Avengers: Endgame (2019) spun an intricate web of potential alternate realities for the Marvel Universe earlier this summer, and the initial task of untangling the fallout rests on the shoulders of Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019). If you're expecting a full multiverse exploration however you may well be disappointed, as what this film really does is weave its way out of all that complicated stuff to think small instead.
Yes with Tony Stark gone, for Peter Parker (along with the rest of the world's citizens who have returned five years after a dusting in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) it's back to life as normal with high-school friends and high-school problems, and that's refreshing after the behemoth of two consecutive Avengers films. Being Spider-Man though, things don't end-up being that straight-forward, and - burdened with the extra responsibility of living up to his late mentor's legacy - his school vacation is quickly interrupted by Nick Fury with an extremely important hero mission.
What's so appealing about that story is that the age-old "great responsibility" affliction is ultimately explored to the max as Peter juggles saving the world with winning over his crush and avoiding the suspicions of his teachers, and as a result he seems more like a charming little guy caught in a big sticky web here than he ever has before.
Now partly that's because the "web" is so big this time around because the plot initially sets off with some villains from another dimension threatening to destroy the entire world. That actually winds up a fairly confusing initial concept, and in fact it does rather weigh the first act down, but eventually the stakes all become clear and the danger Peter and his friends are helplessly in grows into something very tangible indeed.
It could be argued that the narrative drops its overall universe significance in pursuit of that, but it makes for a far more personal story with an interesting thematic kick, and the fact the film ends up teasing its audience about the multiverse concept is both amusing and a huge relief. Marvel going full X-Men on us with multiple timelines really isn't what's needed, and the fact that above all else they instead stay true to exploring that disjunct between humble teenager and high-powered superhero is admirable.
And, whilst the high-stakes story web does indeed help, mostly that central conflict works because Marvel do here exactly what they've done best since the beginning - they bring the central hero to life unbelievably well to an extent that we can properly root for and care about him from start to finish.
In large part this time around we can thank the script for the way it forces Peter into difficult situations where he has to choose between facing his responsibly or enjoying his high-school friendships, but equally a huge amount of the credit should go to Tom Holland for selling it all so well. He showcases what a great actor he is here, and even if playing a smart and incredibly humble teenager who's slightly out of his depth and longing to do right by a big legacy ironically might not be such a huge stretch for him, he unquestionably delivers the perfect performance.
His relationship with crush MJ (played brilliantly by Zendaya) is touching and serves well as the device pulling him away from his superhero obligations, and the magnet towards those in the form of Stark's death is also executed well; there are moments of heartfelt mourning and melancholy which all thankfully build a sense of a film happening after a tragedy despite all the light-hearted high-school stuff.
Overall then, Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) serves as the perfect palette-cleanser to Endgame. After a slightly messy start it successfully bypasses the potential awkwardness of multiple timelines in favour of a fun, charming and heartfelt little movie. It's a film about an ordinary teenage kid wrapped up in some extremely high-stakes stuff, and when the stakes are so great and the kid is developed so well, you've got the recipe for a Spider-Man movie absolutely bang-on.
Whether or not this light-hearted approach to the multiverse extends into the future of the MCU remains to be seen, but the thematic conclusion to Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) (particularly in its post-credits scene in fact) does leave things in a potentially interesting place. In the end though I just hope that Marvel continues to make films as confined as this one as they go forward, because they work very well indeed.
I give Spider-Man: Far From Home an 8 out of 10.
Spider-Man: Far From Home • Run time 2:09 • Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments