SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – an Alternative Lens review

Starring: Tom Holland (The Impossible), Samuel L. Jackson (Captain Marvel), Zendaya (The Greatest Showman), Cobie Smulders (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back), Jon Favreau (Chef), J.B. Smoove (Uncle Drew), Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest), Martin Starr (Adventureland), Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) 

Director: Jon Watts (Cop Car)

Writers: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle)

Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

Release Date: 2nd July (US, UK)

It was only a few months ago that the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemingly ended but, like the comics that inspired them, the story keeps on going and going and going. As the first one out of the gate in this new realm, Spider-Man: Far From Home has a lot of weight on its shoulders. Not only does it have to serve as a follow-up to both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Endgame, but it also needs to reassure audiences that this universe isn’t going anywhere just yet. Any other franchise would look at expectations like that and decide to leave on a high, but Far From Home dares to leap off that cliff edge to not only survive, but fly high.

Picking up not long after the events of Endgame (and tidily dealing with the consequences of that film without dwelling on it too much), Far From Home takes Peter Parker out of his comfort zone swinging around New York and off on a pan-European trip, all whilst still juggling his high school dramas with saving the world. Much like Homecoming, the film has a heavy meta narrative about Spidey’s place in the MCU, particularly where he stands as a hero post-Infinity Saga, and it’s all handled very deftly. Most pleasingly, Far From Home takes some welcome notes from the Sam Raimi playbook and ups the heart factor massively, giving it that necessary distinctive quality that Homecoming lacked; this is a Spider-Man movie that takes place in the MCU, not an MCU movie that happens to star Spider-Man, and that’s the way it should be.

The story moves at an energetic pace, retaining that John Hughes quality to deliver one of the funniest entries in the MCU, whilst also delivering some of the best action sequences ever in a Spidey flick. Though the film only vaguely gestures towards the future of the greater franchise, it does intelligently play with established lore to fuel its story, paying off moments you never even knew were left dangling. All in all, this is more of a victory lap for the MCU rather than a preview of things to come, but it’s a well-earned and brilliantly executed success.

Now in his fifth performance as the webbed wall crawler, Tom Holland has had more opportunity to explore Peter Parker now than any other feature film actor, and here he’s better than ever. This is easily the most relatable Spidey has been since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and Holland absolutely nails Peter’s insecurities and anxieties about being a hero whilst also being a charming leading man and a gifted comedian. Whilst there is a disappointing lack of screen time for Tony Revolori’s Flash and Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May this time around, plenty of other returning characters get their deserved chances in the spotlight. Chiefly, Zendaya’s MJ gets a lot more to do this time around than just stand in the back of scenes and make quips, and she is absolutely hilarious and endearing in every moment she has. Jacob Batalon is as goofy and adorkable as ever as Peter’s best friend Ned, and his subplot with Angourie Rice’s Betty adds a cute little undercurrent to the grander story.

Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove make for great comedic relief as the trip’s bumbling chaperones, Jon Favreau adds a much-appreciated sentimental quality in his return as Happy Hogan, and though Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders are relatively underused as Nick Fury and Maria Hill, the payoff to their roles is absolutely worth it. However, there is not denying that Jake Gyllenhaal’s outstanding performance as Quentin Beck/Mysterio absolutely steals this movie. I wish I could gush about why he’s so great, because there is a lot to say and praise, but I won’t because the marketing has rightly kept his role tight-lipped. Instead, I’ll just say this: if you love Mysterio from the comics, you will not be disappointed.

Homecoming was director Jon Watts’ first big-budget feature and his inexperience showed in places, but here he seems far more comfortable orchestrating on this scale. Far From Home is a visually spectacular piece of entertainment, only rivalled by Into the Spider-Verse in terms of delivering a page-accurate translation of a Spidey comic book. The action sequences take full advantage of the hero’s abilities and physicality more than any previous live-action interpretation, and the globetrotting nature of the story gives a greater sense of variety after so many films stuck with the same New York backdrop. The Mysterio sequences are especially jaw dropping, taking some cues from Doctor Strange to deliver some mind-bending imagery that feels ripped straight from the comic pages. Michael Giacchino returns again to score and deliver yet another rousing series of Spidey anthems, whilst Watts’ soundtrack choices are yet again an inspired collection of rock and pop classics both obvious and obscure.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is maybe not the best Spider-Man movie, but it is perhaps the most Spider-Man movie. It’s not as quintessential as Spider-Man 2 or as imaginative as Into the Spider-Verse, but it makes a strong case for itself as the most fun Spidey adventure yet. It does everything that made Homecoming great and fixes its few remaining flaws, and is easily the best second entry in an MCU sub-franchise since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There are so many more places for Spider-Man to go in this universe, and this film absolutely promises that the story isn’t stopping any time soon.


Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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