It has taken a while, but after this film I can finally say with confidence that superhero movie fatigue has set in for me. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the eighth theatrical Spider-Man film, the 23rd Marvel Cinematic Universe film, and another one of countless superhero movies released over the past couple of years. Up until this point, the MCU has done a fantastic job of keeping their characters fresh and not making the same gimmick feel old. Earlier this year, Avengers: Endgame smashed all expectations by delivering fans a satisfying and emotional end to the saga that took over eleven years to build. Now Far From Home has to follow that somehow. An uphill battle for sure, but director Jon Watts proved with Spider-Man: Homecoming that he is a capable director who can craft a funny and endearing superhero film.
Far From Home, while a fun summer blockbuster, does not even remotely compare to Homecoming, which is surprising given the same talent worked on both movies. The plot here is painfully simple: Peter Parker (Tom Holland, energetic as always) wants to take a break from being a hero, hang out with his friends, and win the affection of MJ (Zendaya) all during a leisurely vacation in Europe. Obviously things don’t go his way when monsters made of the four elements nicknamed Elementals ambush Europe. Spider-Man must team up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and new presence Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in order to somehow stop these monsters from destroying the Earth.
If only the entire film was as fresh and unique as Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. Everything involving his character attempts to pull the film out of the muck and give it some moments to shine–both storyline-wise and acting-wise. Gyllenhaal is never bad in anything (that I’ve seen) and he sure as hell doesn’t plan on starting here. He doesn’t quite rise to the level of Michael Keaton’s Vulture from Homecoming, but he proves to be a worthy adversary to Holland’s Spider-Man nonetheless. Even though the personal storylines surrounding most characters have little impact, Gyllenhaal is convincing throughout and makes his progression more convincing than others. Samuel L. Jackson is the other highlight here, similar to every other Marvel movie he appears in. I am not a fan of what they did with his character at the very end, but future development may prove me wrong in that respect.
What truly drags this film down is that it’s missing almost everything that made a Holland/Watts Spider-Man film good in the first place. The most notable misstep here is the humor. All MCU films nowadays are basically comedies disguised as superhero flicks, which is fine because they have always been at least somewhat humorous. Far From Home, however, is a barren wasteland of hilarity, with every joke feeling forced and cringeworthy rather than organic and side-splitting. All of the actors’ comedic timing seems to miss the mark every time, causing each joke to fall flat with even the most open-minded of audience members. My theater was jam-packed full of people, and yet there were some very obvious attempts at humor that generated complete silence from the crowd.
An ongoing joke that especially got on my nerves was one involving Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned. In Homecoming, Batalon delivered some fantastic one-liners and was a great sidekick, but what the writers burden his character with here was so annoying that I wanted to fast-forward through every scene he appeared in. Jokes that should be funny in concept are dead on arrival from start to finish and I don’t understand what changed from Homecoming to here.
However, jokes don’t need to work if the story is consistently compelling, but for the first two acts of the movie there is no reason to be invested in these events. The occurrences feel very inconsequential even though the characters constantly explain how threatened the audience is supposed to feel, and this is due to a boring general plot. Things pick up in the third act, but before that Far From Home feels like a cliché high school romance disguised as an action/adventure movie, and I mean that in a negative manner. One storyline involving Peter Parker taking off his clothes and a resulting picture was unnecessary to an extreme degree. Not only was this side-plot a complete waste of time, but it felt like it belonged in an episode of 13 Reasons Why or 90210. Thinking back on it, the editor probably could have cut that entire segment out of the movie and the plot would not be affected at all. The film would probably change for the better as a result.
The last major thing the writers get wrong is that they expect the audience to suspend their disbelief too many times. Peter Parker falls from more than 20 stories multiple times during action scenes and even hits the hard concrete, but he survives every time without a scratch. Characters also simply appear in places without any explanation or reference to how they arrived at that location, and the audience is simply supposed to discard any logic to make room for an endearing or “funny” scene. Once or twice is fine, but Far From Home relies on these awful tactics more times than I would care to count, which ends up taking the audience out of the film due to a lack of believability.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is entertaining and well-paced if nothing else. Not once did I check the time or think about my other obligations throughout, making this film wonderful escapism. It’s an adequate movie to go see with friends on a Saturday night, but those looking for a memorable or fresh experience will be disappointed. Far From Home brings nothing new to the table, instead adhering to superhero movie tropes and settling into mediocrity. In ten years, this will be seen as just another Spider-Man film: nothing more, nothing less. A far more fulfilling and unforgettable experience will be had by those that check out Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Netflix.
I give Spider-Man: Far From Home a C.