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[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]
The Marvel Cinematic Universe skipped Spider-Man’s origin story. Instead of seeing Uncle Ben die for the third time on the big screen, the MCU picked up with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) after he became a hero, and set up Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as a mentor and father figure.
In essence, Stark took on the role of Uncle Ben, with the iconic image of Parker leaning over a dying Uncle Ben getting flipped in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) as Tony watched Peter die.
In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark is haunted by the fact that his fears of a coming doom were fully realized — with Spider-Man being the casualty that hurts the most. And after Tony finally defeats Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) and his army by sacrificing himself, Peter ends up leaning over his dying mentor, just like he leaned over his uncle Ben in the comics.
It’s a devastating moment for Peter Parker, made subtly more devastating by the fact that Parker has now lost two men close to him. And, as shown by the most recent trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s that moment that’s at the heart of Peter Parker’s next movie.
At first, the setup to Far From Home seemed simple. Peter Parker wants to be a carefree kid again and goes on a vacation to Europe with his friends. But Peter doesn’t simply want to be a kid again, he also wants to escape grief over the loss of Tony and escape the confusion of the post-Endgame world. Peter not only lost his mentor, but half of his friends are now five years older than him, thanks to the snap. Peter is certainly not the only one dealing with this void, as society at large must be reeling from the events of Infinity War and Endgame.
Enter Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who claims to be a superhero from another universe. In the comics, Mysterio comes from a special effects background and it’s easy to imagine that in Far From Home, he’s not what he seems. Perhaps he will capitalize on Spider-Man’s grief over losing Iron Man or even take advantage of the discovery of the multiverse.
The first trailer for Far From Home frames Beck as a hero, and a high school student comments that “he’s like Iron Man and Thor rolled into one.”
Could Peter be so distraught after the loss of his mentor that he’s desperate to find a new one? So desperate that ignores signs that Beck is a villain? Could Beck know about this vulnerability and exploit it? Much of what Beck says in the second trailer seems directed at what Peter is going through. “Saving the world requires sacrifice. Sometimes people die,” Beck says. Is he pushing Peter to move on from Tony’s death and come under his tutelage?
Amid this potential emotional dilemma, the MCU will start to transition to Phase Four and its next overall saga. Phase One asked how the world would react to newly discovered superheroes. Spider-Man: Far From Home could start to ask what a world accustomed to superheroes would do when those heroes are gone. Do they blame the Avengers for the logistically and emotionally tricky place they’ve been left with? How would they deal with the sudden appearance of a new supposed hero like Beck, a hero from another universe? If society discovers that Beck is a manipulator, would the world then be skeptical of heroes? These are all themes and ideas that Far From Home could introduce that could allow them not just to avoid repeating what they’ve done before, but to also comment on the MCU and the state of superhero movies themselves.
But perhaps more importantly, this setup could make for powerful character development for Spider-Man. Peter will want to keep Tony Stark’s memory alive. But instead of figuring out how to be the next Iron Man, perhaps he must learn to be the best Spider-Man he can be.
Iron Man (2008) followed Tony’s efforts to shape his own legacy, rather than assume his father’s, and Far From Home could do the same with Spider-Man, but with the memory of a father who tried a bit harder. It’s the second go-around of the cycle; “I just wanted to be like you,” Peter says in Homecoming. “And I wanted you to be better,” Tony replies.
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