The film that follows Avengers: Endgame faced an unenviable task. Marvel’s huge finale was a definite narrative end and a suitable point at which to pack up the franchise. However, that was never the plan. Endgame was the end of a set of phases in Marvel’s cinematic universe rather than an end to the whole project. Yes, no more Iron Man and no more (probably) Captain America, at least with in the form of Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans but Marvel had already positioned a new roster of characters to keep things going (and looks like there will be a Thor 4).
Pulling Spider-Man into the mix from Sony was a smart move and has resulted in a weird kind of Spider-Renaissance, with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming providing a surprisingly fresh take on the superhero who is second only to Batman in having modern movie reboots. Sony then manage to up that ante with Into the Spiderverse throwing a whole nest of Spideys at the screen in vivid colours. Far From Home as a film was placed in the wholly unenviable position of having to live-up to not just Endgame but also two great recent Spider-Man films and kick off the next round of the MCU.
It doesn’t fail at this these tasks but it does dodge them. The major plot twist is strongly signalled to anybody who knows about Spider-Man’s classic villains and is explained by exposition (nicely done, but still a pause for the bad guy to explain to his hench people what is going on). I don’t want to sound dismissive by saying it is a kid’s movie (I like kid’s movies and often they get to be more inventive than movies pitched at adults) but it feels like it has a younger audience in mind. There’s a teen-comedy feel that I think works for the character and the engaging cast but which also side-steps the momentous backstory that comes with from being set post-Endgame.
The positioning of Spider-Man as the replacement for the Iron Man franchise is overt. As with Homecoming, Tony Stark looms large over the film but this time posthumously. It’s an interesting choice but one Marvel obviously planned given how Spider-Man was introduced in Civil War, the inclusion of Stark in Homecoming and the pairing of Peter Parker and Tony Stark in Avengers: Infinity War.
Tonally there’s very little in common between the Spider-Man films and the Iron Man films. The torch-handing-over aspect is more of a plot point but also in terms of Spider-Man now being ‘the one with the gadgets’ in the franchise. Not wholly off-brand for Spider-Man given Peter Parker’s interest in technology but still an odd choice for a superhero with his own innate powers.
Jake Gyllenhaal is fun to watch as always, as are Cobie Smulders and Samuel L Jackson as a kind of two-person version of SHIELD. The theme of Peter Parker and substitute fathers (Stark, Fury, Misterio) continues without becoming overwhelmed by angst. The broader theme of deception and what can and can’t be trusted is a timely one and leads into a nice surprise in the post-credit scenes.
Fun and diverting. It’s not the pleasant surprise that Homecoming was and it isn’t visual feast that Spiderverse was but it is a sweet film with really likeable characters and enough superhero action to keep me interested.