Peter Parker/Spider-Man was first introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers. 2016). In that film, he is recruited by Tony Stark/Iron Man to fight against a group of superheroes led by Captain America. Civil War was followed by the first solo Spider-Man film in the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017). Peter struggled in Homecoming to focus on his typical teenage life and neighbourhood superhero duties when his connection to Tony offered the possibility of joining the Avengers.
The filmmakers behind Homecoming had their own struggle: how does one make the third Spider-Man film series, and sixth Spider-Man solo film, in fifteen years feel fresh and original? They succeeded largely by imbuing the film with a high school comedy sensibility that strongly invoked John Hughes.
With Spider-Man: Far From Home (Watts, 2019), the sequel to Homecoming, the filmmakers faced an entirely different struggle. A lot happens to Spider-Man between the release of Homecoming and Far From Home. First, the universe comes under attack from Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (Russo Brothers, 2018), and Peter disappears into dust when Thanos snaps away half of all life. Then, in Avengers: Endgame (Russo Brothers, 2019), the original Avengers bring back everyone five years after they were lost and defeat Thanos, although Tony dies in the process. Between the release of those Avengers films, Sony Pictures released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Rothman & Ramsey, 2018), an animated, Academy Award-winning tour-de-force that took cinematic superhero storytelling, animation, and Spider-Man to another level. So, after its title character had been prominently featured in two of the biggest blockbusters of all time and had been redefined in one of the most remarkable films of the MCU, how could Far From Home possibly measure up or bring anything new to the table?
The fact is that Spider-Man: Far From Home doesn’t match the scale of the Avengers films or the groundbreaking innovations of Spider-Verse. But it’s an immensely entertaining and likeable film that pushes Peter Parker into unique narrative corners. Through its villain, it also unexpectedly explores some very relevant, topical issues. It’s smaller-scale and a bit old-fashioned compared to Spider-Man’s most recent cinematic adventures, but it’s well-made and surprising enough to avoid squandering the enormous cultural currency that the character had recently earned.
Following the failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb, 2014), Sony Pictures scuttled its plans for a large-scale cinematic universe centred on Spider-Man and, instead, partnered with Marvel Studios in a mutually beneficial deal to incorporate the character into the MCU. The character could appear in team films (such as Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame) for Marvel, while solo films (such as Homecoming and Far From Home) were controlled by Sony. The deal was not without complications, however, such as when Sony eagerly announced the second solo Spider-Man film would be released in the summer of 2019. Marvel was planning to kill Peter Parker in Infinity War and resurrect him in Endgame, just two months before the release of Far From Home. Marvel’s marketing plan for Endgame made no mention of the return of any deceased heroes, but Sony’s announcement tipped their hand. It also complicated Sony’s marketing for Far From Home, which I discuss below.
Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash
Despite these external issues, the filmmakers were fully committed to making Far From Home unique. As with Homecoming, the screenwriters differentiated the film by including villains, locations, and complications that had never before been seen in a Spider-Man film. Their writing process began with the biggest surprise: Peter Parker’s secret identity is publicly revealed. Spider-Man traditionally has the most closely-guarded secret identity in comics and on film, making this conclusion something truly different. Despite ultimately occurring during the credits, this event is the linchpin moment of Far From Home and the whole film was constructed toward it. The screenwriters also took other lessons from Homecoming, such as a major villain twist midway through the film, a stern mentor figure from the MCU, and Peter’s overall character arc.
Peter’s character arc in Homecoming is about learning to appreciate his life in high school and being a local superhero, rather than attempting to grow up too fast and become a world-class Avenger. Far From Home inverts this, having Peter attempt to enjoy his time as a high school student on a class trip to Europe and being thrust into a global, Avengers-level threat against his will. Peter must trust his abilities and fill the void left by the loss of key heroes at the end of Endgame, particularly Tony.
However, this leads to the main criticism levelled against Spider-Man in the MCU by longtime fans. This version of Spider-Man fights all over the world and even in space. He’s mentored by Tony, who also provides him with suits equipped with Iron Man-like technology. Thus, Spider-Man, typically the most grounded of the major Marvel superheroes, has become a younger rehash of Iron Man. The filmmakers smartly engage with this criticism head-on in order to move past it.
In Far from Home, the public expects Spider-Man to become the new Iron Man, which overwhelms Peter. Over the course of the film, Peter steps out of the shadow of his mentor to become a hero at Iron Man’s level, but with a uniquely Spider-Man approach. This exploration of Peter’s growth beyond Iron Man also makes Far From Home the perfect epilogue to the MCU so far, closing out the 23 film Infinity Saga while pointing toward a bright and different future.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck / Mysterio (IMDB)
And so, with the public unmasking of Spider-Man and Peter’s character arc defined, the overall plot structure of Far From Home would be determined by the main villain. Quentin Beck/Mysterio first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #13 (June 1964). He’s one of Spider-Man’s classic villains, a disgruntled Hollywood special effects expert who uses his tricks and illusions to pull daring heists, and to drive Spider-Man insane. He’s also perhaps the quintessential campy, over-the-top ’60s comic book villain, with his intricate green bodysuit, cape, the cloudy fishbowl on his head, and his psychedelic illusions. Faithfully and seriously adapting the character to modern film seemed unlikely. Yet the filmmakers of Far From Home did just that, and Mysterio became the biggest stroke of genius in the entire film.
The choice of Mysterio turned Far From Home into a con artist story, with the villain and his team playing a long con on Spider-Man and his allies. Many characters aren’t who they seem to be, which creates an overall theme of deception. Peter is also confronted with the consequences of his deception, secretly fighting crime, right up until his secret is revealed to the world. Besides the theme of deception, the use of Mysterio and his illusions allow the filmmakers to explore deeper issues in society. The film engages with issues such as media manipulation, mythmaking on the world stage, and fake news. It even features a meta-commentary on the creation and prevalence of superhero films in our culture right now.
Mysterio is the element that makes this film worthwhile. The first half of the film sets up the characters and plot from a certain perspective and then, at the midpoint, the con is revealed. The second half deals with the consequences of the deception and engages with all of the issues mentioned above. The MCU occasionally presents superhero films through the lens of another genre such as paranoid thriller (Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo Brothers, 2014)), heist film (Ant-Man (Reed, 2015)) and high school comedy (Spider-Man: Homecoming) in an effort to keep things fresh. Far From Home accomplishes the same with the con artist genre, but takes things further into unexpected topicality. This allowed the film to stand out in an already crowded superhero film marketplace.
Even the marketing allowed for some clever deceit. The trailers presented Mysterio’s (fake) backstory of being a hero from an alternate dimension, which led many fans to speculate that Mysterio would allow the live-action Spider-Man films to connect to the dimension-hopping Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Fans of the comics knew that the alternate dimension story was probably a lie, but even they were surprised by the depth of the con.
The rest of the marketing was tricky, given that the film directly deals with the fallout of Endgame and it would not be released until shortly before Far From Home. Early trailers were vague, and then the marketing kicked into high-gear immediately following the release of Endgame. The total cost of Sony’s massive marketing campaign was reportedly $288 million. Not only was this 80% more expensive than the production budget of the film, but it’s also the largest marketing budget ever reported for a film. Sony Pictures spared no expense to promote the film around the world.
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck / Mysterio (IMDB)
Spider-Man: Far From Home lives up to those expectations. It’s not as large-scale as Avengers: Endgame or as groundbreaking as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It is, however, a light, very funny and entertaining teen superhero/con-artist romp that travels through beautiful European locations. Under that enjoyable surface, it engages with themes of growing up, finding your own path, while also engaging with media manipulation, fake news, and a commentary on the creation of superhero films through its well-executed villain twist. Finally, it exists as a nice denouement to the MCU thus far, allowing fans to process the cataclysmic events of Endgame before the cinematic universe enters its new stage. That’s a lot for one film to accomplish, but Jon Watts and his team make it look easy.
Far From Home opens with a short cold open featuring Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) investigating a small, ravaged Mexican town. They encounter a sand monster and Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives to fight it. The Marvel Studio logo then plays against Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. This is the background music of a tribute video created by students at Midtown School in honour of the heroes who died fighting Thanos. The video is a hilarious mixture of the over-the-top song choice, grainy or pixelated photos (some with the Getty Images watermark), and cheap slideshow effects.
The school’s morning news anchors then quickly recap the effects of “the blip”, the moment when everyone who disappeared in Thanos’ initial snap return to Earth five years later, and they never aged. For the teenage students, this means they must retake certain tests and some younger siblings are now older siblings. It was smart to explore the blip from a teen perspective.
The story shifts into teen comedy mode as it introduces Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) on the verge of a summer class trip to Europe. Peter’s main goal is to confess his romantic feelings to his classmate, MJ (Zendaya). But this goal, and maybe the entire trip, is clearly meant to distract him from his overwhelming life as Spider-Man. He uses his alter-ego to help his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) promote her fundraiser for people left homeless after the blip, but he’s bombarded with questions about the Avengers and whether he will become the new Iron Man.
Furthermore, Tony Stark’s best friend, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), is courting May, and Nick Fury is trying to recruit Peter for a mission. All the while Peter grieves the loss of his mentor/father figure, fears he’s missing out on youthful fun, and worries he can never measure up to the lost heroes. So he puts aside any thoughts of being a superhero to embark on a two-week trip with his classmates, even refusing to pack his Spider-Man costume (although May slips it into his suitcase). As previously stated, this is an inversion of the arc in Homecoming, in which Peter actively avoids school and friends in an effort to become an Avenger.
Peter’s decision to eschew superheroing allows Far From Home to unfold as a charming teen comedy for the first 20-minutes or so. Peter’s friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) frets that Peter’s imminent relationship with MJ will get in the way of their fun, and then he falls into an obnoxious, cutesy relationship with Betty (Angourie Rice) on the plane ride to Europe. Peter misses various opportunities to spend time with MJ. He’s often stymied by Brad (Remy Hii), who was not dusted by Thanos and grew from a little kid to Peter’s romantic rival in the intervening years.
Peter is stuck spending time with his teacher, Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr), whose wife pretended to be dusted in order to leave the marriage. The ways in which the grand superhero events of the Avengers films cause little complications among regular people are funny touches. Tony is also constantly on Peter’s mind, likely because there are murals and memorials to Iron Man everywhere Peter turns. The trip arrives in its first destination, Venice, where everyone hangs out in St. Mark’s Square, Peter buys a glass necklace for MJ, and everything feels normal.
But then a huge water monster, later called an Elemental, bursts out of the canals near Peter and his friends. The proximity to Peter may seem overly convenient, but we later learn that’s the point. Beck arrives as Mysterio, flying through the air and firing smoky green energy at the monster. Despite Peter’s experience at this point, he immediately defers to Beck and offers to help. (“Let me help! I’m really strong, and I’m sticky!”) This reinforces the idea that Peter doesn’t feel ready, since he allows a previously unknown superhero to take the lead. Beck defeats the Elemental and disappears. Later, Fury ambushes Peter in his hotel room. He tranquilizes Ned before venting that he feels uncharacteristically behind the curve on the Elemental threat. Three Elementals have attacked and been defeated by Beck so far.
As they approach Fury’s headquarters, Fury gives Peter a pair of Tony Stark’s sunglasses. They were bequeathed to Peter upon Tony’s death. These sunglasses become the focus of the entire plot, the MacGuffin of the film, but they are introduced almost as an afterthought. Initially they just indicate that Tony considered Peter his successor. Fury introduces Peter to Beck, who’s a warrior from an alternate Earth that was destroyed by the Elementals. He came to Earth to prevent a similar catastrophe.
The fourth and final Elemental is expected to attack Prague, and they need Peter’s help. Peter continues to insist he’s not ready for such a challenge, that he can only handle threats on a neighbourhood level. Fury retorts, “Bitch, you’ve been to space!” as only Samuel L. Jackson can, but allows Peter to leave. He then hijacks Peter’s class trip, convincing the chaperones that they have been upgraded and diverting them to Prague.
Tom Holland (IMDB)
On the way, Peter tries on Tony’s sunglasses, which are a pair of distinctive blue-tinted shades which Robert Downey Jr. popularized on and off-screen in recent years. Surprisingly, the glasses give Peter access to Tony’s vast network of resources named EDITH (“Even Dead I’m The Hero”). Peter has instant access to cell phones, satellites, and drones. Brad takes a compromising photo of Peter with one of Fury’s agents at a rest stop and he plans to show it to MJ. In an attempt to stop him, Peter inadvertently calls in a drone strike on Brad. This blending of the superhero plotline with the teen comedy elements is exactly what’s expected from a great Spider-Man story.
The conflict of Peter’s personal life and superhero life is even more pronounced in Prague. Fury’s machinations force Peter’s hand, because the last Elemental will attack the city and put his friends in danger. By helping Fury, he saves his friends while also missing out on having fun, normal experiences with them. Complications such as these are what make Spider-Man so relatable. His personal life and responsibilities are always in conflict.
Before the Elemental attack, Peter connects with Beck. They seem to like and relate to each other, and Beck seems like a warm, understanding surrogate for Tony. Peter wears a Black tactical costume to avoid being identified as Spider-Man in Europe, and the fire Elemental attacks in the middle of the city. Ned, Betty and MJ just happen to be nearby, adding to the stakes. Peter and Beck work together, and ultimately Beck appears to sacrifice himself to stop it. Beck survives, however, and Fury invites him to become one of Earth’s top-tier superheroes.
Fury also invites Peter, insisting he must choose between his normal life and serving the global good as an Avenger. Peter and Beck get a drink at a bar to discuss it. Peter continues to be reluctant to take on so much responsibility and give up his ordinary life. He feels ill-equipped to even have EDITH. Peter realizes that he has the ability to give EDITH to whomever he sees fit. At the halfway mark of the film, Peter gives Beck the sunglasses and full access to EDITH, and leaves to enjoy the rest of his vacation uninterrupted. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Beck had been orchestrating this entire time.
When Peter leaves the bar, it’s revealed to be mostly a holographic illusion. Beck and his team are all that remain, and they celebrate successfully conning Peter out of the sunglasses. They are all disgruntled ex-Stark employees who felt underappreciated by Tony and resentful that he gave EDITH to a teenager. Beck created a sophisticated system of holographic projectors, which Tony used in Captain America: Civil War. Also on Beck’s team is William, portrayed by Peter Billingsley.
Billingsley was a producer on Iron Man (Favreau, 2008) and appeared in a cameo as a Stark scientist. His return here is a fun easter egg. After Tony’s death, Beck assembled a team, created the persona of Quentin Beck/Mysterio (we never learn his real name), and used his holographic projectors with advanced drones to create the illusion of the Elemental attacks and Mysterio’s prowess. The drones were hidden by the holograms, but caused enough real destruction to sell the illusion. Beck’s story about travelling from an alternate Earth was just crazy enough for people to believe.
After getting the attention of Nick Fury with the early attacks, Beck arranged to recruit Peter by staging the attack in Venice. If you look closely at the earlier scenes in Venice, Beck and many of his people appear in the background spying on Peter, which is a great touch. Beck gained Peter’s trust but also played into his uncertainties, ensuring that Peter would give him EDITH. Using EDITH’s resources, Beck and his team plan to stage one more major attack in London, during which Fury will be killed, to gain maximum attention and prestige as the greatest superhero on Earth.
But to what end? Beck speaks vaguely about using his fame as a platform to propagate his brilliant ideas or to make a profit. But that vagueness is kind of the point. Beck has the resources and the drive to rise to the biggest job in the world, to fill the void left by all the lost superheroes. He wants fame and money, but he is not actually equipped to do the job. What if he succeeded and a real global threat emerged? He’s a con man, not a real hero. He would be a disaster. Can we think of another con man — one in our world — who weaseled his way into a powerful job for fame and money but proved unsurprisingly ill-equipped to carry out the job?
Indeed, Mysterio is a supervillain for the Trump era. He creates ridiculous threats, positions himself as the solution, and he succeeds at fooling everyone, even Nick Fury and Spider-Man. He creates enormous lies, which somehow become easier to believe as they grow. He also directs his illusions with an eye toward the maximum media impact. Later, Beck says to Peter, “You’ll see, Peter. People need to believe. And nowadays they’ll believe anything.” Over the past few years, we’ve seen the death of expertise in the media. News has become increasingly sensationalized entertainment, minimizing substantial stories and nuance in favour of the shocking or the outrageous, or the simple sound byte. If one side of an issue is accused of something, they will accuse the other side of that same thing, confusing the issue. The internet makes it possible for someone to find seemingly cogent arguments for any side of an issue. It’s no wonder that fake news has become so prevalent and a con man can become President of the United States. An unscrupulous character like Beck, with such technology at his disposal, could easily fool the world into thinking he is their saviour. For a superhero film to engage with these issues, particularly through a character as goofy as Mysterio, is clever and timely.
The filmmakers also use Mysterio to poke fun at superhero filmmaking. Stripped of his illusions, Beck is a temperamental blockbuster director wearing a motion capture suit. He rehearses his final battle on a soundstage, nitpicking details with his team and repeating it until they get it right. He plans to orchestrate an “Avengers-level threat”, using words that Marvel filmmakers would use while brainstorming their next blockbuster. The finalé of Far from Home features a giant Elemental threatening to destroy London from Tower Bridge. This is an utterly rote superhero film finalé, but that’s the point. Beck consciously emulates the things he has seen before. He orders the destruction and loss of life to be increased because that will get more attention. But he also quibbles about the wrinkles in his cape. He creates an outlandish narrative about an alternate Earth and world-threatening Elementals because the film exists in a world of thunder gods and sorcerers and an alien despot who killed half the universe for five years. Is Beck’s story any crazier than that?
It’s also a plot that film audiences have come to easily accept. The commentary is even represented in the score. Composer Michael Giacchino quotes the Avengers theme in his Mysterio theme, albeit with synths to demonstrate the unreality of it all. So, beyond the Trump and fake news commentaries, Mysterio is used as a fun, knowing meta-commentary on superhero films in general. For a character that could have been too silly to be adapted on screen, his use in Far From Home is incredibly impressive.
Once the con is revealed, the stakes change. The audience, but not Peter, know that Beck is the villain and that Peter just gave him access to the most advanced technology on the planet. The story wastes no time cluing Peter into the plot, however. Feeling great after unloading his responsibilities onto Beck, Peter asks MJ to go for a walk. He tries to tell her his feelings for her, but she thinks he’s going to admit he is Spider-Man. Peter is shocked that she figured it out, but also disappointed. He thought she was interested in him romantically, but she claims she was only fascinated by Spider-Man.
The conversation is cut off when MJ shows Peter a damaged projector that she found at the last Elemental fight. It flickers on to reveal holograms of Mysterio fighting the monster. In that moment, everything comes crashing down on Peter. He has been fooled and he gave EDITH to Beck as a result. He spent half the film trying to avoid his responsibilities, and must spend the rest of the film undoing his mistake. Peter must finally step up as a superhero.
The class trip is cancelled due to the attacks, and the group travels home through London. Peter goes to Germany instead to warn Fury, but Beck is on to Peter. Although Beck genuinely seems disappointed about it, he sets out to kill Peter. He does so by running Peter through a trippy, psychedelic illusion straight out of the comics. Peter stumbles through a series of disorienting, dream-like scenarios of his school, MJ in trouble, webs, a giant Mysterio, and even a zombie Iron Man climbing out of his grave. Just when Peter thinks it’s over, that Fury has arrived to rescue him, the illusions continue until Peter lets slip who he told about Mysterio.
The sequence is a lot of fun, featuring 150 visual effects shots. It’s not just for show, either. The disorientation speaks to Peter’s uncertainty, his failure to trust his instincts. And it speaks to Beck’s manipulation, especially when Beck shouts “I control the truth.” The illusion ends when Peter is backed into the path of a speeding train. Beck arranges for Peter’s class to be on Tower Bridge during the attack, to ensure they will be killed. Once again, Peter’s personal life and superhero life intersect.
Peter barely survives the train and wakes up in a Dutch jail with some friendly Dutch football hooligans. He calls Happy for help, and vents to him about his mistakes and his failure to live up to Tony’s example. Happy explains that Tony was flawed, that he always made mistakes and second-guessed himself. But he also explains that Tony would not have sacrificed himself if he didn’t know that Peter was there to pick up where he left off.
This can be seen as a meta-commentary on Robert Downey Jr. moving on from the MCU, but it’s also a sweet revelation that our parents or role models are as flawed and human as us. We can never live up to the outsized recollections of our influences because we have exaggerated them in our minds. Happy’s talk motivates Peter. He uses the resources in Happy’s jet to make a new suit, just like Tony would, but this one is pure Spider-Man. Seeing Tony in Peter, Happy turns on “Back in Black” by ACDC, the song that accompanied Tony’s first appearance in the MCU. Peter undercuts the moment by saying “I love Led Zeppelin!”
And so, the film reaches the climax around Tower Bridge. Peter trusts his instincts to get through the illusions. This is represented by Peter’s spider-sense or, as May calls it, his “Peter-tingle”. This early warning sensation famously allows Spider-Man to sense danger just before it happens and gives him the appearance of superhuman reflexes. The MCU hasn’t made a big deal of the spider-sense before now, it’s been present, but subtle. Here it becomes a focal point. Peter must trust his instincts, his Peter-tingle, to succeed.
Beck’s drones fail to kill Peter’s friends on the Bridge, and Happy leads them into a vault in the Tower of London for safety. Meanwhile, Peter battles an endless set of EDITH-supplied drones to get to Beck. Even as the illusions are disrupted, and the emperor is shown to have no clothes, Beck insists that he can spin the situation to the public after the fact. Peter ultimately gets through to Beck with his eyes closed, relying only on his spider-sense. Beck is shot in the final battle, but still tries to fake out Peter with a holographic death. Peter sees through it, Beck dies for real, and Peter calls off the drones.
Afterward, Beck’s crew escapes with the technology. Fury, who was uncharacteristically fooled by Beck, is impressed by Peter. Peter and MJ share their extremely awkward first kiss on Tower Bridge and then, back in New York City, Peter takes her on a swing through the city. This is common in Spider-Man films, but Far From Home puts the viewer in MJ’s perspective to show how disorienting and terrifying it would be to be carried by Spider-Man. The main film ends there, on a happy note.
But that’s not the real ending of the film. Traditionally, scenes during the credits are extra jokes or teases of the next film, and not essential to the main film’s plot. That’s not the case here. Far From Home was constructed to set up the events of the mid-credits scene. It’s Beck’s last con, it’s Peter’s biggest deception laid bare, it’s the last bit of fake news mixed with truth to fool the public.
A video is released, perhaps by Beck’s team, featuring Beck claiming that the attack in London was orchestrated by Spider-Man. It’s edited to confirm the story, and make it appear as if Peter killed Beck. The video is released through the Daily Bugle by none other than J. Jonah Jameson played by J.K. Simmons. Simmons was memorable in the role during Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, and his return in this new Spider-Man series was a complete surprise. Whereas he was a hard-nosed, biased newspaper editor in the previous films, he’s reimagined in Far From Home as a hysterical, right-wing internet pundit along the lines of Alex Jones.
The final bit of Beck’s video reveals that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, and Peter’s world turns upside-down. This was originally the last scene of the film before the credits, but the filmmakers liked the upbeat ending with MJ. It’s a shocking ending, from Simmons’ cameo to the identity reveal. It ties up the themes of deception and Trump-era media manipulation, and it ensures that the next Spider-Man film will be completely different from anything that came before.
Spider-Man: Far From Home manages to accomplish many things at once. It’s a sweet teen comedy, a story of stepping out of the shadows of your mentors to find your own path, a post-Avengers: Endgame epilogue to the MCU, a con artist film, a commentary on Trump-era media manipulation, and an in-joke on the creation of superhero blockbusters. All of these aspects of the film come together beautifully in a light, likeable, highly-enjoyable package. It’s not the most significant film to feature Spider-Man, but it more than manages to justify its existence.
The film went on to earn $391 million in North America and $1.13 billion worldwide. It’s the first Spider-Man film to break $1 billion and the highest-grossing Sony Pictures release of all time, justifying Sony’s unprecedented marketing spending. Unfortunately, with great success came great turmoil. The future of Spider-Man should have been assured, but complications arose.
In late August 2019, Sony announced that they were withdrawing from the deal to share Spider-Man with Marvel Studios. After the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and even Venom (Fleischer, 2018), which was based on a Spider-Man character, Sony executives felt confident about the character. They didn’t see the need to continue sharing creative input and profits on their most popular property. This meant that future Spider-Man films would not be a part of the MCU, and that this Spider-Man could not appear in future MCU films.
Abruptly ending the deal was shortsighted and foolish, as it was mutually beneficial and resulted in a lucrative creative partnership. Reportedly, a call from Tom Holland to the head of Sony Pictures one month later restarted negotiations. Sony and Marvel agreed to co-produce one more solo Spider-Man film, and to feature Spider-Man in one more MCU film. The next solo film is currently scheduled for release in December 2021, pushed back from July due to COVID-19, but everything is still uncertain right now. More certain is that Spider-Man will continue to be the most successful, relatable cinematic superhero for at least a few years to come.
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• The mid-credits scene was discussed above
• The post-credits scene also plays into the deception and con of the film. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are revealed to be Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and Soren (Sharon Blynn), respectively, two shape-shifting alien Skrulls introduced in Captain Marvel (Boden and Fleck, 2019). They’re posing as Fury and Hill while Fury spends time on a Skrull ship in space. What this means for the future of the MCU is unknown at this point, but it explains why Fury is out-of-character for the whole film.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Viewing Order: This film acts as an epilogue to the MCU overall, and Avengers: Endgame specifically. It’s also the end of Phase 3 of the MCU.
1. Iron Man
2. Iron Man 2
4. The Incredible Hulk
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
6. The Avengers
7. Iron Man 3
8. Thor: The Dark World
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
14. Captain America: Civil War
15. Black Panther
16. Doctor Strange
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
18. Thor: Ragnarok
19. Ant-Man and the Wasp
20. Avengers: Infinity War
21. Captain Marvel
22. Avengers: Endgame
23. Spider-Man: Far From Home
A Note on Production: After Spider-Man: Far From Home, no new Marvel Films were released for nearly 14 months due to the COVID-19 crisis. As of this writing, The New Mutants (Boone, 2020) has recently been released, but I will wait to write about it. And so this will be the last article in Marvel Films series for a while.
Next Time: After three years of delays, the final Fox Marvel film is finally released into a pandemic-ravaged theatrical marketplace — and dies a swift death.