Warning: Film and review contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame
A curious factoid kept occurring to me as I watched Spiderman: Far from home — Spiders can fly. No, really. Some species of spider lift their abdomens to the sky and fire long silken threads, using electrostatic repulsion to generate lift and send them soaring; sometimes flying hundreds of miles. This is called ballooning and it is real.
In a way then, an electricity-powered flying spideybro is not the most far-fetched part about Spiderman: Far from home. That honour goes to the complete absence of international law and radar in Marvel’s post-Endgame universe.
More on the law, and radar, later.
This film takes place following the events of Avengers: Endgame. In this world, the implications of Thano’s infamous snap are still feeling felt. People attend therapy workshops for the PTSD they faced. Interestingly, those who disappeared and then returned did not age, despite five years passing in the time it took for the Avengers to bring them back. Everyone they know is now five years older. This leads to an unfortunate situation at Peter Parker’s high school, where his juniors are now his peers, with a once-scrawny infant named Brad now a hunk who catches the eye of Michelle, AKA MJ.
Played laconically by Zendaya, MJ sets the emotional stakes in this film. She is the emotional impetus for Peter to spend more time being a normal person chasing after the girl of his dreams. After helping save the universe from Thanos and watching his mentor die, Spidey’s priority is now himself.
Much of the film comprises Peter Parker insisting that he does not want to superhero for a bit and would instead like to have a romantic Eurotrip with the crush-of-his-life. This is why he will not answer Nick Fury’s calls, to his own comic detriment.
His break comes in the form of a Eurotrip where he can find himself, hopefully, alone with MJ so he can ask her out. It’s a scenario that teenagers who graduate high school in the Western world might find more relatable than their Indian counterparts (who, post-high-school, only take competitive exams, working their way towards a placement in a multinational company that might, someday, sponsor an ‘onsite’ Eurotrip).
In an era of increased mental health awareness, one could argue that Peter has earned a holiday. Sadly, he does not entirely get one, courtesy events sparked by the arrival of ‘Mysterio’— played by Jake Gylenhall — and beings called ‘Elementals’, the latter of whom turn Spidey’s Eurotrip into yet-another-work-outing as he tries to save multiple iconic landmarks from devastation.
There is much to empathize with in this Spiderman movie and that is what makes it good. Spidey, at the end of the day, is a friendly-neighbourhood-hero. Unlike the likes of Captain Marvel, the issues that concern him are not necessarily galactic in scale. He has a crush, like any 16-year-old would, and he goes through the torment of watching something else hit all the right notes with her while he fumbles around in a web of awkwardness.
This Spidey is still reeling from the emotional weight of Iron Man’s death, and the responsibility of being Tony Stark’s implicit successor. Without revealing too much, this film is a must-watch if you want to see how Tony Stark’s legacy will play out.
Speaking of legacies, it is worth remembering the legacy of the Spiderman franchise in the grand scheme of things. Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the most -valuable cinematic franchise of all time, it owes its rise to Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (2002), which was the first superhero film to cross $100 million in its opening weekend. It was this film, as well as X-Men (2000), that triggered the golden age of modern superhero movies.
There are unrealistic moments, not least of which is the absence of international law and outrage. Non-state vigilante actors blow up things and aliens in foreign countries without so much as a “Hi, might I request permission to detonate explosions on your sovereign soil”. The world seemingly made its peace with the chaos of superhero battles in Avengers: Civil War. This is what allows drone strikes and attacks to be carried out with impunity in Europe, with neither radar nor law enforcement ever making an appearance.
Another gripe is Tom Holland’s annoying habit of taking his mask off every few moments, despite having the rest of his costume on. Does he no longer care for his identity being revealed? He may as well be Tom-HollandMan.
The stakes may not be as large as they are in Endgame, but that does not make it any less compelling to watch. The film’s plot twists and emotional moments may seem predictable for those who have watched too many movies to enjoy a ‘typical’ superhero film, but it remains slick Hollywood filmmaking.
Spiderman: Far from home is easy to sink into. Watch it for Spidey (who gains new abilities with a new suit), for closure over Tony Stark, and for the promise of that one great Eurotrip where you find yourself. And also, for an end-credits sequence that is arguably more intense than the film itself. The next Spiderman movie will be a doozy.
Movie: Spiderman: Far from home
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders