Spider-Man: Far From Home
Marvel Universe swings on (while clinging to the past)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Directed by Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal
Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially ended with the release of Avengers: Endgame. That doesn’t mean Marvel/Disney is willing to let the fires grow cold. Even before before Phase Four begins (Black Widow, The Eternals, Doctor Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), the MCU has offered up a postscript to the one-two punch that was Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame in the form of Spider-Man: Far From Home. It’s a fun, flippant and not particularly consequential film. And that’s just fine.
The greatest strength of Marvel’s cinematic efforts has been that the company innately understands each property has a different look, feel and overall tone. Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017’s first full-on collaboration between Sony Pictures Entertainment (which owns film rights to the character) and Disney (which owns Marvel Comics), rebooted the web-slinging superhero for a new generation. In his first Spandex-clad outing, Tom Holland made for a pitch-perfect Peter Parker, the nerdy self-conscious teen on whom a great burden of power has been placed. Both Homecoming and Far From Home adopt a similar lightweight, jokey, aimed-at-younger audiences vibe. Far From Home falls somewhere on the middle ground between the satirical fantasy of Thor: Ragnarok and the mature political thrills of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After the epic emotional weight of Avengers: Endgame, we could all use a little palate cleanser, and Spider-Man: Far From Home does the job quite nicely.
If you haven’t seen the last two surprise-filled Avengers films, you have little business walking into Spider-Man: Far From Home and probably shouldn’t proceed much further in this review. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum. But it’s impossible to talk about this new film without acknowledging a lot of what happens in Endgame. Far From Home picks up precisely where that last film left off, in the wake of the mad Titan Thanos’ destruction of half the life in the universe and the Avengers’ subsequent reversal of (some, but not all) of that cosmic tragedy. Young Peter is still grieving his losses and processing all that happened over the course of the last five years of Marvel cinematic history. But not to worry, this isn’t some glum funeral march. In fact, Spider-Man: Far From Home starts out with a perfectly hilarious take on “The Blip” that caused 50 percent of humanity to miss out on five whole years. All the confusing questions raised by Endgame’s surprising time jump are dismissed in a matter of minutes. It’s ridiculous, really; but it’s the new normal for the MCU.
In fact, a lot of Far From Home is built around this idea of the new normal. Superheroes, invading space aliens and overweight Norse gods are just part of everyday life now. Poor Peter Parker, having battled in outer space with the Avengers, is now (vainly) trying to live the normal life of a Brooklyn teenager. He and his magnet school classmates are heading off to Europe for a class trip. All Peter wants to do is have a fun summer and finally declare his love for his homeroom crush, sarcastic fellow science nerd MJ (former Disney Channel star Zendaya). Unfortunately, as soon as he sets down in Italy, he’s kidnapped by the king of all superspies, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, still having fun with the gig).
Seems that a string of extradimensional “elementals” are attacking cities around the globe. Their intrusion into our world could be apocalyptic. And with so many superheroes missing, busy or out of commission, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is gonna have to step up and be the hero once again. Fortunately, Fury offers a little assistance in the form of new-
Despite the heavy FX action, Spider-Man: Far From Home is more like a teen comedy with some hero stuff mixed in. Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck from “Freaks and Geeks”) and comedian J.B. Smoove are the teacher chaperones for Peter’s school group—and that gives audiences a clear, early indication of what the tone will be like here. There’s a lot of comedy and a surprising amount of slapstick humor—all of which will appeal well to the teen/tween audiences to which this film is mostly geared. Again, that’s fine, so long as you’re clear on the tone going in.
The only slight bummer is that Far From Home makes the same minor miscalculation that Captain Marvel made earlier this summer. That space-spanning superhero film was a fine addition to the Marvel canon. It was, however, constructed like a mystery. How did Captain Marvel come to be? Who is Carol Danvers? Is she human? Alien? What is her connection to the Kree/Skrull? It was, on the surface, an interesting new genre for Marvel to tackle. But for anyone versed in the comic book lore, Captain Marvel didn’t actually hold any real mystery. Her origin was, more or less, exactly as depicted in the comics. Those of us coming up with all sorts of elaborate storylines to explain what we saw in the trailer were bound to find it anticlimactic. Similarly, if you’ve read even a handful of Spider-Man comics in the last 50-odd years, you know all the twists and turns that Spider-Man: Far From Home has in store for you. Granted, that only affects comic book geeks and not people who have been exclusively introduced to this world by the movies. Such foreknowledge doesn’t ultimately spoil all the fun and adventure this film has to offer. But expectations should be managed. That said, the filmmakers have paid very close attention to what has come before in the MCU. Thanks to some clever scripting, the film’s various secrets feel like they’ve been pre-calculated since day one. They haven’t, of course; but it’s nice to see scriptwriters working hard to stitch all these films together with callbacks, shout-outs, Easter eggs and familiar characters.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is like a fistful of rainbow sprinkles tossed on top of the belly-buster sundae that was Marvel Phase Three. It’s no life-changing event. If you like Marvel movies, you’ll like this latest Spider-Man outing. Simple as that. Soon, we’ll be on to a whole new phase of stories and characters. So who can blame Marvel, Disney and us rabid fans from wanting to get one final taste of the last phase—even if it’s mostly just sugary topping.
Spider-Man: Far From HomePeter Parker (the pitch perfect Tom Holland) jets off to Europe for a class trip where he's quickly recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help fight off an invasion of extradimensional elementals. Making things more complicated is the arrival of new "hero" in town Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). 129 minutes PG-13.
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