The 23rd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second movie in the twice-rebooted “Spider-Man” franchise, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is perhaps the weakest entry – if not the weakest – in the MCU.
“FFH” occurs eight months after the events of this year’s “Avengers: Endgame,” which hastily, awkwardly explains the new status quo, something requiring a lot of suspension of disbelief. The world is still mourning the deaths of several Avengers, opening with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” playing over images of the fallen heroes.
Life is getting back to normal for Spidey’s alter-ego Peter Parker (Tom Holland, playing the character for a fifth time), who goes on a school trip with his classmates to Europe. There, super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) recruits him to team up with Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a master of special effects and illusions, to battle the Elementals.
However, Spidey would rather be a normal kid, hang with his friends, and get to first base with Michelle “MJ” Jones (Zendaya) rather than step up and save the world, especially after his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) posthumously leaves him access to E.D.I.T.H. (which stands for “Even Dead, I’m The Hero”), a powerful defense system controlled by a pair of sunglasses. Mysterio plays on Spidey’s desires to be normal and tricks him into handing over E.D.I.T.H. Spidey realizes soon thereafter that Mysterio is really a villain and must fight him.
The film is very uneven and silly and there’s way too much going on. It comes off as a dumb teenage comedy (unlike previous film incarnations, Spidey is still in high school in “FFM”), only with super-powers. Some jokes are overdone, such as calling his precognitive spider-sense his “Peter-tingle,” which falls flat upon first reference but keeps getting brought up. Then there’s the slapstick scene with Peter bonking his head not once but twice on a bell to prevent a building from collapsing on people. There’s also the scene where he accidentally uses E.D.I.T.H. to launch a drone-strike on a classmate he doesn’t like – it’s way over the top.
Holland is very awkward and annoying and babbles an awful lot. Yes, Peter Parker was an awkward, introverted geek before becoming Spider-Man. However, when he received his super-powers, he still had his insecurities and angst, but his confidence was boosted – something original Spidey Tobey Maguire portrayed beautifully in 2002’s “Spider-Man,” directed by Royal Oak native Sam Raimi.
Holland is no Maguire by any means.
Raimi made it more about Peter Parker than about Spider-Man. He also let him grow up. By the end of “Spider-Man,” Peter was already in college. Spider-Man is better off as a young/youngish adult than a teenager.
In “FFM,” Spidey is more of a poor man’s Iron Man as he designs a new costume for the final battle with Mysterio. So it’s more about a poor man’s Iron Man at times than it is about Spider-Man, much less about Peter Parker. No, that just doesn’t work. Spider-Man is Spider-Man for a reason; he’s not Iron Man, nor should he even try to be. Moreover, the MCU Spidey lacks the heart of Maguire’s Spidey.
Marisa Tomei reprises her role as Aunt May, Spidey’s mother-figure. Tomei’s Aunt May is a younger, prettier version of an otherwise older character. Like Stark in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” (the first MCU appearance of Spidey and Aunt May), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark’s security chief, is attracted to her. No, that just doesn’t work either.
Aunt May, Peter’s moral foundation, is at her best when she’s portrayed as a pillar of quiet strength and wisdom and knows her nephew’s a super-hero as opposed to being portrayed as a frail, senile old bat who hates Spidey. Oscar nominee Rosemary Harris did an excellent job of playing Aunt May in Raimi’s trilogy as did Detroit native Lily Tomlin in 2018’s animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Zendaya’s MJ – a derivative of the hero’s true love Mary Jane Watson, another MJ (played by Kirsten Dunst in the Raimi trilogy) who hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” – is very aloof and distant, if not moody, whereas redheaded Mary Jane was flamboyant and bubbly. You can’t understand why Peter is attracted to her. Further, you really can’t feel the chemistry between Holland and Zendaya.
One thing in the movie’s favor is it doesn’t rehash his origin the way the forgettable 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” did, which was the first attempt at a reboot with Andrew Garfield replacing Maguire.
“FFM” is not without its good moments. The special effects sequence where Mysterio is using his illusions to mess with Spidey’s head is well done. The two post-credits scenes are big cliffhangers, the first pertaining to Spidey’s status quo that features the return of a familiar face (no more will be said) and the second involving Fury and the beginning of Phase 4 of the MCU.
Still, the good moments are few and far between.