The two best casting decisions the MCU made over its 11-year history have been Samuel L. Jackson as super-spy Nick Fury and Tom Holland as the teenaged friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
With all due respect to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth as Thor (along with dozens of other great choices), Jackson and Holland just fit those two roles so pitch-perfectly, and I’ve loved every minute of screen time they’ve had in the Marvel movies. Nick Fury has been the through-line holding 11 years worth of movies together, even when he doesn’t appear in a film. It’s hard to imagine a better actor than Jackson to be the man here. And Spider-Man seems poised to be the new heart of the Marvel films, which is fitting, considering how important he is to the comic book company’s history.
Spider-Man’s importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at the heart of FAR FROM HOME, the first post-END GAME film for the studio. With Tony Stark out of the picture, Peter Parker lost a mentor and a (yet another) father figure. And considering he was blipped 5 years into the future after Thanos snapped his fingers in INFINITY WAR, it’s a confusing time for the high school student.
But with the Avengers in shambles and the world trying to move on from Thanos, all Peter Parker wants to do is be a high school student, go on a science field trip in Europe and tell MJ that he really likes her. Unfortunately, Nick Fury has other plans for him. The man who brought the Avengers together needs help to take down a potentially apocalyptic threat, coincidentally in Europe, and no one else is available.
Spider-Man’s sense of responsibility wins out in the end, and Peter sneaks away from his classmates to take on the threat alongside another hero, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims to be from another Earth. Peter and his friends dub the new hero Mysterio, and the pair work together to take down the last of the elemental creatures threatening Europe. Nothing is as it seems with Beck and his relationship to Nick Fury and Maria Hill, though, and the situation puts Peter and all his friends in danger, forcing Peter to make some hard decisions to save everyone.
The most important thing FAR FROM HOME does is help establish the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the wake of Thanos’ attack and the return of the half of the population who were snapped out of existence. The world is weary and in need of something to believe in, which Beck reminds Peter of throughout the film. Without the heroes the world learned to rely on, people are looking for someone and step up to fill their shoes. Peter Parker feels the loss of Tony Stark as much as anyone else, if not more, and he wants to live up to the potential that Stark saw in him. But he also wants the chance to be a teenager, and those two desires do not go hand-in-hand.
Peter’s personal struggles on top of his troubles fighting crime in New York City have always been a central tenet of Spider-Man stories, and the new movies have balanced those brilliantly. I loved the continued integration of his classmates into Peter’s world. It’s a little weird that everyone that Peter was close with before he got snapped out of existence – Aunt May, Ned, MJ and Flash in particular – all suffered the same fate post-Infinity War. The odds of that happening have to have been astronomical. But this is a comic book movie, so suspension of disbelief is part of the deal when you buy a movie ticket.
Tom Holland continues to impress as Peter Parker, and I’m not sure this movie is anywhere near as good with anyone else playing the part. He carries this movie effortlessly and helps to lift up everyone with whom he shares screen time. He even holds his own with screen veterans like Jackson, Gyllenhaal and Jon Favreau.
FAR FROM HOME is the final film in the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but really, it introduces the world to what Phase Four will likely include. The mid-credit and post-credit scenes included in the movie drastically change the landscape of the world these heroes inhabit. If you thought it was time to jump off the Marvel movie bandwagon after End Game, you may want to reconsider.