How 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Does Mysterio Justice
[This story contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home]
Quentin Beck. Elite stuntman. Failed Actor. Forsaken scientist. Master illusionist. All these things have been used to describe one of Spider-Man’s most enduring villains: Mysterio. But who is this new antagonist who’s interrupting Peter Parker’s high school trip in Spider-Man: Far From Home? Let’s take a look at the legacy of Mysterio and what makes this Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance so uniquely different from that of his comic origins.
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Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for The Amazing Spider-Man #13 (1964), Quentin Beck was a professional stuntman who was at the top of his craft when it came to working on movies. Not only was he a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, but his knowledge of robotics and special effects made him one of the most highly respected people in his field. However, that respect didn’t transfer when he decided he wanted to become an actor and a leading man. Hurt by the repeated rejection, he crafted a suit that would utilize his greatest skill — the art of deception. He used his trained skills of illusions, hallucinogens and even hypnotic methods to terrorize the city of New York and even other universes. Beck doesn’t have any mutant powers or bestowed abilities. Instead, he went to work creating gear that will let him compete in the age of heroes.
In fact, one of Mysterio’s most well-known storylines barely mentions him at all — Old Man Logan. The alternate future comic arc, published from 2008 to 2009 and also loosely adapted into 2017's Logan, showed a reclusive and weary Wolverine, having been in a self-imposed isolation. The reason, we find out, is that he fought off an attack at the X-Men’s headquarters, killing every villain that tried to harm the team. Except, it wasn’t an attack at all. Mysterio managed to trick Logan into thinking that all his teammates were actually villains. To put this into perspective, Logan is one of the, if not the best, experts in the Marvel universe when it comes to his senses. His enhanced abilities of smell and sound can lead him to the most elusive targets with ease. For Mysterio to pull off a feat like this on the entire X-Men team shows how much of a treat he is to the teenage web-slinger from Queens.
In Far From Home, we meet Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a lone surviving warrior from Earth 833. Thanos, Hulk and the now-deceased Iron Man’s (we love you 3000) repeated use of the Infinity Gauntlet have opened Earth up to a type of Ground Zero for the multiverse. Beck has teamed with a resourceless Nick Fury to track down the elemental creatures that destroyed his home world. Fury, who has reappeared five years later thanks to the Snappening — or as it’s called in the MCU, the “Blip” — appreciates the refugee’s aid in helping protect Earth from the same fate of Beck’s home planet. During a televised battle in Italy, the public gives the name of the newest costumed hero “Mysterio,” which Beck humbly accepts as he shoulders the mantle that one of the Avengers would normally carry.
Meanwhile, Fury gifts Peter with a last present from Tony Stark — access to the satellite network that Stark’s had in place for any unforeseen events from domestic threats. Peter admires Beck’s work and trusts him with the access to Stark’s satellite. However, this is where we finally begin to understand the incredible depths in which Mysterio’s talents are rooted.
Mysterio isn’t, in fact, the lone survivor of a destroyed world from another dimension. His work has been seen before in the MCU’s previous offerings. In 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) begins the film by explaining to MIT students how he invested in a high-tech holographic system as a sort of therapy. It’s revealed that Beck was the lead scientist on that project, which was dismissed as a waste of money. He, alone with others who’ve been disrespected by Stark’s cockiness and seeming disregard for what they accomplished, concocted a plan to take advantage of a post-Stark world and to gain the admiration Iron Man has had for so long. Using a hyper-complex system unlike anything the MCU has ever seen, he not only manages to gain Spider-Man’s trust, but Nick Fury’s as well.
While the onscreen portrayal of Mysterio’s origin may be different, he’s no less lethal than his comic counterpart. True to fashion, he taps into Parker’s fears of being inadequate. In a chilling moment calling back to an Mysterio’s storyline in The Amazing Spider-Man #141-#142, Beck makes an emotionally distraught Peter confront a zombie-like, rusting Iron Man, who accuses Peter of letting him down. In the comic storyline, Mysterio (inside the suit is Beck's fellow stuntman Danny Berkhart) makes Spider-Man see a number of illusions, including his deceased girlfriend Gwen Stacy, who died after Peter’s web accidentally snapped her neck in a battle with the Green Goblin. Seeing the grave of Tony being ripped apart is a jarring moment that instantly reminds the audience of the sacrifice Tony made, and how that’s shaped Peter.
While Mysterio’s story seemingly comes to an end at the end of the film, he’s saved his greatest illusion for last. As Spider-Man lands after taking a much-deserved swing with MJ (Zendaya), a prerecorded video from Beck appears on the large marquee in front of a huge crowd, courtesy of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). Beck not only tells the city that Spider-Man is the one who killed him, but reveals that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Readers of 2006’s Civil War comic book storyline — in which Peter reveals his identity — can imagine the ramifications this will have on the MCU.
Mysterio’s preferred methods of fighting are on the psychological battlefield as opposed to the rock-'em, sock-'em method of Spidey’s other rogues. But in every showdown with him, whether it’s athe comic, film, cartoon or video game, Spider-Man’s heart and mind will undoubtedly be main target, with Mysterio ripping open any scar and secret Peter holds dear. While Mysterio may be a new addition compared with big-screen favorites such as Venom or Otto Octavius, he’s no less a more-than-capable villain. For Far From Home’s Peter Parker, he’s arguably his most dangerous yet.
by Graeme McMillan