“Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a fun, generally lighthearted Eurotrip superhero adventure that fulfills many of the expectations that come with its multiple brands.
In its own way, it delivers the heart we’ve come to expect from the “Spider-Man” brand at its best.
At the same time, it brings the blend of humor and large-scale action that continue to define the Marvel Studios brand, and ushers audiences into that franchise’s post-“Avengers: Endgame” future.
What’s it about?
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” picks up some months after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”
The world is still coming to terms with the return of half of its population from being snapped out of existence five years before. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), was one of the people, of course, and he came back along with many of the world’s superheroes just in time to help defeat galactic tyrant Thanos and save the world.
But that fight wasn’t without cost. The world lost Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and that loss left a vacuum yet to be filled.
For Peter, the loss is intensely personal. He misses his mentor/patron and feels pressure to live up to Stark’s expectations.
He hopes to momentarily escape from that pressure on a trip to Europe with his Science class. Along with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his crush, MJ (Zendaya), he just wants to be a high school kid again, which comes with its own set of scary challenges.
But then Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) crashes the party. Along with a new superhero named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), Fury enlists the Web-slinger’s help fighting a new threat: monstrous “Elementals” popping up around the world, leaving devastation in their wake.
Reluctantly, Peter answers the call to action, and super-heroics ensue. But are the Elementals the real danger, or just the beginning of a new mysterious threat to everything our hero holds dear?
Marvel True Believers out there know that when it comes to Mr. Beck, there’s always more than meets the eye.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” serves a similar purpose in 2019 to “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in 2018 and even the original “Ant-Man” in 2015.
They each follow-up on a huge, epic-scale Marvel team-up adventure with what’s come to be known as a “palette-cleanse.” They bring more humor and lightness to the proceedings to help audiences reset and recharge, while still providing lots of high-stakes, eye-popping action.
Also in a similar fashion to the second “Ant-Man” film, “Far From Home” has to live up to its own predecessor, 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and further its ongoing storylines and maintain that earlier film’s tone and style.
It’s a lot to juggle. But if Spider-Man’s known for anything, its nimbleness, and this film lives up to that expectation.
What helps is how much time the film spends on the B-plot. The summer trip, its requisite teen drama and Peter’s awkward attempts to get closer to MJ, all provide the essential quality needed to make all the effects-heavy action and set pieces matter: heart.
It also helps a great deal that this cast continues to show solid chemistry in their second outing together. Holland and Zendaya’s shared scenes are cute without being saccharine, while Batalon continues to provide comic relief while also getting a romantic subplot of his own.
Friend or foe?
And then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal.
Without giving too much away, Gyllenhaal’s performance can best be described as “layered.” It’s lighter lifting than we’re used to getting from him, but it’s clear he has fun with it.
It’s important to note, also, that as Michael Keaton did in “Homecoming,” Gyllenhaal delivers a compelling foil for Holland. If there’s a fault to be found in the Marvel Cinematic machine, it’s that sometimes the “villains” are forgettable.
Not so in Spidey’s world, however, and maybe that’s as it should be. After all, Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery is among the most well-known in all of comic book history.
Yes, for any Marvel fan worth their working web-shooters, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is worth seeing. At the very least, the film provides the first glimpse at the post-Endgame Marvel Universe.
Heck, the mid-credits and end-credits scenes alone should provide fodder for months of nerdy speculation on what’s to come.
But the appeal shouldn’t be limited to them. This film does a lot of things well — the cute-awkward teen romance, the humor, and the coming-of-age themes — that have nothing to do with costumes and super-villains and saving the world.
It’s what every summer movie should be: a good time at the movies. It just happens to have your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in the middle of it all.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Jon Watts.
Running time: 129 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments.