The sequel to Tom Holland’s first full outing as Spider-Man, subtitled ‘Far From Home’ to represent its European vacation setting, addresses the ramifications of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ head-on in both cheeky and emotional ways. By doing so, it deftly weaves the winning characters and friendly, neighborhood stakes of 2017’s ‘Homecoming’ with Peter Parker’s new status in the MCU. He’s both the accessible Avenger from a public perspective and a teenager struggling to juggle that weight with his desires for a normal social life.
Returning director and screenwriters Jon Watts, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers craft a film that is so winning it actually makes a superhero-saturated audience yearn for Peter to succeed as a hormonal teenage boy on a fancy school trip while simultaneously building cogent, thrilling action set pieces. Anyone can relate to Peter’s various plights whether it’s his nervousness over wooing potential love interest MJ (the adorably sardonic Zendaya) or concerns over the dating possibility of parental figures Aunt May (Marisa Tomei just killing it) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau continuing the link to the original film in the MCU, ‘Iron Man’). These creatives perfectly capture the anticipation and letdown around the possibilities that abound for a major school trip. They do it so well, it’s surprisingly disheartening when Peter has to deal with his hero responsibilities when Nick Fury (an always welcome Samuel L. Jackson) and Mysterio (a well cast, pitch perfect Jake Gyllenhaal) arrive on the scene to spoil all the fun.
To this point all the focus had been on the all-around winning cast of core and supporting players with hardly a sighting of Spider-Man in costume. It’s Holland and friends, including Jacob Batalon as his best friend Ned, who really sell the teen comedy, ‘Ramones-ified’ vibe of the whole franchise-within-a-franchise. The threats in these movies never come near the level of an ‘Infinity War’, but Holland’s ability to react wide-eyed when he’s placed in those films and then stumble dealing with the down-graded but more personally motivated villainous activity of his own movies is what endears him to an audience.
To say more about the plot would ruin the ‘Far From Home’ experience, but suffice it to say that this adventure is non-stop fun, with some genuinely shocking moments. It’s bright visuals are a welcome sight over the sumptuous on-location shots in Venice, Prague, London, and more. Spider-Man has quickly become a top-draw player in the MCU, wonderfully played by Tom Holland, who brings the spirit of the character to life, with all his insecurities, brains, athleticism, and most of all, a grounded and realistic resistance to the burdens placed on him, all without becoming a self-pitying wallower. ‘Far From Home’ is able to explore all these aspects of a character historically at the center of the Marvel comics universe (616, natch!), now rightfully placed directly in the middle of the MCU, while also delivering the most fun and zany adventure film yet . . .
Directed By: Jon Watts
Written By: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Running Time: 129 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -OR- A-