Mysterio is my favorite Spider-Man villain. When I was a little kid and my dad gave me all his old comic books, the first Spider-Man comic I ever read had him facing off against Mysterio. First of all, this cover is amazing. Look how cool Mysterio looks! (For those not familiar with Marvel Tales, they were reprints of earlier Amazing Spider-Man adventures.)
Now, couple that with the fact that Mysterio — who at least looks like he’s equipped with unbelievable mystical powers — is actually just a huckster in a suit, made him all the more fascinating. It was hard for young me not to think, Hey, this guy is a fraud and he’s fighting Spider-Man with some success!. For some weird reason, I found this halfway inspiring.
Now, of course, I’ve always wanted to see Mysterio in a Spider-Man movie, but for the life of me I didn’t think it was possible. He’s just too weird and seems like more of a pest than an actual threat to Spider-Man. But that’s the beauty of Spider-Man’s tenure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that at least so far it hasn’t exactly been playing by the established rules. You know, like there has to be an origin story! Nope, not this time. Or that Peter has to be tangentially responsible for the death of his Uncle Ben. If that’s the case here, Peter sure hasn’t mentioned it. And Peter is kind of known for bringing up that little detail quite a bit. So, in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio could be re-imagined any which way is desired.
And when we meet Mysterio – also known as Quentin Beck; deftly played by Jake Gyllenhaal, one of the best actors working today – he presents himself as a warrior from a parallel dimension, here on this Earth to protect it from the Elementals, a group of horrible monsters that, we are told, destroyed Mysterio’s Earth. Giving credence to this story is that Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury believes Mysterio, and no one fools Nick Fury. (Honestly, I didn’t think Mysterio was a character that could be pulled off properly in a movie. As it turns out, if you hire a fantastic actor and let a director who understands Mysterio take a crack at it, it’s very possible. Who knew!)
Additionally, the universe just saw half its population destroyed and restored (which in Far From Home is referred to as “the blip”), so in comparison, Quentin Beck’s story doesn’t sound all that outlandish.
Oh yes, “the blip,” that little event from Avengers: Endgame that Spider-Man: Far From Home has to address. When Spider-Man: Homecoming was released just two years ago, the talking points were that its influences weren’t other superhero movies, but instead the teenage-centric films of John Hughes. Spider-Man: Homecoming steered the Spider-Man property away from the pretty outlandish conspiracy theory tone of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and reset Peter (Tom Holland) as just a kid, trying to do his best in high school, while living with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei, who is given a pretty great love interest in Far From Home) in Queens. Now, all of a sudden, Peter has (as it’s pointed out in the trailer) been to space and, not to mention, was dead for five years and came back to life. It’s kind of difficult to have that as a starting point and remain “grounded.”
What’s crazy is, Spider-Man: Far From Home pulls it off. The story starts off not long after the events of Avengers: Endgame and, very cleverly, explains to the audience how the rules of this new world work. Is half of Peter’s high school class five years older now? When the missing people reappeared, how did this happen? Did people just reappear in houses that had been sold to other people? All of these questions are answered pretty early on in a lighthearted tone that equals those Captain America PSAs from Homecoming that social media still loves so much. Yes, Spider-Man: Far From Home was kind of dealt a, let’s say, complicated hand and turned it into something funny and clever.
So, yes, Spider-Man: Far From Home is funny and clever – in the end, Peter just wants to enjoy his class trip to Europe with the hopes of growing closer to MJ (Zendaya) – but it’s also a movie about both mourning and deception. Peter is still reeling from the loss of Tony Stark, who remains a specter wherever Peter turns. Peter’s emotions are raw, which also leaves him more susceptible to forces preying on his emotional state. It’s a movie filled with surprises (I don’t say that lightly) that leaves Peter, and a viewer, wondering who is real and who can be trusted. Yet it never feels like a movie filled with dread. It’s a hopeful tone, which, after the last two Avengers movies, is very welcome.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a heck of a lot of fun. And I can’t get over how great of a Mysterio movie this is.
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