The latest Spider-Man arrives in an unenviable position. Not only is this the first solo MCU to handle the fallout from the latest crossover event, but it’s coming hot on the heels of an unrelated Spider-Man film that completely showed up the entire MCU.
Far From Home follows Peter Parker and friends as they go on a European vacation, touring several cities as their trip is hijacked by Nick Fury, who demands Spider-Man’s assistance in a still recovering world as a group of elementals spread mass disasters. Assisting is new hero Mysterio, a supposed multidimensional traveler who’s certainly not among the series’ most iconic villains.
Homecoming was one of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe largely due to how it managed to carve out its own space in an increasingly formulaic franchise. It matched a burgeoning young hero with a smaller scale, also managing to capture Parker’s playful charm in a way previous attempts at the character failed. Far From Home, unfortunately, has fallen entirely into the familiar MCU mould, perhaps harder than any of the other solo sequels. This barely feels like a Spider-Man film; between a reliance on Tony Stark’s technology and Nick Fury’s constant interference, Parker acts as a mere pawn in a game that seems to lie largely outside of this particular film. Far From Home operates as a bridge for a wider story.
The film offers up the usual spectacle, but action with little depth doesn’t add up to much. The MCU rarely offers compelling choreography, and it’s even messier when the enemies are nearly shapeless CGI elementals. Early fights in this movie carry little stake with knowledge of the inevitable twist.
Far From Home really fumbles its lead roles, Spider-Man and Mysterio. Too much time passes before Spider-Man is allowed to play hero, or even act as a protagonist. He’s literally dragged into this story against his will. There’s nothing compelling or heroic about a lead character constantly being forced into action instead of making that decision himself. This is especially laughable when he’s forced into fights against creatures he’s virtually incapable of fighting against. He takes a constant backseat to Mysterio, which calls into question why Nick Fury keeps dragging Parker along. This story is guided by a character who keeps making nonsensical decisions.
Mysterio is one of the more entertaining supervillains around, an absurd showman – but we have to spend the first half of the film caught up in his illusions. While that seems like a logical enough decision, it really drains any weight out of earlier action sequences. It isn’t until the most obvious plot twist in film history takes place that the film finally begins to operate as a hero’s journey, Spider-Man having to make his own decisions to fight back against a threat he’s actually equipped to confront.
If the MCU could lean into the meta and poke fun at itself for a bit, they could have made a fun statement about how difficult it is to craft compelling action sequences while relying on CGI. Unfortunately, they decided to twist Mysterio into a legitimate physical threat by backing him with overwhelming firepower. The fun of breaking through an illusion doesn’t mean as much when the elements behind an illusion are just as dangerous as the image they’re trying to present.
Far From Home feels like a misfire within the MCU. Comparable to Captain Marvel, it hits all the expected notes of a modern blockbuster while struggling to find a voice of its own. It’s fun enough, and crafted as well as most other MCU films, but it doesn’t amount to much beyond a by-the-numbers entry in a franchise that probably has too many. Spider-Man can offer so much more.
3 Stars Out of 5