Attack of the Drones
Warning: This review alludes to aspects of the plot.
This Avengers: Endgame epilogue asks the not unreasonable question, what now? If the MCU is going to continue it’s going to need a new set of Avengers, and maybe a new purpose. What’s the next set of stories going to be about? Who are they going to be about? Will audiences fall as the series turns to nostalgia for that first flush, when the world was new, and the characters in it iconic – a series eating itself?
Far from Home takes a rather novel approach to solving this problem; it asks us to accept that the future of the MCU, at least in a leadership role, is Peter Parker/Spider-Man. This seems like an unwarranted gamble, after all Marvel don’t fully own the rights to this character, and must share him with the so-called filmmakers at Sony, and as that’s a deal that could fall apart at any time, with the consequence that the web slinger would revert to the studio who never quite got him, and has spectacularly failed to make a fully successful and satisfying series in his name, it’s hard to say that having Parker as Tony Stark‘s actual spiritual successor is a good long-term prospect.
Yet that, bound up with a threat from Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, a villain attempting to capitalise on the world without the Avengers, which is a sliver of a good idea, is what we get. Because we like Tom Holland’s character, we want him to succeed, and overcome his doubts to become a leader in-waiting, but the point his character makes frequently in the screenplay, namely that he is too young to carry the mantle and lacks the confidence and charisma that Stark once projected, seems a genuine concern and doubles the doubt in the audiences mind.
Marvel it seems, are going to need a series of large and charismatic characters to anchor the next two phase of the cinematic universe. If they fail to assemble a new A-team, the MCU is doomed to follow in the footsteps of this movie, and become a franchise that looks backward and yearns for it stars of yesteryear – forever talking about them, forever reflecting on past success, wondering what life beyond them looks like.
Far from Home has the luxury of not having to answer that question just yet; it can afford instead to indulge in some broad audience friendly humour aimed at the younger demographic that identifies with the title character. This is a simple and straightforward kids’ own adventure, that like every Marvel movie before it, lacks a signature style, and personality – after all, who would want to make something distinct and risk alienating any quarter of the four quadrant audience that’s made each and every one of these fun bland movies, reminiscent of episodic television, an unbroken run of hits?
This movie leaves the future direction of the MCU and even the primary characters populating it as an open question. A mid-credits plot twist hints that Kevin Feige understands his time with the web slinger might be limited and therefore risks may be taken in the next movie, perhaps denying Spider-Man the Stark inheritance teased throughout.
The technological nature of the threat here, reflects the filmmakers’ knowledge that the nature of the big bad in these movies has to evolve if they’re to retain audience interest. The hope has to be that the future will be more psychologically dense and morally complexed than the past. If that can be achieved, in addition to some dynamic new characters, the next phase of the MCU (aunt) may be the most interesting of all. If not, it will surely be the beginning of the end.