By Sapna Khajuria
What would a world without Iron Man or Captain America or Black Widow look like? How on earth will Spider-Man deal with the loss of his mentor Iron Man? Is Spider-Man the next Iron Man? What happens to those people who return to life in Endgame? Every Marvel fan asked these (and a million other) questions after the stupendous Avengers: Endgame. There was a sense of lack of closure; and Spider-Man: Far From Home not only provides a fitting closure for Endgame, but also dishes out a generous dose of soothing balm for the loss and tragedies of Endgame.
This is a film that my three favourite movie watching pre-teens had been waiting for since Endgame, and they loved the film. It’s a world that is still in mourning for its beloved Avengers who saved them from Thanos and Peter Parker’s school has come up with a semi hilarious memoriam set to Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’. It’s not all dark and mopey and Marvel’s very own brand of wry humour fills up the screen.
Peter is conflicted between trying to move on and live the life of a teenager and living up to Tony Stark’s expectations, while dealing with the void left by Tony’s absence. He chooses to be a non-superhero teenager; in his case, his seven-point plan involves impressing his crush MJ and to totally ignore Nick Fury’s phone calls. We move to Venice where Peter, Ned, MJ and others from their science class go for a trip, accompanied by two comically harried teachers. Alas, a romantic trip does not seem to be in Peter’s stars; thanks to a new form of monster that is terrorising the world. Spidey’s sense of duty puts his romantic plans on hold as he assists a new superhero Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, an interdimensional warrior (so fan theories of a multiverse do come true here). Jake Gyllenhall as Mysterio could just be the new mentor in Peter Parker’s life. Mysterio’s weird bobble head /crystal ball/bowl-shaped head was declared an epic fail by the boys.
Until this point, the three boys were getting restless, muttering comments like “This does not feel like a Marvel movie. Why is there so much icky romance? Where are the fights?” Their prayers are answered starting from the Venice fight scene where Mysetrio and Spider-Man fight a shape-shifting Elemental villain…and, the movie gets its Marvel groove back.
Tony Stark’s presence remains with Peter as he is bequeathed EDITH (Even Dead, I am The Hero), another supercool gadget from Tony’s collection, with a message of confidence for Peter. Revealing more about EDITH would lead to spoilers, but let’s just say it’s way cooler than its name sounds. And it makes Peter wonder yet again, if he is ready for this kind of responsibility on his gawky teenaged shoulders. Nick Fury wants him on Avenger duty, Tony Stark’s words want him to step up, the world won’t stop asking him if he’s the next Iron Man; his classmate Brad seems to be his rival for MJ’s attentions — phew, that’s a lot of demands on our reluctant superhero who would be quite content being just your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. The action quickly moves from Venice to Prague where the Elementals are back to unleash mayhem and destroy the world, with Mysterio, Spider-Man, Fury and Maria Hill in hot pursuit.
The popcorn munching trio of boys is finally delighted, and there are whistles and cheers for Peter Parker as he navigates the entire spectrum of emotions from lack of confidence to despair and naiveté to longing, and eventual redemption. When the Avengers theme music starts, the viewer knows all will soon be okay with the world. As Spidey zips from Prague to Berlin to London, Peter’s crisis of confidence is dizzyingly reflected in a scene with him surrounded by illusion and mirrors (that one drew a lot of “oh wow” from the younger section of the audience and the adults alike). This was the boys’ favourite scene. For my boys, the best homage to Tony Stark was the scene with Peter working on fixing his Spider-Man suit while Highway to Hell plays in the background — “epic scene”, which I assure you, is among the highest forms of compliments a 12-year-old can bestow.
Although the first half is more fun and banter than action sequences, the second half makes up for it with drones, and CGI fight sequences set in Prague and London’s iconic spots. Top marks for the depiction of MJ as a girl with confidence and smarts. Zendaya plays MJ as a smart, no-nonsense teenager who solves an important mystery about Peter’s life; and hopefully, this positive depiction will lead to a more interesting role for MJ in the next film.
In a nutshell, the parent and the preteens’ verdict:
Yay or nay
A definite thumbs up for this one. Endgame was always going to be a tough act to follow, and Far From Home rightly does not even attempt to reach that scale. It’s definitely not a groundbreaking film from the MCU world, but bear with it because it lays down a solid foundation for what’s to come next, and does so with aplomb. As my boys concluded, it’s the kind of superhero film you want every now and then, when it’s not all about the action and CGI, but about hanging out and joking with friends, while being a regular guy superhero.
There’s no real swearing or inappropriate scenes, except for one passing reference to a male escort that is likely to whoosh past the heads of most preteens. The basic theme of our choices making us who we are is an interesting learning to take away from the experience.
As expected from the Marvel writers, there are enough jokes peppered through the movie. The banter between Peter and his best friend Ned; and Peter’s stress about Happy Hogan’s growing closeness to his aunt May provide the most laughs.
Positives to take away from the film /talk to your kids about
“People will believe anything”, says the big villain in the film, and this is such a topical representation of our world today. It’s so easy to carve out a fake narrative and spread rumours. “It’s easy to fool people when they are already fooling themselves” – as a parent, I thought that this exploration of larger themes gave me a chance to chat with my kids about how easy it is to spread fake news or how what you see may not always be what you should believe.
What the 12-year-olds said
Do NOT even think of leaving before the post-credits scenes, because those are mind-blowing. Also, they are convinced that the new version of Spider-Man is going to be way better than OG Spider-man (OG is teen speak for original, as I have learnt recently); and they cannot wait for the next film because of the awesome reveal from the post-credits.
Go for it
This reluctant superhero’s journey of self-discovery is a must-watch. For all the banter and the easy breezy tone of the film, there is a larger subtext of shape-shifting truths, and a cliffhanger of a post-credit reveal.
(The writer is a lawyer by training, who would rather be a full-time globetrotter, and mom to 12-year-old twin boys who share her love for all things filmy.)