Spider-Man: Far From Home
“I would love to see MJ and Peter’s classmates of color get a little more meat to their stories.”
Title: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Director: Jon Watts 👨🏼🇺🇸
Writers: Erik Sommers 👨🏼🇺🇸 and Chris McKenna 👨🏼🇺🇸
Reviewed by Joi Childs 👩🏾🇺🇸
“I didn’t think I’d have to save the world this summer,” says Peter Parker (Tom Holland) when reflecting on his unexpected—and unwelcome—adventure in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
His dismay is warranted. Following Peter’s local New York City escapades in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), the young superhero has since gone to space, been dusted for 5 years thanks to Thanos’s population-decimating “snap” in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), was brought back to life, and then just as quickly lost his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) on the battlefield in this year’s Avengers: Endgame. In his return to high school, where Far From Home picks back up, Peter searches for a new normal while contending with his secret status as an Avenger and the loss of the world’s greatest hero, Iron Man.
Peter balances all this on a summer class trip abroad, during which he’s tapped to join an unexpected global mission. The duality of his life plays out no differently than what we’ve seen in Homecoming, but the stakes are now higher, with bigger baddies. Far From Home delivers the goods with another great performance by Tom Holland and out-of-this-world cinematography from returning director, Jon Watts.
Four women and girls contribute to this film: MJ (Zendaya), Aunt May (Marissa Tomei), Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders), and Peter’s classmate Betty Brant (Angourie Rice). Unfortunately, all their stories are tied to those of the men in their lives.
Hill plays second-in-command to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D. She speaks little but does important work behind the scenes—not unlike her function throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and in particular, during the Avengers films.
As for Peter’s classmate Betty, she held minor screen time in Homecoming and gets more in Far From Home, but she remains the glorified girlfriend of Ned (Jacob Batalon). It would of been nice to see her interact with her female classmates, the way Ned shares solo conversations with Peter.
On the other hand, Aunt May’s screen time diminishes from what we saw during Homecoming. She spends the majority of Far From Home flirting with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).
Finally, MJ’s character feels fairly constant. She’s still the same dry, awkward, and dark character we’ve come to love. But as the romantic relationship between her and Peter grows, we begin to lose the loner elements that made her so special in Homecoming. While she remains her own person, MJ’s arc now focuses on whether or not she and Peter will start dating. Here’s hoping that if there’s another Spider-Man film with this cast, we’ll get to see MJ in her full glory after settling into her relationship.
GradeMyMovie.com Assessment: 0% of key cast and crew members were POC.
In one of Homecoming’s most unique breaks from previous live-action Spider-Man movies, audiences finally saw a proper depiction of Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the world. True to reality, Peter stands out as an ethnic minority among his classmates during their field trip, with most of the others being of color. But where Far From Home succeeds with numbers, it lacks in depth.
People of color play secondary roles with limited development. Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon of Filipino descent), MJ (Zendaya, who is half Black, half white), Brad Davis (Remy Hii of Chinese-Australian descent), and Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori of Guatemalan descent) do have dialogue and presence in this universe. But they still orbit a familiar face: a straight white male superhero.
In a slightly deeper role, Nick Fury continues to be the grandfather of the MCU with a hand in mentoring various heroes. He pushes Peter to step up and trust that Tony Stark picked him as the future of the Avengers for a reason. While he comes off as a hardass and insensitive to Peter’s teenage concerns, he does provide the right tools to help Peter come into his own.
Bonus for LGBTQ: +0.25
In an important deviation from Marvel’s lacking track record on LGBTQ representation, out transgender actor Zach Barack plays one of Peter’s classmates on the multi-stop tour across Europe. Unfortunately, his presence is so minor that he doesn’t even warrant a character name. The classmate only winds up with a couple sentences of dialogue in the entire film.
Mediaversity Grade: B- 3.75/5
Far From Home cements Tom Holland as the superior live-action Spider-Man. But even while this world continues to center Peter and his adventures, I would still love to see the classmates of color around him get a little more meat to their stories. Regardless, the film visually stuns and sucks you into the lore of Peter Parker—from Queens, across Europe, and beyond to his future adventures in the MCU.