HEAT VISION

How 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Offers a Fresh Perspective on the Marvel Universe

Audiences don't know what happens in 'Avengers: Endgame,' but the trailer offers the first clues as to what the MCU looks like afterward.

Peter Parker may have met his demise at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’ll be back and ready to swing again this summer. Tuesday morning, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios released the poster and trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s post-Avengers: Endgame slate. While the circumstances surrounding Parker’s (Tom Holland) return from his ashen state won’t be revealed until Avengers: Endgame in April, the trailer makes us subtly aware of the effect that dying and coming back to life has had on Parker, namely that he wants to live a little, and without the costume. Far From Home finds Spider-Man going international. But Parker’s plans for a relaxing summer vacation with his friends are hijacked by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who employs Parker to take on a group of elemental villains, a mission that finds him crossing paths with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). The main takeaway from the trailer is that Spider-Man: Far From Home is deftly blending old and new school elements of the Spider-Man mythos, for a result that feels surprisingly fresh — no small feat given the number of Spider-Man films we’ve seen.

Although Far From Home certainly feels larger in scope and scale than Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), the trailer suggests that Peter Parker’s personal life, always the best part of Spider-Man stories, hasn’t been lost in the action set pieces. From his Aunt May’s (Marisa Tomei) burgeoning romance with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to navigating his own dating life with MJ (Zendaya), a significant amount of the trailer is spent further establishing Parker’s personal life. Spider-Man: Far From Home looks to employ a light touch, a tone we’ll likely come to appreciate even more following the surely devastating events of Endgame. Even though returning director Jon Watts is clearly going bigger, seemingly having honed his skills for action sequences, the trailer for Far From Home maintains the "just off the ground" perspective that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko navigated so well. In other words, Far From Home still feels like Spider-Man, even if New York has a less integral role to play.

Watts looks to be adding an espionage element to Spider-Man’s world, with Peter Parker becoming a deputized SHIELD agent of sorts. Given how many times we’ve seen Spider-Man save New York, seeing him out of his element in Europe feels perfectly in line with Marvel Studios’ alleged plans to make Spider-Man a more central part of the MCU going forward. There’s no Iron Man to help out this time around, and while fans are already guessing about what that means for the character’s fate, Nick Fury’s involvement allows for Spider-Man to become established in another corner of the MCU. Fury’s interest in Parker, and subsequent guidance, directly references the super-spy’s role in the pages of Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. While it took a while for Fury to become involved in the life of Peter Parker in the central 616 Marvel Universe, the alternate Ultimate Universe saw Fury become invested in the teenager’s future right away, tracking his growth and potential to eventually become a member of The Ultimates, that world’s Avengers. Fury may have similar plans in mind for Parker in Far From Home, especially since The Avengers are surely down a few members. Perhaps Far From Home is as much about Parker’s growth as a hero as it is the inception of a new idea for Fury, a new Avengers initiative for a generation of New Avengers.

The central threat, or at least the threat the trailer focuses on, is The Elementals. The comic book versions of The Elementals are pretty obscure. The group, who first appeared in Supernatural Thrillers No. 8 in 1974, are extra-dimensional beings who once ruled over Earth. Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum and Zephyr control fire, water, earth and air, respectively. Though they once faced off against Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel, they don’t have a history with Spider-Man. Their place in a Spider-Man movie seems curious, except for the fact that Spider-Man has his own collection of elemental villains consisting of Molten Man, Hydro-Man and Sandman. It’s these characters we believe to be featured in the trailer — a new iteration of The Elementals.

It seems unlikely that Spider-Man would simply be facing off against forces of nature, as his villains always have elements, no pun intended, of humanity. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to find that The Elementals have alter egos and tragic histories that involve SHIELD. The spy agency may be under control by the good guys now, but both Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) have shown they’ve employed devious methods to control the superpowered. Spider-Man is likely about to find himself caught up in some shady spy business.

Spider-Man won’t be facing off against The Elementals alone. He’ll be joined by Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, and all I ask is that when they face down The Elementals together that there be an Earth Wind & Fire song playing to mark the occasion. Beck is described as an expert on The Elementals recruited by Fury. Mysterio is one of Spider-Man’s oldest villains, first appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man No. 13 (1964). Here it appears he’ll be a hero, or presenting himself as such. Perhaps, he’s also on Fury’s radar as a possible recruit for a new team of heroes. Many of Mysterio’s stories have often involved twist endings, as the deceptive villain uses illusions and movie magic to commit all kinds of heinous crimes.

While we’re still expecting some twist in his role, his powers may be more than illusions. It’s worth noting that Mysterio’s powers are manifested with a symbol of an eye in a triangle in the trailer. While this could just be a reference to Mysterio’s comic book costume in which his cloak clasps are rectangles with a single eye in each, the cinematic version of these symbols is also the sign of the Illuminati. It’s possible that Spider-Man: Far From Home is going full Dan Brown in its international exploits, but it’s also just as likely that Mysterio’s involvement suggests the existence of a powerful group of superhumans working behind the scenes. The comic book version of the Illuminati later came to possess the Infinity Stones. This could be a leap, but Mysterio’s involvement with SHIELD definitely suggests a bigger story, one that won’t find the character simply performing the role of the villain we’ve come to know in the comics.

Spider-Man: Far From Home looks like a strong next step in Spider-Man’s story, with enough intrigue and heart to make it a fitting first chapter of the MCU’s next phase. While some may question Far From Home’s departure from some of the elements most closely of Spider-Man, the film appears to be utilizing the stories of the past and present to create a new experience that will further open up the world of Spider-Man.

  • Richard Newby
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