In Spider-Man: Far From Home, a grief-stricken Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still reeling from being Snapped out of existence for five years by Thanos and losing Tony Stark in the final battle against the Mad Titan. He figures the best thing would be to get away from it all, including his Spider-Man persona, on a school trip to Europe — until he gets a call from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) that puts him reluctantly back to work alongside an enigmatic new hero named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, as well as this Spider-Man’s first standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far From Home successfully manages to plumb the depths of Peter’s sadness and conflict while maintaining the fizzy, teen spirit tone of Homecoming.
Returning to the director’s chair is Jon Watts, whose low-budget indie thriller Cop Car initially got him the job on Spider-Man: Homecoming. Watts deploys the same light touch in juggling the various aspects of young Peter’s life, including his crush on fellow student MJ (Zendaya), his relationship with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his genuine ambivalence over being Spider-Man, a role he (refreshingly) relishes even as it begins to overshadow every other part of his life.
Spider-Man: Far From Home features a few mind-blowing twists, mostly in its mid-and-end-credits sequences, which you can read about elsewhere. For now, in our talk with Jon Watts, we focused on following up the events of Endgame, drawing inspiration from the classic Spidey comics and more.
Den of Geek: What kind of a challenge was it to be handed the baton right after the events of Infinity War and Endgame, and how much advance knowledge did you have of what was happening there and how it would change the universe that you were working in?
Jon Watts: That’s a great question because it was a pretty massive creative challenge. I knew very, very early on what was going to happen in those movies. So I was sort of tasked with finding a way to deal with the cataclysmic fallout of Endgame while also trying to maintain the fun tone that we had established in Homecoming. So, that was a little bit of a tricky balancing act for me, but that was one of the exciting challenges as well.
It must have been odd filming a movie with a character who most people thought was dead.
He was dead. I love reading all the fan theories about what was going on. It was two camps. They were either like, “Maybe this is somehow before Infinity War.” But it’s a direct sequel to Homecoming, so most people were like, “I think that means that Spider-Man is going to survive.” I think people were anticipating they were going to find a way to bring him back.
As you were developing the movie did the script go through a lot of changes as a result? Because the Russos were tinkering with the Avengers movies at the same time and changing things around as they went.
I know that they changed things along the way as those films were developed, but the major building blocks were always in place and we worked with those in mind. We knew where Endgame was going to end essentially. So we knew that we would be picking up right after that. And even though details changed along the way, it didn’t have a massive effect on our development process.
One thing I didn’t know until I saw Endgame, I didn’t realize that Tony was going to look at that photo of him and Peter Parker, and that was going to be the one last little thing that sort of pushes him over the hump to start investigating how to travel through time. So, when I saw that at the premiere it was pretty moving.
You went from doing Cop Car to doing Homecoming, which is sort of a big jump up in terms of budget and resources —
A little bit.
So then going from Homecoming to this, what lessons did you take from Homecoming? What did you learn on Homecoming that you wanted to apply to Far From Home?
Well, the thing that you really try to maintain is the tone, what it’s going to feel like at the very end. And I was pretty happy with the overall tone that we had established in Homecoming, so I wanted to make sure we preserved that in Far From Home. But in terms of my actual personal experience. I had never worked on a movie for that long. Every day was a new experience for me. So, having been through it once, then going into it again, it was nice because at least you know what to expect, and you know how to plan, and this might sound weird, but you know what to worry about and when to worry about it.
Was it fun to take Spider-Man globe hopping? Which country did you get to spend the most time in?
London was our home base, so we spent probably the most time in London, but we were in Prague and Venice for quite a while, which was really exciting. It’s always challenging, logistically, to be shooting on location. Especially in somewhere like Venice where literally everything is on a boat, and that really keeps you on your toes. So it’s a fun logistical challenge. But I think it also gives the film that sort of road trip, on location feeling that you can’t get in a studio in Atlanta.
There was a moment on the Homecoming press story when we were in Rome and Tom Holland and I were on a rooftop answering questions, and I looked across the way and there was our Spider-Man stuntman in full costume on this rooftop with Rome as a backdrop. And I thought that I’d go see that movie. So I think that’s when the seed maybe was planted for this idea of a European road trip.
Mysterio has such a great sort of classic look to him. Did that go through a lot of experimentation before coming back to a more traditional look?
You know, it’s funny. Ryan Meinerding, who’s the head concept artist at Marvel, his very first rendering of Mysterio was very true to the comics, and it looked great. But I think everyone felt like, “Oh, well, we need to explore more avenues. You know, try a more grounded look, try a look that feels like he’s a traveler from another dimension. Something that feels more like a spacesuit. Is there other ways to interpret the fishbowl helmet?” So we went through a lot of ideas just sort of exploring what it could be. And at the end we just went right back to his very first sketch and we were like, “You know, that’s a pretty classic design. We don’t want to mess with that.”
There are some great moments in the film that look like they’re ripped right out of a comic book. Did you look at specific comics for inspiration for that?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, Mysterio comics are some of the most striking designs in all of the history of Spider-Man comics. There are so many great frames that we used as a jumping off point.
You’ve done different variations on classic Spider-Man tropes in both these movies. A very different Aunt May, a different take on MJ and so on. If you go into a third film, is that something you want to stick with?
Well, yeah. I mean, you try to reinvent it without going too far off book, hopefully. And you know not all fans will necessarily agree with the choices you make, but I’m just trying to, hopefully, show people something that they haven’t seen before.
Do you have ideas about who you’d like to see as a villain or villains next time?
Spider-Man has the greatest rogue gallery of all time, so we still have a lot of options on the table here. But I like to think about it one movie at a time.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theaters now.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye