Halfway through Spider-Man: Far From Home I turned to the person next to me and said, "I think this movie just shifted into high gear." In response, her boyfriend leaned over and said, "Stop talking to my girlfriend during the movie." After that I kept my comments about how better the effects and villain get once the whole story is laid out.
After the effects of Thanos's Snap and Unsnappening in the Avengers films, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants to have a nice European vacation. He's gonna see some sights. Take some pictures. Tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Too bad for them, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) need his help to beat some elemental apocalypse creatures with some leftover Tony Stark tech.
With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts proved he could weave a good story around kids and superheroics. Having already proved he can deal with menacing figures going against children in the not-too-talked about Cop Car, he almost cookie cut the menace from Kevin Bacon in that film onto Michael Keaton's Vulture. Here he ziggs a bit, implying the gravitas in Mysterio while undercutting it with a twist that comics readers will see coming but is thrilling anyway. When Mysterio proves himself to not be the gracious mentor but a scheming actor, Gyllenhaal gets to stretch villainous side, not pure evil like he showed in Nightcrawler but the laughing menace Tom Cruise showed in Magnolia. He's a showman with a dark side and that resonates far more than dark and cackling.
When Mysterio shows his true colors, the movie really comes alive. Until that second act reveal, most of the action and effects seemed lackluster. Possible big budget fatigue, but the giant water monster and the backpack wearing Peter Parker in a carnival mask looked cartoonish. Then Mysterio's effects to disorient and play with Parker's senses turn the effects budget up to eleven, providing sequences that rival Doctor Strange's multiverse and Ant-Man's microverse effects for "man I wish I was in college and on drugs right now" effect. The amazing hallucination effects fall apart once you think about how we are shown dozens of people work to make the other effects possible but handwaving plots is Marvel's true superpower.
Unfortunately, all Marvel's bad traits are on display here as well. As cool as the hallucination sequence is, it and all the other fight scenes are chopped to hell. No matter how much money the John Wick franchise makes proving good action have to be seen, Marvel still cuts too quick and too often to get a good feel about how particular fights are going. Nowhere is this more clear than the ending battle on the London Bridge with Spider-Man going against a bunch of drones. It's mostly dull with misdirection and confusing more than it is thrilling.
Walking out of the theater dodging that guy and his girlfriend, I have to say I enjoyed the movie overall. A fun movie containing enough pathos to move us through the end of Phase 4 of this big weird money-making experiment. Mysterio himself also hints at bigger and better things, being an effective villain not in his over schemes in this film, but the secrets he lets out after his defeat. Whereas the Vulture kept Parker's secret identity, Mysterio let that secret fly and the implications are fascinating to think about.
Check it out before it leaves theaters