by Pastor David Locklair.
It’s the end of an era. Spider-Man: Far From Home, in addition to being the 23rd feature film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is also the conclusion to the first 11 years of the MCU. It is the finale to the “Infinity Saga” which bound together these 23 films. Some characters are now gone and some will continue on, but the overall story of the MCU will be quite different moving forward. As always, be warned that the following review does contain significant spoilers (both for Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame).
Far From Home deals with the aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The Infinity Stones are not currently in play, but the fallout from the Infinity Saga certainly is. Peter Parker has returned to being New York’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.” However, he is struggling to deal with the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark, who gave his life to save the entire universe in Avengers: Endgame.
Throughout the film, Peter struggles with the idea of taking Iron Man’s place. He would prefer to remain a “neighborhood” hero. When allegedly cosmic threats interfere with his class trip to Europe, he would prefer that super-spy and former SHIELD agent Nick Fury find someone else to help him and new hero Quentin Beck handle it. A key theme of the film is Peter finding his place as Spider-Man in this post Endgameworld.
Far From Home connects to a spiritual theme in a powerful way. One of the film’s themes is “truth and illusion.” Throughout the movie, there are several jokes about people believing what they read on the internet or hear on the news. More seriously, the villain is a master of deception. Comic book fans will suspect that Quentin Beck (code name: Mysterio) is not what he seems, and indeed that turns out to be the case. Rather than being the hero he claims to be (who came from another dimension to help save this earth from extinction), he is a disgruntled former employee of Tony Stark. His goal is to create “Avengers level” disasters through illusions of technology and drone strikes which in the end feature him stopping the threat. In this way, he will become the next Iron Man with all the glory that entails.
To do this, Quentin must trick Peter into giving him tech that Tony had left for Peter. This tech will give Quentin access to the firepower he needs to accomplish his goals. Quentin succeeds in deceiving Peter into giving him this tech by making himself out to be what he is not (a hero) and by playing on Peter’s shortcomings and misgivings. Peter relies upon his own feelings and judgments without investigating to make an informed decision.
Once Peter figures out the truth, Mysterio confronts him through illusion. In the midst of the illusion, Peter cannot determine what is real and what is not. Mysterio shouts, “I control the truth. Mysterio is the truth!” The implication is that Mysterio gets to create truth. People will believe him (more on that later) and in his mind that means he decides what is true. As long as his illusions succeed, what he projects is true even though it does not correspond to reality.
In actuality, Jesus Christ is the embodiment, source, and giver of truth. He has told us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Indeed, Christ has come to give us the truth. Much like Mysterio’s illusions, many claim that Christianity is an illusion, a myth, a deception. The fact is, though, that the events of the Bible have taken place in real history. One goal of Christian apologetics is to show that Scripture is historical reality. The work of Spider-Man in Far From Home is to clarify illusion and reality.
“Deep down, you know I’m right.” Mysterio makes this comment in an effort to get Spider-Man to stop fighting back. Throughout the film, Mysterio seeks to convince people that he is right by using illusion and appealing to anything but objective truth. Here, he appealed to some sort of twisted notion of being right simply because he can manipulate people. By contrast, Spider-Man is very much on the side of objective truth. Spider-Man fights to see through the illusion to objective reality.
I found it fascinating that the character who is clearly the villain (there is truly nothing sympathetic about Mysterio) was the one to oppose objective truth. In our world today, we have a clear movement away from objective truth. It is commonly accepted that truth is subjective and different people can have different truths. In contrast, Christians declare “amen” to the words of Jesus, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Near the end of the movie, Mysterio taunts Spider-Man saying, “It’s easy to fool people when they are already fooling themselves.” This line reminds the Christian of St. Paul’s words in Romans chapter 2. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (verses 18-22)
In Far From Home, the general public had allowed themselves to be fooled by sensational illusions because they had already bought into the notion of believing the sensational without discernment; they did not seek objective truth but rather trusted what they thought they saw. They were the “fools” who should have known better because they had clearly seen the dramatic work of villains in the world prior to this. So too, the sinful world has clearly seen the evidence of God and yet has bought into all the illusions man can come up with – macro evolution, atheism, and all manner of sinful behavior. It is the truth of God’s Law which cuts through all this misbelief and sin to show us the truth, and the truth of His Gospel which brings us forgiveness for our folly.
Ultimately, to defeat Mysterio Spidey must rely on something other than his feelings or impressions or desires. Instead, he relies upon his “Spidey sense.” This superpower is something like a 6th sense for Spider-Man. It’s not a feeling or an emotion, but rather an awareness of what’s happening, especially of imminent danger. Peter’s personal desire to remove himself from this entire situation had failed him. Peter’s personal feelings about Mysterio had failed him. He had to rely on something concrete, something given to him. So, in the final confrontation with Mysterio, Peter stops trying to make judgment calls and instead entirely relies on this “Spidey sense” to fight through the illusions and confront and defeat the real Mysterio.
So too, we must not rely on our sinful heart, feelings, impressions, desires, or judgments to show us the way. We must rely on something concrete, something outside of us which has been given to us. This gift of course is Holy Scripture. Our hearts are sinful (17:9); our minds are corrupt (Romans 8:6). Scripture alone can lead us to victory. As St. Paul has written, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned itand how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:14-17)
Spider-Man overcame the temptations of illusion and his own misguided desires by using the objective truth of “Spidey sense.” We overcome by the objective truth of Scripture. Martin Luther wrote, “Know that there is no counsel for withstanding the devil’s temptation except to adhere to the bare, clear word of Scripture and to think and speculate no further.” *
Far From Home certainly does contain some objectionable content. The Spider-Man solo films are produced and released in connection with Sony and unfortunately Sony seems to push edgier content to a greater degree than many of the other MCU films. There is a fair amount of language and some particularly crude jokes. There are two gags involving Peter needing to change into his Spider-Man suit in front of a woman.
Additionally, some of the scenes with Mysterio’s illusions are quite intense and scary, and there is the typical violence of a modern day superhero film. All of this is to say that parents should certainly review the film before taking children to see it. It’s unfortunate that a Spider-Man film is not more family friendly as the character is especially popular with young children.
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to slow down at the box office, Far From Home is not the film to do it. As of July 14th, it has grossed over $858 million at the worldwide box office and looks to be a lock to pass the $1 billion mark. It would be the third MCU film this year to pass that mark (after Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame). The average worldwide gross for an MCU film is currently just under $970 million.
Financially, the MCU is very well positioned to begin a new era, and this Spider-Man definitely has the appeal to carry it moving forward. Far From Home is funny, full of heart, and a fitting conclusion to the Infinity Saga. MCU and Spider-Man fans will love it. Tom Holland is a fantastic Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and, for the most part, the Spider-Man mythos is handled remarkably well. The themes of truth and deception offer plenty of opportunities to talk about objective truth. Be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits. The two post-credits scenes are arguably the best post-credits scenes in the MCU to date!
* Luther’s Works: Vol. 69: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 17-20. Christopher Boyd Brown, Ed. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009, 30-31.