Opening weekend review–Spider-Man: Far From Home rounds out the MCU’s best back-to-back solo film journey so far

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the new Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Tom Holland′s Peter Parker is trying to recover from the death of mentor Tony Stark in the final scenes of Avengers: Endgame.  He’s trying to take a break from literally saving the planet by going on a summer trip with his classmates to Paris.  And he’s trying to let Zendaya′s MJ know that he cares about her.  So it’s too bad Samuel L. Jackson′s Nick Fury is trying to get his help as the only Avenger available to take out a new inter-dimensional threat–a threat from world-destroying giants called The Elementals.  Spider-Man: Far From Home, which opened in theaters nationwide this weekend, is Holland’s fifth outing as Peter Parker, after Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, and Spidey fans will be happy.  Holland continues to give the best performances of any actor to don a Spidey suit (he wears a few new great versions in this film thanks to designer Anna B.  Sheppard).  He’s also as established in the MCU as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine–Holland is Spider-Man.

But the supporting characters and actors are equally superb.  At the top, Zendaya has carved out her own fantastic MJ/Mary Jane for the MCU, much more integral to who Spidey is than the character from the past two trilogies.  Holland continues to convey that teen uncertainty and lack of confidence, while slipping in the word “awesome” every few minutes to acknowledge he’s seeing all the cool things going on around him that the audience sees.  New to the MCU, Jake Gyllenhaal creates another memorable character after excellent work in films like Donnie Darko and Source Code with the new power-wielding Mysterio.  Gyllenhall brings equal gravitas and charm to Michael Keaton’s Vulture as seen in the last Spider-Man solo outing.  And Angourie Rice really has a stand-out performance compared to when we last saw her, playing high schooler Betty, a new close friend to Ned (Jacob Batalon)–together they make a fun duo and solid coming of age movie sidebar to the film.

How does this compare to Spider-Man: Homecoming?  It’s hard to believe that incredible reboot film was in theaters only two years ago.  Screenwriter Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have inked both Spider-Man films plus the script for Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Homecoming still nudges out the others as the tightest story of the group.  But Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great follow-up, easily combining with the 2017 film to create the best two side-by-side solo films in the entire decade-plus run of the MCU.  No two back-to-back Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Guardians, Ant-Man or Avengers movies surpass what director Jon Watts has done with these two films.  Spider-Man has always been Marvel Comics’ #1 superhero, so it’s about time the movies at last reflect that popularity.

Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders are back as Nick Fury and Maria Hill–Jackson really dominating the year in three MCU movies, especially with his big role in Captain Marvel.  Fury didn’t seem to be on his A-game this time, and there are reasons for that that are explained along the journey, which continues into a mid-credits scene and end-credits scene.  After this film audiences can only want more of Happy (Jon Favreau) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), another smartly designed, cute couple that have emerged in this Spidey-verse saga.

A nod is owed to Michael Giacchino.  His score is epic here, combining the theme he established in Spider-Man: Homecoming with thumping, blood-pumping momentum that almost becomes its own character, dipping into romance and the bittersweet along the way.  And make-up artist Jake Garber has given us a Nick Fury look we’ll hopefully see from here on.

After the past two Avengers team-up movies it probably should be no surprise the studios think they need to continue to have bigger and bigger CGI threats.  This one was probably better than any in this year’s Avengers: Endgame, but at times Mysterio and his rip-roaring CGI swirl was also reminiscent of Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse, and not quite as entrancing as similar big characterizations in Thor: Ragnarok.  But the more subtle elements counterbalance the heavier material–an homage to The Sting tucked into the story was brilliantly done.

The only other noteworthy odd choices can be found in the credits scenes.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming, the decision to include immensely important character developments for codas doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Both films opt to stop the film on a spot of humor instead, which now seems like a bit of a director trademark for the Spider-Man films, the first with a twist on Keaton’s Vulture, and these two credits scenes affecting several characters’ current and future stories.

So where does the MCU stand today?  According to ultimate MCU showrunner Kevin Feige, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the last of Phase III of his master plan.  But why not call it what it really is–the beginning of Phase IV?  Spider-Man: Far From Home in actuality leaves Iron Man and the Avengers as we knew them all behind, with Holland’s Spider-Man in the driver’s seat as #1 Avenger as Disney and Marvel build for us whatever is coming next.  Which better mean X-Men and Avengers crossovers, better quality Fantastic Four tales, and the introduction of Prince Namor, the biggest Marvel character who hasn’t yet made it to the big screen.

With a cast in their twenties, this is no doubt the last we see of the teen angst gang–look forward to more adult situations like those found in the newspaper strips, comics, and the novels the next time we see this Spidey. The biggest hope audiences could have for the Spider-Man story moving forward is leaving characters behind that have already been done, including the Green Goblin and Doc Ock, and even Gwen Stacy.  Spider-Man: Far From Home proves we don’t need any more origin stories.  More Spider-Man source material exists than for any other superhero (excepting Superman and Batman in the other universe of superherodom), so let’s keep seeing more new things, as Jon Watts did here by introducing Mysterio and The Elementals.

Don’t wait for this superhero movie to arrive on home video.  Watch Spider-Man: Far From Home in theaters now.

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