Post-Endgame sugar rush.
A metallic green, gliding, laughing maniac; an octo-limbed genius obsessed with power; an electricity-infused loner with an irascible edge – Spider-Man has battled a roster of flamboyant foes. Fittingly then, in a post-Thanos and, importantly, post-Tony Stark world, the perfect character to help explore the vulnerability and future of our favourite web-slinger is a fish-bowl wearing, cape-donning eccentric.
The orgasmic joy of Avengers: Endgame‘s reverse-snap à la ‘Portals’ and Iron Man’s gut-punching sacrifice place Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in an interesting world for Far From Home. Jon Watts’ return as director steers the cataclysmic answers to your inevitable pondering in an immensely satisfying way; comically explaining some things (adulterous wives pretending to “blip out”) while venturing deeper with others, woven into the template of a coming-of-age holiday flick.
Among the mere mortals, we learn the great titan’s snap is known as “the blip”. Among those re-assembled from dust and back for Spidey’s second (rebooted) outing are Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), loveable goof Ned (Jacob Batalon), and MJ (Zendaya). Peter and his cohorts are off on a Europe-trotting vacation, with May and Happy (John Favreau) chatting at home and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) getting increasingly frustrated at being put to voicemail by an Avenger – the reason being, there’s a fresh threat on Earth, in the form of Elementals. Fury hopes that Spider-Man will be able to take them down, with the new assistance of ostensibly heroic figure, Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Alas, Peter has bigger fish to fry. He needs a break from the relentless pressure to follow in the shadow of the universe’s saviour, and, crucially, has a girl to chase. It’s par for the course for Watts; teenage angst and troubles up against the perils a superhero has to face. Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna, two of the writers on Spider-Man: Homecoming, also return, and with Watts they orchestrate juvenile faux pas and ball-slaps, supplying the supporting cast with some absolute corkers, but retain the wholesome feel of Peter’s efforts to grasp his surroundings, whether it be his relationship with MJ, or this time, conquering his own grief and self-doubt (one particularly disturbing scene carries this home).
Holland has never been better as the friendly neighbourhood hero; a picture of inner-struggle but a perfect embodiment of a universally adored character, blending the geekiness, awkwardness and Spidey-ness into a tangible character with longevity in the series. He has a tremendous amount of fun, but if anyone’s cutting loose it’s his co-star. Mysterio is a hilarious Marvel creation on paper, but with a talent like Gyllenhaal, he brings an unprecedented sense of authenticity to the role. Think Nightcrawler‘s Lou Bloom in a costume; unhinged and utterly electric to watch sparring with Holland. That, and he’s insanely cool – in concept, he’d be mocked, but the reality is an intoxicating blend of “Iron Man and Thor”, with more green.
The spectacle is certainly more modest in this outing, but Far From Home doesn’t shirk on the awe. Mysterio gives way to mind-shattering possibilities, and Watts capitalises on it big-time. There are sequences, more-so in the film’s second half, that are the closest the MCU will get to the shenanigans of Arkham Asylum’s Scarecrow; nightmarish and hallucinogenic, thrillingly visceral and fiendishly unpredictable. From the explosions of imagination to the real-world set-pieces, with some all-timer action as Spidey twists and twirls through extravagant mayhem, the direction is fabulous (major props to cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd whose shots consistently dazzle and shock). But, most of all, the film never loses sight of what makes Spidey such an attractive, endearing hero for audiences around the world; it’ll do for today’s generation what Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man 2.
A web-slinging triumph; flabbergasting, charming and always entertaining, with heart, laughs and plenty more up its sleeve.
Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm