Spider-Man: Far From Home puts the story back in Marvel superhero films

Spider-Man spun his web around movie theaters this weekend, and in all likelihood it’s going to be another blockbuster. Despite “superhero fatigue,” this installment of the franchise featuring Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) alter ego is likely to thrive. That’s primarily because it’s a good movie.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a refreshing follow up to the weak plots and superhero cameo-heavy Avengers movies Infinity War and End Game. Spider-Man’s focus on a teenage superhero gives the screenwriters room to breath, and they use it effectively to propel the plot and build tension. 

The best part of Spider-Man is the character arc of Peter Parker. Wanting to be a superhero would seem to be a no-brainer — everyone aspires to save the world. At least according to Avengers and their supporters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). But Peter knows all too well the sacrifices that come with his role. He’s still a teenager who wants to do teenager things, like muster up the courage to tell the girl of his dreams (MJ, played by Disney star and singer Zendaya) how much he likes her. A high-school trip to Europe is the perfect opportunity.

Set in the aftermath of “the Blip,” when half the world’s population disappeared and then reappeared (see Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game), the world is trying to get back to a new normal. Peter is still reeling from the loss of Tony Stark and other Avengers. The movie, however, doesn’t dip too much into the trauma of Stark’s death, except to dwell a bit on the personal loss of a friend and mentor. Stark’s passing, however, does more to push Peter toward being a normal teenager than confronting the loss of someone very close to him. 

The Earth, however, is faced with a new threat from another dimension, and Nick Fury summons Peter back into the Avengers fold. This time, he is assisting Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in trying to stop the existential threat of what they all the Elementals. These monsters feed off the energy of the Earth’s core, only to destroy it. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home is solid action, but misses a few beats. It’s unclear during most of the movie, for example, how Spider-Man’s heroics really assist Mysterio in wrestling these new threats to the ground. To some extent, this superhero impotence is a subtext for the larger question Peter needs to face about his future as a superhero. 

To the movie’s credit, the graphics never get in the way of the action, plot, or the character development. The CGI is all used for specific reasons and purposes, and this helps hold the movie together. This is actually pretty important for the narrative in this movie. 

Spider-Man fans are likely to enjoy the movie. But Spider-Man: Far From Home also holds a lot of entertainment value for general audiences, too.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).