Marvel movies often feature surprises that no one wants spoiled, so my job as a reviewer can be difficult. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” features many surprising moments. To avoid them, I’m going to give you a history lesson first.
On Feb. 25, 1995, FOX Kids premiered the episode “The Menace of Mysterio” of “Spider-Man: The Animated Series.” Since it premiered, I have patiently waited for Mysterio’s arrival on the big screen.
In the fall of 2009, rumors spread that director Sam Raimi would direct a fourth installment of the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man series, and Bruce Campbell would play the Master of Illusion, Mysterio. That wasn’t meant to be. Raimi and Sony Pictures cut ties, Spidey was rebooted, Campbell lost his role, and I lost my chance of seeing Mysterio.
Back in February 2013, when Campbell visited Hastings College, I attempted to learn more about why the actor never played the fishbowl-wearing foe of Spider-Man. It did not go well. He misinterpreted my question and thought I was asking if he’d be a part of the Andrew Garfield-led Spider-Man movies. I’m not a fool. I knew he wouldn’t, but I was an eager young movie critic looking for some dirt about the rumored fourth Spider-Man film. We had an awkward back and forth, and he quickly moved on to the next person asking a question. No hard feelings, of course. I loved his show “Ash vs. Evil Dead.”
Years past and still no Mysterio. We saw Lizard, Green Goblin, Electro and Vulture fighting against Spider-Man, but Mysterio was mysteriously absent. There was a brief tease of him during the end credits of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but Sony again went in a different direction before he could appear. It was starting to look like Mysterio would never be in a feature film.
Fast forward to May 21, 2018, and Jake Gyllenhaal is cast as Mysterio. My little nerd heart was aflutter once again. Now it’s the week of the Fourth of July, and Mysterio is in theaters.
His arrival is spectacular. Marvel Studios and Sony gave the iconic character the most comic accurate costume I’ve ever seen, his illusions create set pieces that rival those in “Doctor Strange” and “Ant-Man,” and Gyllenhaal’s performance is one of the best in the MCU.
I can’t write more details than that about the character, but rest assured Spidey fans, you’re in for some quality surprises.
What I can tell you is that in this film, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) journeys to Europe for a class trip. And while there he intends to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he has feelings for her. None of this goes according to plan. Another guy tries to get cozy with MJ, elemental monsters wreak havoc on the beautiful European cities Peter is in, and Nick Fury won’t leave Peter alone.
What works best about this new movie is that the plot of this film is more contained than “Endgame” or “Infinity War.” That is why this cinematic universe will continue to succeed. Producer Kevin Feige knows that to maintain the MCU he can make epic films, but he also knows that he must never forget to give audiences a breather with smaller solo character-driven stories. Then Feige will rebuild to another epic adventure. Anyone who says this model is not sustainable is mad.
One of the other reasons this film and other Marvel films work so well is humor. “Far From Home” might be the funniest MCU film yet, and that is both due to the fantastic screenwriting and direction. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers wrote a film that captures the spirit of Spider-Man while managing to maintain the John Hughes tone director Jon Watts and his former screenwriters established. This team of creators was also able to balance the comedy with the romance between MJ and Peter.
The scenes between Holland and Zendaya are cute and awkward, which is what I expect in a Peter Parker romance. Peter is interesting because he’s not debonair like Tony Stark. He’s a goofball whose heart is pounding at a thousand beats per minute while he talks to his crush. Watts perfectly captures this budding romance on screen and proves that he is one of Marvel’s best filmmakers.
I don’t know if “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is my favorite Spider-Man movie, but I know I was entertained from beginning to end credits. “Far From Home” is a funnier movie than “Homecoming,” and Mysterio rivals Michael Keaton’s Vulture as a great MCU villain. I suppose his arrival was worth 24 years of waiting.