Peter Parker Juggles Global Threats and Teenage Love in ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” understands why we love Peter Parker. He’s both superhero and average high schooler dealing with love, teachers and the jock who keeps getting in the way. It’s just that his summer trips tend to get interrupted by maniacal super villains. That’s what also makes this a fun summer popcorn movie, full of charm and well-done action. For Marvel Cinematic Universe devotees, “Far From Home” is a small epilogue to the apocalyptic events of “Avengers: Endgame.” The dust has settled from the world nearly being destroyed and Parker is processing life without his mentor, Iron Man.
As the world deals with the lingering consequences of the titanic battles from “Endgame,” Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still adjusting to the responsibility of being Spider-Man while surviving high school. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is gone but Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is still around, introducing Peter to all the tech Stark left for him. Happy is also getting suspiciously close to Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), who is now aware of Peter’s double life. As Peter’s class prepares to go on a summer trip to Europe, he is debating how to confess his feelings for MJ (Zendaya). But classmate Brad (Remy Hii) also has eyes for MJ and is determined to block Peter. Off they go to Italy where Peter is also contacted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), recently brought back from disintegration during the whole Thanos conflict in “Endgame.” Fury wants Peter, or better yet, Spider-Man, to take up his responsibilities and help fight a new threat. Monstrous, elemental beings are popping up around the world, apparently crisscrossing dimensions. Helping Fury track the beasts is Quentin Beck a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims to be from said dimensions. But Peter doesn’t want to deal with all this right now, matters of the heart are more urgent for a teenager than global destruction.
It’s a smart move to release “Spider-Man: Far From Home” as the first MCU movie to follow the mega epic “Endgame” and the introduction of a new character with the even earlier “Captain Marvel.” Running the risk of oversaturating the market, “Far From Home” features a character that’s been universally liked for decades. Even if you haven’t been caught up in all the Avengers drama, this works as a refreshing summer entertainment. Director Jon Watts is back, having helmed 2017’s engaging “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and proves again he understands what this material is really about. As Peter Parker continues to grow up life gets more complicated. Once again he has learned that loved ones can be lost. There is a touching sense of closure as Peter is handed a final gift from Stark, a pair of stylish glasses which double as a Siri-style device capable of commanding drones and hacking into networks. Being a teenager having teenager troubles, Peter of course makes a mess of things by using the shades to spy on Brad and MJ, nearly killing the competition in the process. On a deeper level the screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, who both scribed “Homecoming,” deals with how Peter is being forced to mature because of Stark’s death. He feels the weight, even from Nick Fury, of how everyone sees him as the heir to the Iron Man mantle. Tears of fandom will no doubt form when our hero begins to craft a costume onboard a private jet and Happy looks on, grinning with recognition.
But “Far From Home” is far from gloomy. It’s a funny, energetic summer field trip with the spirit of a classic teen dramedy. Sometimes it plays like the kind of movie a more woke John Hughes might have made in the costumed franchise era. Peter has to juggle fighting cosmic threats with trying to win MJ’s affections. His best friend and confidant, Ned (Jacob Batalon) gets a girlfriend and so gets distracted while Flash (Tony Revolori) is still the bullying rich kid, telling Peter lines like, “look, this is called an airplane.” Ironically Flash is also a huge fan of Spider-Man, defending him no matter what. We follow this troupe through some nice vistas in Italy, Austria and Paris. It was a wise move to release this as a July movie because it has the feel of a summer trip, complete with beautiful opera houses and Peter getting caught with a tall, blonde agent mistaken for a hook-up. The love angle with MJ is also handled without corniness, and because she’s not some damsel in distress Peter actually has to think hard about how to win her over. The soundtrack is a pleasurable playlist of pop and punk, with a rather brilliant use of The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” The teachers are naturally comic and hilariously tragic, like Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr), who reveals during the flight to Europe that his wife faked being one of Thanos’s victims and ran off with another man.
Chronologically speaking this is the movie that is meant to ease the MCU into its Phase 4, which in layman’s terms means one story arch is finished and now we’re entering another one. This is hinted at more clearly in the two, very fun post-credits scenes. But the rest of the movie is simply a very good Spider-Man fest. Mysterio is a master of deception, conjuring illusions that provide for trippy sequences where Spider-Man is trapped in realms where he can’t tell reality from fantasy. These visually alluring sequences are better than just rehashed action scenes. As the real villain is exposed the plot becomes almost a commentary on the movie itself and the nature of make believe. Mysterio is played by Gyllenhaal like the caped equivalent of a maniacal film director, obsessed with perfect staging and making sure his cape is ironed. It need not be said that there are big action climaxes near the end where Spider-Man faces possible doom and swings around in glorious, roller coaster fashion.
What better time than summer to stroll to the local multiplex to watch our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man tackle multidimensional threats and try to profess his feelings for MJ? “Far From Home” delivers just what it promises. It may not be necessarily groundbreaking, but it pokes fun at itself and knows that even if most of us don’t have super powers, we all remember the super problems of being a teenager.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” opens July 2 in theaters nationwide.