Rachael and John Derrick have been writing together since 2006. Under the name John Clifford, John wrote and directed a one-act play, “The Dream in Question,” as well as several short plays for sci-fi conventions. Rachael worked in journalism and international education before becoming a child and family therapist. They live with their son and two cats in Indianapolis. Their first novel, Bounceback, about an adult woman reliving her teenage life with brand new superpowers, is available now on Amazon.
“Don’t ever apologize for being the smartest person in the room,” Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) tells Peter Parker (Tom Holland) early in Spider-Man: Far From Home. But what’s wrong with believing you’re the smartest person in the room?
You could ask master spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who seems a little out of his depth in a post-Avengers: Endgame world. When Beck takes on the superhero moniker Mysterio and starts telling stories about alternate realities and elemental monsters, Fury takes it in stride. It’s not any weirder than anything else he’s been dealing with for the last 22 movies. Turns out failing to fact-check a vaguely plausible story that fits in with your preconceived notions leads to a lot of trouble.
You could ask Peter’s classmate Brad (Remy Hii), who stumbles on a half-dressed Peter with a strange woman during their school trip to Europe and draws an understandable yet erroneous conclusion. Refusing to listen to Peter’s explanation, Brad takes a photo and attempts to send it to their classmate MJ (Zendaya). He’s hoping to make Peter look bad so that MJ will turn to him, but he plays off his intention as chivalrous honesty. Turns out sharing someone else’s business because you think you know what’s going on is a dick move.
You could ask Mysterio himself. Turns out Quentin Beck is the bad guy. Surprise! In fact, he’s exactly the kind of bad guy in too many positions of power in 2019. He’s the kind of person who is convinced he’ll win because he’s smart and smart because he’ll win, and that the lives lost along the way are just the cost of doing business. The kind of person who offloads responsibility for all his mistakes on his staff. It’s no wonder he thinks himself the One True Heir to a billionaire CEO.
But you should probably ask Peter’s best friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and their classmate Betty Brant (Angourie Rice). Ned’s sure the best way to spend a European vacation is as a swinging bachelor, no web-shooters required. Betty’s sure Ned’s a big dork. She’s not wrong, but that’s not all Ned is. Stuck together on a nine-hour flight, they make a charming, ridiculous connection. Turns out the most delightful connections can happen when you realize you don’t know everything.
You should definitely ask MJ, who may actually be the smartest person in the room, yet Zendaya’s beautifully layered performance makes clear that she never quite believes it. Even without red hair or being named Mary Jane Watson, she nails the best qualities of MJ in the comics — determined bravado covering up deep uncertainty about how to connect with other people but with a cool head in a crisis. Turns out you can be just 67% sure of yourself and still save the world.
And if you ask Peter, you might get the same answer you would from Tony “Iron Man” Stark. Peter spends much of the film wishing for Tony’s guidance, but in the end he learns Tony’s most important lesson.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Tony realizing that all of his remarkable intelligence had failed to prevent him from making big mistakes that hurt a lot of people. In each of the solo Iron Man movies, as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony takes responsibility for the less-than-ideal outcomes of the decisions he’s made. Turns out Peter, like Tony, isn’t a great hero because he’s the smartest person in the room, but because he knows he makes mistakes and he’s willing to fight so that no one else has to pay for them. You don’t want the smartest person in the room to have unlimited power; you want the person who will stop and wonder what happens if they’re wrong. Self-doubt is Peter’s superpower.
It’s a lesson Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) reminds Peter of at a critical moment, played with gentle experience by Favreau and ALL THE FEELS by Holland. Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme plays not-so-subtly in the background because this has been the core idea of the Avengers movies all along — that our real power doesn’t come from our strengths, but from how we deal with our pain.
For a little while there, it looked like Spider-Man’s days in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were over. That seems to be behind us now, but Far From Home makes it clear: You can take Spider-Man out of the MCU, but you can’t take the MCU out of this Spider-Man.
Far From Home’s digital and Blu-ray releases include a pretty standard assortment of extras. There’s a short film, Peter’s To-Do List, a small collection of deleted scenes and jokes, a gag reel and a number of short behind-the-scenes vignettes. Between a look at Holland’s work with the movie’s stunt crew, and feature on Holland’s and his real life brothers’ charity work, it’s clear the actor is working hard to embody Spider-Man in both power and responsibility. The Brothers Trust introduces the Holland brothers’ organization of the same name, which works to amplify the voices and reach of small charities around the world. The brothers appear at the beginning and end of the segment, but it’s mainly a mini-documentary focusing on the Lunchbowl Network. Go to https://www.lunchbowl.org/ to learn more about their work on behalf of poor families in Kibera, Nairobi, and go to https://www.thebrotherstrust.org/partners for the full list of charities supported so far by Brothers Trust donations.