Marvel has a plan.
They had a plan very early on into this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) deal, and although we’ve had a few Thor 2-sized missteps along the way, they’ve executed that overarching narrative in a near flawless fashion. Throughout the course of over 20 films, Marvel created a gigantic arc that put butts in seats time after time, culminating in a battle with a big bad that was equally built up for years on end. Endgame was a resounding success not only financially but in terms of emotional investment; and now the entire world is looking at the 23-year old Tom Holland to usher in the new era, while carrying on the legacy of the MCU’s biggest star, Robert Downey Jr. By God, he and Marvel accomplished it, without sacrificing the new film’s own identity.
Can I just say how perfect Tom Holland is as Spider-Man? The MCU managed to skirt franchise fatigue by having him just show up in Civil War, and now he has a full two features under his belt. He’s familiar, and welcome. I was already sold after his brief stint in the former film, but at this point he has cemented himself as one of the best casting choices in the entire continuity. Holland embodies the awkward charm of Spider-Man to a tee without overdoing it (an occasional sin with Tobey Maguire’s portrayal), with the ability to step up and be a badass when he needs to (which Andrew Garfield equally overdid).
Holland is the anchor that holds it all together, but the rest of the cast gets their own chance to shine without the looming shadow of the Avengers hanging over them. Sure there’s plenty of worldbuilding, previous film references, and future setups to boot, but Far From Home mainly functions as a device to further Peter Parker’s personal growth as he delves deeper and deeper into the realm of heroism without a backup crew.
Part of that is built on the back of a framework of a high school European class trip, which quickly turns into an adventurous trek across Europe for Peter. His classmates, played by Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, ground the film and help remind us that at the end of the day, Spider-Man really is just a kid. It adds a level of authenticity to Far From Home that many other Marvel movies lack, and the good vibes carry throughout for just the right amount of comedy and harrowing situations.
The framework of Europe, a literally foreign place to the Queens-bound Peter Parker, allows Marvel the opportunity to tell a story different from the myriad New York “friendly neighborhood” concepts we’ve seen time and time again from Sony and in the case of Homecoming, Marvel. His small-time mentality at odds with his grand powers are a central theme of the character, but Far From Home was a nice way to break down that legacy and give us something new in the process.
This is a new era of the MCU, rest assured. Nick Fury and Maria Hill get their time in the sun (which we had shades of in Captain Marvel), and Marvel isn’t holding back with one of the most explosive mid-credits scenes in MCU history. It’s wild how much Marvel has managed to accomplish here on multiple fronts, but even if you don’t care about the universe in general you should get a lot out of Far From Home as a self-contained story.
Sam Raimi’s still-fantastic Spider-Man 2 was the superhero film we needed at the time, but Marvel Studios truly understands what makes the character tick. We’re getting familiar costumes, web shooters instead of hand goo (the science-crafted shooters really add an extra layer to the character), and a lot of safe concepts that we remember from the Spider-Man stories of old. Now a lot of people would argue that “safe” is what Marvel does best, and I don’t think many people would disagree. Artists are free to interpret the character how they see fit, but this particular Holland-verse edition is one of the most authentic so far. There are so many classic Spider-Man tales worth telling that have not been party to the big screen, and I hope Marvel gets the opportunity to share them.