Mysterio, Fury, and Hill, then thirty-minutes later Peter is swinging around Venice, then at the top of the hour, he and Mysterio are defeating the fire elemental. The hour ends with the twist that Mysterio was a bad guy manipulating everything. Roll credits, there’s your cliffhanger, except nope: The next hour plays out like part two, hitting all those beats over again before the big finale and another big twist in the mid-credits scene. It’s the most densely packed movie of the year, even more than the three hour epic of Endgame.
- Marisa Tomei – That is all.
SPOILERS END HERE
Spider-Man: Far From Home was touted as the official end to the MCU’s Phase Three. Infinity War and Endgame were such colossal films and brought such closure to the past decade of movies, it might be hard to jump back in and seemingly start over. Marvel can say all day long that they have another twenty years of movies ready to go, but getting fans to stay “up” for those movies is a huge challenge, especially when you give audiences the kind of closure that Endgame offered.
There needed to be the right kind film to reignite the engine and fulfill the promise that “there’s even more to come.” Far From Home was perfect in that regard. It succeeded not only in bringing additional closure to the events of Endgame, but it worked best by not trying to weigh itself down with the mythology of twenty previous films. This is a Spider-Man movie first and second and an “MCU” movie third. That makes it the perfect kind of dessert after the main course we had back in May.
Just like Ant-Man signaled the end of Phase Two by planting seeds for the next series of movies, there are enough seeds subtly planted in this film to pay off in several films to come. If those upcoming movies are anywhere close to the quality of this one, we’re in for a treat.
10/10 – A Spider-Man solo film has finally trumped the brilliance of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Far From Home is, to use the most cliched term in movie marketing history, a “non-stop thrill ride,” and legitimately one of the MCU’s best offerings.