The weight of Avengers: Endgame is a heavy burden on the shoulders of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and I seriously don’t envy director Jon Watts for having to follow arguably the largest film event of a generation. It’s not as though Spider-Man as a character can’t generate enough hype by himself – particularly after the surprise critical and commercial success of Into The Spider-Verse – but within the context of him and his superhero friends (spoilers) recently defeating an almost unconquerable threat, it’s understandable that genuine tension might be hard to regain. This is a problem that Far From Home suffers from at points, but the lighthearted tone and focus on the character growth of Tom Holland’s sincere, naive Peter Parker keeps the film entertaining.
The setting, and probably my favourite element of the film, is a school vacation around Europe that provides Peter with an opportunity to get away from his double identity after the triple intensity of ‘the blip’, the final battle with Thanos, and his father figure Tony Stark’s death. Here, each member of the film’s endearing cast of characters is given room to provide laughs in a situation relatable to so many of us: the strange unreality of a school trip abroad. Relationships are forged as quickly as they seem to fade away, the authority of the teachers crumbles in the light of an unfamiliar place, and the beauty and history of the places you visit are in a strange compromise with the inevitable lameness of going on holiday with so many rules and restrictions. This is best encapsulated in a running gag with Peter’s best friend and confidante Ned, who finds himself somehow in a loving relationship with a girl he barely knows after a 9-hour flight.
Honestly, I’d take a film of just Peter’s hijinks in Europe, trying to win over Zendaya’s sardonic MJ (resembling Daria‘s Jane Lane more than any other iteration of the character) and generally dodging the cliches that drag down even the best films of the MCU – namely, Mysterio’s storyline and the level of threat he presents to Peter. This isn’t to criticize Jake Gyllenhall, who unsurprisingly gives an energetic, wonderfully chaotic performance, but instead the writing, that provides overly predictable twists and essentially just sets up pins for Spider-Man to knock down without much of a struggle. After Infinity War shook up the formula to such an extent, it’s disappointing to see Marvel still relying on the overused conventions that have drawn so much criticism in the past.
However, it is worth noting that most of these issues only came to light for me in retrospect; when I was actually sat in the theatre watching, I had a great time. The chemistry between the cast is fun to watch, many of the jokes genuinely made me laugh out loud, and I think most filmgoers are partial to watching Spider-Man swing through cities catching bad guys. So while on an intellectual and critical level I don’t think that this is necessarily a good film, I can’t deny that it achieved what it presumably set out to do: it provided a fun two hours at the cinema that I probably won’t be thinking about when the next Marvel installment sets out to grab my money and occupy my time.