The Marvel Cinematic Universe at least was smart enough to not even pretend that billionaire playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wasn’t Iron Man, so it’s really confusing as to why Peter Parker (Tom Holland) hasn’t been revealed as the web-slinging superhero in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
He’s barely disguising his identity when he’s showing off his superhero prowess in and out of costume, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is even putting on events where Spider-Man is trying to assist people eight months after what has been dubbed the Blip, which saw the return of the population Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped out of existence. People aren’t just struggling with their loved ones returning unaged after five years, they’re expecting Spider-Man to fill the void left by the death Tony Stark, who is still very much missed.
It’s a lot to expect from a high school kid, so it’s understandable that Peter would be desperate for a break. So eager is he to get away from his alter go that Peter attempts to leave his Spidey suit behind. Thank goodness May is more prescient, because his trip coincides with the kind of havoc that requires his attention. You’d think no one would need to tell Peter not to ghost Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but Fury is still required to not only show up in Peter’s room to finally get Peter to listen, but have to cater to him in order for Spider-Man to step in and prevent carnage.
It’s pretty natural for Peter to want to do high school stuff like finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels, and escape from the additional burden of responsibility that comes with Tony basically bequeathing him the keys (so to speak) to his technological empire. But Peter is…Peter, and his ineptness leads him to make missteps such as accidentally calling in a drone strike on his rival for MJ’s affections, among other things. It’s mostly true to his appeal, which generally springs from his relatability. Peter wasn’t a mad scientist or adventurer who became a hero right after he got his powers. He was a nerd who stumbled into a world much greater than himself and became committed to the great good out of guilt, yet somehow found a way to take down powerful foes who preyed on the powerless.
Yet by anyone’s standards, Peter makes decisions that are downright idiotic. It’s not just that his skills in hiding both his identity are barely registered but also his reluctance to be Spider-Man is pretty uninteresting. Even if world-ending scenarios are pretty familiar by now to both him and us, Peter’s lack of urgency is especially frustrating given he’s now living in a universe that’s kind of short on Avengers, but never lacking for threats.
Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t given much more to work with as Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, but damn does he make it fun, if not too interesting. His team also consists of mostly non-telegenic people who all lost out due to MCU characters who took up far more screen time, and their criticisms, even about the late Tony Stark, are partially valid. Is this much followed up on? No, there’s more fights. Oh, but what fights, one of which involves Peter’s most feared nightmares and insecurities literally manifesting themselves to him. For those few minutes, Far From Home actually bears a slight resemblance to Climax in the way it captures a trip not only gone horribly wrong, but fueled by the worst in ourselves.
The upside is it finally leads Peter to commit, if not to much more than him finally embracing his responsibilities. Like most global franchises, the MCU has certain patterns that it adheres to, but it’s been willing to take more of a stand than other worldwide brands. Not so with Far From Home, which shows a more familiar cowardice exactly when we need it least, what with its dark vision of how people’s need to believe manifests as their willingness to embrace any lie. It’s a commentary on fake news that takes no side, which is a stance no one benefits from.
Gyllenhaal and Holland make this a coming-of-age story that’s still worth enjoying, but otherwise it’s the film’s last ten minutes, and especially the post-credits scene, that changes everything for Spider-Man while bringing back a beloved fan favorite. Adulthood may slow going for a kid who initially thought he wanted nothing more than to grow up, but it arrives with a bang (along with a revelation heard round the world) by the end.