Are you suffering from superhero movie fatigue? Have you been experiencing symptoms like your eyes glazing over at the mention of the MCU, or your brain automatically playing static when you hear someone discussing all the films that are still to come in Phase Four? If so, I have two words for you: Jake Gyllenhaal. OK, actually seven words: Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The follow-up to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters this week, bringing with it a dazzling CGI spectacular to back up its new villain, Mysterio, aka Quentin Beck, aka Gyllenhaal. But wait . . . is he a villain? The trailer for the sequel definitely makes it seem like he and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) are pretty chummy. If you have questions about the character, rest assured I have answers. Just be warned: spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home below! So proceed with caution, avert your eyes, etc.
First Things First: Who Is Quentin Beck?
Beck is introduced as a superpowered individual from an alternate universe — he says he's from Earth 833 and traveled to Peter Parker's Earth 616 to stop the monsters known as "Elementals" from destroying the planet. According to Beck, the fire Elemental already burned up Earth 833 and everyone he held dear, so he's dedicated his life to making sure that never happens again.
As far as his powers go, we don't know much. He wears a metal-heavy suit that gives him the ability to shoot beams of green energy blasts from his palms, which are the only things that seem to affect the Elementals. His suit also comes equipped with a helmet that disguises his identity by cloaking his features in a swirling gray mist. Essentially, it makes him look like a psychic's crystal ball grew arms and legs one day and decided to fly around defending the planet.
So Is Quentin Beck — AKA Mysterio — Actually a Good Guy, or Nah?
He definitely seems like a hero! At least at first. Quentin Beck (Gyllenhaal) is introduced in the first few minutes of the film, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) touch down in Ixtenco, Mexico, and find the small town ravaged by what the locals called a cyclone that had "a face." Suddenly everything begins shaking and Beck pops up just in time to stop a giant dust monster — one of the monsters known as "Elementals" — from hurting anyone else, yelling at Hill and Fury that they "don't want any part in this" and then attacking the creature solo with his bright green energy blasts. Fury is clearly impressed by Beck's bravery and brings him along to Venice as they track down two more Elementals (water and fire).
It's there that Peter comes into the equation since he's visiting the European city with his high school science club. Fury introduces him to Beck, and they hit it off, and it becomes obvious that Peter looks up to Beck the way he once looked up to the late Tony Stark. In fact, after fighting alongside each other and saving each other's lives, Peter decides to gift his new teammate with a set of glasses equipped with Tony's E.D.I.T.H. artificial intelligence system (similar to J.A.R.V.I.S.). Beck resists the gift but finally accepts after appearing genuinely moved by Peter's kind words to him.
When Does Mysterio Become the Villain?
Pretty much immediately after getting his hands on E.D.I.T.H. from Peter. As soon as Peter leaves the bar where he was cozying up to Beck, it's revealed that Beck isn't actually a superhero at all — he's merely a highly intelligent scientist who's a master of illusions. None of the people in the bar with them were real! And those battles with the Elementals weren't even real! The giant monsters and Mysterio's feats of bravery were all illusions created by a highly sophisticated fleet of drones coordinated to make him look like a hero. (For what it's worth, the explosions and destruction is real, but it's all the work of drones.) He basically stands in the middle of the fray, cloaked by his "illusion tech," barking out orders to his minions.
Wait, Hold Up — What Do You Mean None of It Is Real?!
Beck once worked for Stark Industries, where he wore a Steve Jobs-esque black turtleneck and glasses (yep) as he developed a complex and intricate "illusion tech." Using cloaked floating drones to project elaborate visuals in real time, Beck was essentially able to manipulate the people around him into seeing whatever he wanted. According to Beck, Tony claimed credit for the breakthrough and dubbed it B.A.R.F. (lol), which pissed Beck off enough to leave Stark Industries in a huff and slowly begin gathering a group of people who held similar vendettas against Tony.
Beck is the undisputed leader of the crew, with William Ginter Riva — yes, the Stark Industries scientist that Obadiah Stane screams at about "a box of scraps" in Iron Man — as his submissive right-hand man. Together they team up to steal back some of the glory that they think was taken from them by Tony by creating the only superhero who's able to defend major cities around the world from the destructive Elementals.
How Does Mysterio Even Get His Name?
Publicly he doesn't go by any official superhero name until his defeat of the water Elemental in Venice. Peter and his classmates are watching a news broadcast breaking down the fight at their hotel later that night, where the Italian broadcaster refers to Beck as "mysterio," or "mystery man." Peter's classmate Brad begins calling Beck "Mysterio" from then on, which Peter relays to his new superhero pal. Beck is clearly into the moniker and starts using it.
Is Mysterio's Backstory in the Comics the Same?
Yes and no. Mysterio — whose identity is adopted by Quentin Beck, Daniel Berkheart, and Francis Klum in the comics — is indeed a classic Marvel antagonist and is most typically seen facing off against Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Daredevil. Like Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck, he uses illusions and other technological gadgets to pull off his schemes.
Mysterio, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, first popped up in The Amazing Spider-Man #13 in 1964, where he made his debut as a special effects wizard, stunt man, and actor who longs to make a name for himself at a big Hollywood film studio rather than toiling away at what he views as dead-end jobs. His time to shine comes when he realizes that despite lacking superhuman abilities, his expertise in illusions nonetheless lends itself well to supervillainry. Once he harnesses his new skills, he frames Spider-Man for robbing a museum in New York City, using things like gas and chemicals to fight back against Spider-Man's spidey sense and webbing.
You can see how the general themes of the character's origin story — like believing he deserves more fame and recognition for his accomplishments than he's been given — translate to Gyllenhaal's version of Quentin/Mysterio. His suit is also very similar in both the comics and onscreen, consisting of a green-tinted bodysuit with metal panels, gold gloves, and a cape in deep purple.
How Is Peter Able to Defeat Mysterio?
After discovering a piece of one of the drones that gets broken off during the showdown with the fire Elemental in Venice, the jig is up — Peter and MJ deduce that Mysterio isn't who he says he is and set about figuring out how to stop him. It's pretty tough, considering how realistic the illusions Beck is able to create are, which he continues to trap Peter in, time and time again (at one point Beck leads Peter onto some train tracks and he almost dies after getting hit by an oncoming speeding train). Finally, in London, Peter and Happy are able to alert Nick Fury about what's going on, and they systematically start taking out Beck's drones.
It all ends with Peter and Beck facing off on Tower Bridge. Beck orders his drones to fire, but Peter is able to dodge all the bullets — Beck isn't so lucky, however, and is wounded in the stomach by drone fire. Desperate and using the only trick he has left, Beck attempts to distract Peter by using an illusion of his own bloody body slumped on the floor as the real Beck stands invisible beside him and tries to shoot Peter in the head. Thanks to his "Peter Tingle," though, our hero figures it out and disarms Beck just in time. Beck then bleeds out, swearing revenge. All is well! Or is it?
Is That the Last We'll Ever See of Quentin Beck AKA Mysterio?
Unless some truly wild illusion is at work, we'll bet yes. But it's important to note that even though Beck is dead, his villainous legacy will live on — in the film's midcredit scene he broadcasts an edited recording from his fight with Spider-Man that makes it seem as though Spider-Man is the true villain and killed Mysterio out of spite. Oh, and he also reveals the hero's secret identity. So, Peter Parker is about to have one hell of a week!
And, Finally: Even Though He's Playing a Villain, How Good Does Jake Gyllenhaal Look in Far From Home?
Really f*cking good. (Even without his chain.)