‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ grapples with the legacy of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Too much responsiblity for a teen from Queens?

Posted 7/10/19

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man was portrayed as either among the first of a modern-age wave of superheroes, as in the comic books, or as the lone superhero in a world of emerging supervillains, as in the films of directors Sam Raimi and Marc Webb.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ grapples with the legacy of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Too much responsiblity for a teen from Queens?

Posted

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man was portrayed as either among the first of a modern-age wave of superheroes, as in the comic books, or as the lone superhero in a world of emerging supervillains, as in the films of directors Sam Raimi and Marc Webb.

The Marvel Universe has flipped the script by portraying Spider-Man as an emerging superhero in a world already well-populated by superheroes and supervillains, which has been a point of contention for the character’s more traditionalist fans.

And yet, when it comes to the most essential moral message of Spider-Man — his co-creator Stan Lee’s axiom, “With great power must come great responsibility” — “Spider-Man: Far From Home” arguably hammers home this theme as strongly as even the best moments of the Raimi Spider-Man films.

Set in the wake of “Avengers: Endgame,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” tackles the lasting consequences of the Avengers’ battles with Thanos right up front, and shows how they’ve impacted the entire world, even on down to Peter Parker’s Midtown High School in Queens, New York.

Without spoiling too much of “Avengers: Endgame,” which has been brought back to selected theaters for one last hurrah, the world has far fewer superheroes that it can readily call upon, post-Thanos, which means that everyone is turning to “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” to expand the scope of his superheroing beyond his home neighborhood of New York City.

This includes S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, who hijacks Peter’s class trip to Europe to draft him into service alongside a new would-be superhero against what we’re repeatedly told is “an Avengers-level threat” to the world as a whole, all while Peter struggles to make time with the girl he likes, with the hopes that she likes him back.

Ever since Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark declared to the world that he was Iron Man at the end of his first film, the Marvel Universe has mostly avoided the secret identity hijinks that defined far too much of the drama of superhero comic books back in the day.

But when your protagonist is a high school student who wants some semblance of a normal life, what better way to illustrate the internal conflict of Peter Parker’s competing responsibilities than to put his double-life as a superhero and a supposedly ordinary teenager front and center?

Indeed, rather than chiding an overly burdened Peter for shirking his responsibilities to blow off some steam like a regular kid, as so many previous stories have done, the clever inversion of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is how Peter’s overly mature sense of perspective and commitment to acting responsibly are weaponized against him.

Tobey Maguire was a pitch-perfect nerdy Peter Parker, and Andrew Garfield was great in the suit as a quip-spouting Spider-Man, but Tom Holland is the first actor to capture both sides of the character, and he’s surrounded by a top-flight supporting cast here.

Just as we see Holland as Peter agonizing over how to win over the snarky MJ (Zendaya), we’re treated to two other romances, one of uncomfortably uneven affection levels between Peter’s all-too-alluring Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and the affable Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) of Stark Industries, and another of surprising synchronicity between Peter’s equally nerdy best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and their gorgeous classmate Betty Brant (Angourie Rice).

Even by the standards set by the Marvel Universe to date, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury seems a bit too ruthless in his demands that Peter be willing to sacrifice every vestige of his civilian life, but the final post-credits scene would seem to indicate why his portrayal feels a bit off.

A welcome addition to the Marvel Universe is Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck, the newest super-person on the scene, who strikes up a genuinely endearing relationship with Peter as they team up under Fury’s direction, but who nonetheless lives up to his comic book origins as Mysterio, master of illusions.

As much as I love how deep into the weeds this film is willing to go to explore how much the world has changed as a result of having super-powered people in it, the one drawback is that this is not a film for entry-level viewers.

Don’t bother trying to follow the reasons behind “The Blip,” as it’s called in this film, if you haven’t seen “Avengers: Endgame,” and don’t expect to make sense of the final post-credits scene unless you’ve seen “Captain Marvel.”

I’ve seen other reviews refer to “Spider-Man: Far From Home” as an epilogue to the Avengers’ war with Thanos, but the moment it brought back an unnamed character who had all of 45 seconds of screen time in the first “Iron Man” film as a significant supporting player, I knew that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was an epilogue to the entire Marvel series of films to date.

Our hero’s journey wraps on a high note, with the Go-Go’s “Vacation” playing in the background, and the overdue return of the muckraking Daily Bugle to Spider-Man’s world, making sensationalistic claims about our favorite wall-crawler that threaten to change his life forever.

And yes, this is arguably a spoiler, but speaking as a faithful fan of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, the Marvel Universe cast the perfect actor for J. Jonah Jameson.

Welcome home, Spidey.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment