Endgame Spoilers ahead, as Marvel isn’t going to wait around for you to drag your feet.
Welcome to your post Endgame world, where five years have passed since half the population vanished from existence before very abruptly showing up wondering what the heck was going on. The reaction to this world changing event, in which seemingly every single person on the planet was affected was met with… mild concern?
Anyway, it is in this mostly certain environment in which we find Spider-Man, one of the many who was snapped out of existence for a while. In addition to being in a post-snap world, he finds himself in the unenviable position in being placed into the driver seat of a post Iron Man world. This is the first major aspect of Spider-Man’s character development in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Tony Stark had served as a father figure and mentor since the first moment Peter Parker showed up at that airport to fight Cap. Parker had been living in the shadow of Iron Man ever since that moment, and it was a role that he welcomed. He sought out Stark for advice and guidance as he grew to carve out his role among the other super people rolling around the MCU. Far From Home forces Parker to be without his father figure for the first time since hitting the public spotlight outside of some videos on YouTube in his onesie.
While a significant challenge for Parker, it is ultimately a strength of this film. The Specter of Iron Man was inescapable in Homecoming, and it was much an Iron Man film at times as it was a Spider-Man film. Though he still retains some semblance of omnipresence in this film, his absence forces Spider-Man to take on the challenge of stopping Mysterio all on his own. This leads to far more character development for Spider-Man than in the previous film. Instead of him spending much of his crucial on-screen growth time with the Iron Man-esque suit AI, he spends it trying to figure out himself and his capabilities further- especially his Spider Sense, which had largely been absent up to this point in the MCU. Even when he does use the Stark technology, he is using it all on his own: the design, the utility and the ultimate purpose are all left up to him to design.
In addition to being a functional way to get Parker away from Stark technology, the black suit is one of multiple little hints to Venom- could his arrival be immanent?
Alongside this more physical growth that he goes through of understanding his abilities, his other crucial growth comes in accepting his role within as the successor to Iron Man. Throughout his first two film appearances, Spider-Man’s ultimate goal was to become and Avenger- seeing it is seemingly some sort of validation for himself. It is not until the tail end of Homecoming that he accepts that does not need to be validated as a hero, and that he will grow into it in time.
Fast forward a few years where Spider-Man has had a taste of what being an Avenger means, and what they actually have to do, and he is understandably reluctant to dive head first into that role. Spider-Man is still a kid in high school, and he had to face down the baddest mamma jamma in the entire universe- twice. Ignoring the stress that comes from those fights, he also has the job of replacing Tony Stark and Iron Man. Stark who saved Manhattan from being wiped out by a nuclear bomb. Stark who helped prevent a city from begin dropped onto Eastern Europe. Stark who saved the entire dad gum universe when he gave his life to deliver his own devastating snap. That is the guy that little Peter Parker from Queens has to try to succeed, and he ain’t havin’ it.
But there is someone who is, which brings us to Mysterio. Mysterio is an interesting antagonist for the film in that he wants that position which Spider-Man begins the film rejecting. His reasoning behind this is the best part of his character: he is delightfully petty. That holographic technology that Stark uses in Civil War was actually created by Quentin Beck, who had to watch as the greatest achievement of his entire life get used and tossed aside while being called B.A.R.F. by Stark. He creates an entire cadre of other petty people who have been mildly spited by Stark highlighted by the nameless scientist who gets yelled at by Obadiah Stain (remember him?) in Iron Man about stark making things in caves with scraps. The goal of this motley crew is not nefarious or overtly villainous; they want to be heroes. Beck wants to be the replacement to Iron Man in place of Spider-Man, yet he is almost unwilling to be truly dirty about it. He wants to lie and to exploit people on his way to the top, but he doesn’t want to kill, even showing remorse for even being faced with having to kill Spider-Man when his secret is blown.
This makes Mysterio a fun antagonist, but not a great villain. He provides some good moments, and the scene where he goes full Mysterio with the illusions against Spider-Man which is among the most fun sequence in the film. Yet he does not present an imposing force upon the film. He is an above average villain by MCU standards, but he comes up short of reaching the top tier, and ultimately falls behind Vulture from Homecoming.
What we are left with as the credits roll is a very fine film. It’s biggest cardinal sin is the same one which plaques about 90% of Marvel films, as well as Disney films in general (I know, I know, he is still technically Sony, but who cares?) in that it is too safe. It provides some quality and necessary development for a character who is poised to be a major player in the future of the MCU, it gives us a fun villain, and does a little bit of world building without needing to actually raise the stakes in any meaningful way. Spider-Man has had two film outings under the MCU banner, and they have been relatively tame when compared to some of his contemporaries. He is in need of a villain which will truly challenge him as well as his convictions as a hero. Until then we’ll have to make due with him getting the hand of his Peter-Tingle.