Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Directed by Jon Watt. Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Spider-Man’s European Vacation benefits from some thrilling action set pieces and the emotional honesty of its take on Peter Parker’s enforced graduation from friendly neighbourhood hero to Iron Man replacing Avenger. While he would rather just be a kid on holiday in Europe telling the girl he really likes how he feels, Peter finds himself being manipulated by Nick Fury into joining the effort to save Earth from a new threat.
Harnessing the quirky, nerdy energy of Tom Holland’s performance the film manages to walk the blockbuster movie tightrope in a pretty well-balanced fashion. The explosions and whirling CGI camera moves are all present and have enough of a unique edge to them to seem relatively fresh and fun. The screenplay engages nicely with the standard superhero tropes of identity and illusion asking all sorts of questions about created personas, which identity we choose to own as ours, where truth really lies and what people can be made to believe if they are uncertain for the future or simply don’t care any more. The relationship between Peter and Zendaya’s MJ is beautifully played in sweet, realistically awkward fashion and there is lots of humour driving the whole thing as the comical potential of multiple relationships is mined successfully.
The counterweight to all the thrillingly fun stuff is the main narrative driver that Peter is being forced to take on a role that he doesn’t yet feel comfortable with. Like a star employee, riddled with self-doubt, who doesn’t want to take the next step on the career ladder he is fearful for what it would mean for his private life and all but certain that he cannot fill Iron Man’s shoes. Also, and it is something that this iteration of Spiderman has handled particularly well, he is still a teenager with all the emotional baggage and insecurity those pesky hormones bring to the child\adult transition period.
Ending Phase Three of the gargantuan MCU project, this (coupled with Captain Marvel and Black Panther) points to a fresh, fun forward direction for those of us who were never really sold on Tony or Steve.