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Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home
Heading into Spider-Man: Far From Home, most die-hard Marvel fans already guessed the film’s central surprise: Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio isn’t a dimension-hopping hero, but a duplicitous master of illusion. While his guise may not have fooled moviegoers, it definitely did a number on Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who looked at Mysterio’s alter ego, Quentin Beck, and saw another Tony Stark to replace the one who died in Avengers: Endgame. “That’s part of his con,” Far From Home director, Jon Watts, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s when he’s twisting the screws on Peter that he’s really embodying Tony.”
Beyond bewitching Peter, Mysterio’s illusions also allow Watts to pull his own sleight of hand on the audience, who are so focused on Quentin’s transformation from hero to villain that they likely won’t see some of the movie’s bigger surprises coming. Surprises like the unexpected return of fan-favorite characters from Marvel movies past, and a prominent showcase for Spider-Man’s spider-sense ... uh, make that “Peter tingle.” In separate interviews with Holland and Watts, we got the scoop on Far From Home’s biggest revelations.
Jonah the Menace
Watts knew two things when he agreed to direct Spider-Man’s second solo adventure: 1) He wanted to bring back Spidey’s regular foil, J. Jonah Jameson and 2) The only person he wanted to play Jameson was J.K. Simmons. The beloved character actor portrayed the fast-talking, wall-crawler hating newspaperman to perfection in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and as far as the director and everyone at Marvel Studios was concerned, even though the role of Spider-Man has been portrayed by different actors over the years, there’s only one Jameson. “There was never a question in anyone’s mind,” Watts says. “That performance is so iconic. I couldn’t imagine anyone else.”
Simmons didn’t require a lot of persuading either. According to Watts, Far From Home producer Amy Pascal — who ran Sony Pictures when Raimi made his Spider-Man movies — personally called the actor and invited him back. “At first he was like, ‘Wait, what are you doing? No one else is coming back, just me?’ But he was completely on board. That was the last thing we shot, and he just launched into that performance. He said it was very surreal!”
Of course, just because it’s the same actor doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the same J. Jonah Jameson from those earlier movies. For starters, this Jameson spouts his brand of Spider-Man hatred on video rather than in the headlines. Far From Home reveals that Jonah is the (angry) face of DailyBugle.net, a conspiracy theory site in the spirit of InfoWars. “If you say he’s the same person, you get into a crazy multiverse way of thinking about these movies, and I’m not ready to open that Pandora’s box just yet,” Watts says, laughing. “But maybe he was once a newspaperman? And maybe that newspaper’s gone out of business and that’s why he’s on this online site?”
In addition to being a great Easter egg for Spider-Man fans, Jameson’s reappearance also throws a major wrench into Spider-Man’s future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the movie’s mind-blowing mid-credits sequence, he unmasks Peter as Spider-Man for all the world to see courtesy of doctored video posthumously provided by Mysterio. Watts promises that’s a plot development that won’t be undone in the next phase of the MCU. “I think it will be a cop out if, in the next movie, Peter wakes up and says, ‘Oh, I had a terrible nightmare.’ This movie is about him finally stepping up and accepting his responsibility as a hero on a global stage. But nothing ever goes right for Peter—it’s that old Parker luck. This last act of deception on Mysterio’s part reveals the truth of his identity. There’s something not fair about that, and it opens up a big can of worms.”
Now that he’s unmasked Peter, Watts hopes that Jameson will continue to be a thorn in the young hero’s side going forward. And the opportunity to act opposite Simmons has Holland positively tingling with excitement. “I’ve been a huge fan of his for a very long time, and that character is iconic,” the actor says. “If I could share the screen with him, that would be a dream come true.”
The fast and the Fury-ous
One of the perks of directing the final entry in an MCU phase is that you’re among the first people to see the movies that come before your own. Case in point: Watts got to screen Captain Marvel early on, and loved Ben Mendelsohn’s performance as the Skrull shape-shifter Talos so much, he wrote the character into Far From Home. In a post-credits scene, it’s revealed that Talos has been impersonating Nick Fury throughout the film, to cover for the fact that the one-eyed super-spy is currently on a deep space mission with the rest of the Skrulls. “That’s one of my favorite things in the movie,” Watts says. “Far From Home is a movie about con men, so it felt right to have that one last reveal.” As for what exactly Fury and his Skrull collaborators are working on in their corner of the galaxy, Watts pleads the fifth. “It could be a lot of things! I can’t really say.”
Trust the tingle
Tony Stark always ensured that Peter would have plenty of high-tech gadgets in his arsenal. But there’s one power that wasn’t developed in a lab: Spider-Man’s spider sense, which warns him of impending danger. That ability wasn’t showcased extensively in Homecoming, leading some fans to wonder whether the MCU version of the wall-crawler still had his sixth sense.
Far From Home definitively answers that question by giving “Spidey sense” a whole new name: the “Peter tingle.” Holland says that he worked the tingle into his performance in previous movies, albeit in subtler ways. “You’ve had moments of Spider-Man dodging bullets in the past,” he points out. “But for Far From Home, Jon realized that fans wanted something more, and thought, ‘I’ll give it to you, but in a new way.’”
The “new way” that Holland alludes to involves Peter’s one-on-one battles with Mysterio. When Beck unleashes the full force of his illusion-creating technology, his young opponent can’t tell reality apart from fantasy. Eventually, Peter learns that listening to his tingle is the way to seeing through Mysterio’s illusions. “I didn’t want to lean on any of the techniques we’d seen before,” Watts says of how directors like Raimi and Marc Webb have approached the task of visualizing Peter’s spider-sense. “It’s a little more of an emotional thing here; I didn’t want to use it unless it had an important part in the story. It’s fitting that the only way Peter is going to take Mysterio down is by learning to trust himself and his Peter tingle. It showcases his spidey sense without having to do any kind of visual tricks.”
If it hadn’t been for Thanos, Peter would already be a grown-up superhero. Unfortunately, the Snapture set him back from that goal by about five years. The good news is that he still gets to graduate high school alongside his favorite classmates, Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya), both of whom also got “blipped” by Thanos’s universe-altering snap. Because Far From Home was filmed in between the release of Infinity War and Endgame, Watts says he had to keep the “five years later” twist on a need-to-know basis. “They were trying to do the math,” he remembers, laughing. “They were like, ‘Why are we the same age, but Brad is older than us?’”
Ah yes, Brad. While a significant chunk of the Midtown School of Science and Technology’s student body got blipped, some pupils did go through a five-year growth spurt. Brad Davis (Remy Hii) was one of the lucky ones, sprouting up from a pipsqueak kid to a strapping teenager who also has his eyes on MJ — a coupling that’s straight out of the comic books. Watts claims his inspiration for Brad came from a different source, though. “Remember that movie, Flight of the Navigator?” he says, referring to the mid-’80s Disney favorite. “The main character disappears, loses time, and when he returns his younger brother is older than him? It was such a weird thing and really affected me as a kid, so I wanted to use that as one of the ideas in this movie.”
Watts had a number of other blip-related jokes and plot points in mind as well, but had to chop them from the finished film. “I wanted to see an animal blip away; that was going to be my dog’s cameo. There’s also something funny you could do with twins. But then you start asking too many questions like, ‘What about the pilots that go blipped out of airplanes?’ We could have made the whole movie just answering questions about the blip.”
Spider-Man: Far From Home is now playing.
Watch Jake Gyllenhaal talk about his turn as Mysterio:
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