Review: SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home

A necessarily “bridgy” affair, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” manages to bring together the traumatic events of “Avengers: Endgame” and hint at what’s next for the MCU.

Tony Stark may be no more, but Peter Parker (Tom Holland) still grieves. And even though he just helped save the world, for teen Peter, it’s back to high school. His five-year absence due to Thanos’ intervention is described in school announcements as a “blip.” And “blipped” with him for that period was his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his love interest Michelle “MJ” Jones (Zendaya), and school bully, but Spider-Man super fan, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori). Along with others teens, they venture to Venice, Italy, for a summer trip that’s chaperoned by science teacher Mr. Bell (a funny J. B. Smoove) and the bumbling, clueless Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr).

Of course, the world will need saving again. And when former Tony Stark assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) tries to get Peter to take an assignment from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Pete sends the SHIELD chief to voice mail. But a new threat emerges in the form of elemental monsters, and Spider-Man has to suit up and join forces with new comer superhero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). With his friends in tow, the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler goes global.

Pete gets the girl, well, kinda. Zendaya is MJ.

Bursting with youthful exuberance and hipster flare, “Far From Home” is wondrous entertainment. By keeping Parker still in high school, and using the “blip” to keep his core crew intact, what might seem like contrived manipulation holds together nicely. This is a wildly over-the-top comic book adventure, after all, so, a little artifice is expected.

But what works best is Holland’s boyish charm and teen innocence. Having lost his father figure in the flawed but heroic Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), Peter is drifting. And as teased in the trailers, Fury colorfully points out that Spidey’s been to space. One would think that Pete’s offworld sojourn might have been enough to mature the lad and prepare him for the new role of hero. But he’s still all kid underneath his high tech suit. Peter’s kind (and hot) Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) knows that her boy is hurting, but understands the old adage: “with great power there must also come—great responsibility!” In raising Peter, May certainly did something right, because this is one boy who will adhere to that motto, even if it kills him.

Peter Parker tries being Tony Stark.

Capably bridging the MCU narrative that came to an epic conclusion with “Endgame” and playfully hinting at the films to come, this Spider-Man adventure is thankfully a bright and cheery superhero outing. And like the best film featuring the character, Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2,” it’s a movie that deals with the serious burden that has been placed on a young man’s narrow shoulders.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mysterio.

Director Jon Watts, who gave us “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” has a handle on the pacing that only slows down long enough to celebrate being a kid today and give Peter a moment to express his inner feelings. If Tony Stark verbalized his conflicts with prickly snark and dismissive attitude, this Peter Parker is positively all warm and fuzzy—you just want to hug the guy. And while audiences embraced the abrasive Stark as he insulted and joked his way through trauma, Peter wears his heart dangerously on the outside, making it hurt us when someone menacingly stomps on it. I suspect that after tying up loose MCU ends with this film, Spider-Man’s next standalone movie will deal with heavier emotional troubles. After all, Peter is barely old enough to drive in this version. There’s a lot of living and maturing on the horizon.

A joyful adventure that makes us believe in Spider-Man one more time, “Far From Home” capably begins the next phase of the MCU.

Returning from a five-year absence has to be traumatic for these kids.

Note: Flash Thompson’s narrative might play big into the third Spider-Man movie. I was somewhat bothered by how the concept of the “blip” was so casually tossed out there in this movie. Sure, kids are quick to joke about serious matters, but it’s Flash that is clearly masking his urgent emotional trauma in “Far From Home.” Parents, what if you instantly lost your child, grieved for five years, only to magically get it all back with the snap of a finger? I suspect that that that rollercoaster would take its toll on everyone. “Far From Home” isn’t quite able to deal with those issues, and I’m fairly certain that moving forward, Flash will be our conduit into that emotional abyss.

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