Watching a Spider-Man film is tough. His track record on the big screen has been marred by poorly developed villains or an over-reliance on mythology designed to service fans and not a story. When the character entered the MCU it was hailed as a bold move that solidified his standing and pointed against yet another reboot of the beloved superhero. Spider-Man: Homecoming while not the perfect film fans wanted after two failed franchises, was quintessentially Peter Parker. Quick-witted, a little bit geeky and with the right dose of teenage romance thrown in for good measure. The story was not just his own but it didn’t rely too heavily on the addition of Tony Stark and the spectre of the MCU as a whole. Clearly, this formula satisfied the Marvel brass because instead of building upon that Far From Home feels like much the same film, with some unfortunate oversteering to boot.
Following the events of Avengers Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is fearful of what the future holds for him and his friends so when a European school trip offers an escape from his Spider-Man related duties he jumps at the opportunity. However, when Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) enlists him for a mission to stop a group of villains called The Elementals with the assist of new hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) he is thrown back into a world he is trying to avoid.
Returning director Jon Watts clearly understands Parker and with the talented help of Holland he seamlessly returns to his world but despite stating otherwise loudly and clearly, nothing has changed. The stakes here, much like elements of the film, are entirely fabricated and it isn’t for lack of trying. The problem is that this all feels too familiar. In Homecoming, Peter was forced to grow up to become the Avenger he so desperately wanted to prove he was. Here, he has regressed back to that overzealous kid, the one trying to prove something without ever really learning anything. While most trilogies use its middle chapter to knock their heroes down a peg or two, here they just reset him.
Accompanied by some woefully edited action sequences where it is difficult to discern what you should actually be caring about, Far From Home has some irreparable lapses in judgement. While the comedic beats feel realistically childish they weave into a plot shooting for melancholy. The two ideas never quite mesh. The third act twist, although interesting feels like a contrivance. The out there finale, however, is carefully constructed and wickedly realised, so much so that it points out the failings of the rest of the film. Clearly taking a page out of the Doctor Strange visual playbook, the reality-warping conclusion really messes with your head.
All in all the film is a study of grief through the lens of a superhero with the idea of mortality first and foremost on the minds of these characters but in a film lacking in stakes and unwilling to take seriously the point it is trying to make it begs the question, what was the point?