Love is in the air in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the second full-fledged Spidey feature to star Tom Holland as Peter Parker and his web-slinging superhero alter ego.
The film — directed by Jon Watts, who also helmed Holland’s first solo outing Spider-Man: Homecoming — actually marks the actor’s fifth onscreen swing in a role that, from the beginning, seemed to fit him like a tailor-made suit.
[Editor’s Note: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow. If you’re one of the three people who have yet to watch it, you’ve been warned.]
In these movies, Spidey’s super-suit was tailor-made by billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, the hero who sacrificed himself for the sake of the universe in this summer’s Avengers: Endgame.
Peter’s still bereft over the death of Stark, his superhero mentor and champion, and Holland wears that grief with the wide-eyed confusion of a boy who’s lost his guiding father figure. Still only 16, Peter already has seen war and devastation, and unspeakable loss of life — he died himself, came back, helped Stark save the world, then lost his friend all over again.
And yet, Far From Home (★★★½), as lighthearted and funny as any MCU adventure that’s preceded it, doesn’t get too mired in missing ol’ Tony Stark. If anyone, the film misses Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who, though undoubtedly well-compensated, don’t get enough credit for their films’ lucidly staged and shot, fast-moving action sequences.
The Russos introduced Holland’s cinematic iteration of Spider-Man in the 2016 blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, and they’ve done an excellent job shepherding Marvel’s signature character across a few films that weren’t released by Sony, the studio that still controls the rights to standalone Spider-Man films.
Far from Home director Watts, working with cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd, forgoes finesse for a more erratic rhythm. The choppy style is especially glaring in the movie’s first large-scale action set-piece, a wet and wild battle in Venice, Italy, between a water giant and a new caped crusader on the scene, Mysterio. Beneath his glowing-orb headpiece, Mysterio is a man not of this earth named Quentin Beck and played by Jake Gyllenhaal as the inspiring new mentor of Peter Parker’s dreams.
Peter, on a science tour of Europe with his classmates — including crush MJ (Zendaya) and best bud Ned (Jacob Batalon) — almost instantly sees in Beck the hero he lost in Stark. The film derives much of its driving emotion from Peter’s innocent quest to understand how to use the lessons and legacy he was left by Tony Stark.
The film’s plot, consequently, hinges on what Peter will do with the tech Stark left him. Packing for Europe, Pete can’t decide if he wants to take his tech-enhanced Spider-suit, or leave his superhero identity at home. Does he always have to step up to save the world, or can’t this kid from Queens just be? Someone asks Peter if he’s the new head of the Avengers, but could he possibly fill the role of team leader? Peter questioning himself about whether he’s ready to wield inherited power represents a surprisingly deep and worthwhile journey for the youngest Avenger.
Peter is also asked whether he’s going to ghost Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson’s all-seeing, all-knowing spy chief, who is desperately trying to reach him. Fury, and his stalwart right-hand Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), do catch up with Peter, and this new team-up, and the post-Thanos circumstances, give Jackson and Smulders new notes to play in their umpteenth appearances in these movies.
Having been snapped out of existence five years prior, and only recently restored to life, Fury’s been humbled — and he can admit it. Cool but off-kilter is a refreshing look on the godfather of the MCU, and Jackson carries it off well, even if Fury’s storyline gets chopped into a bit of a jumble by the end.
Alas, Watts and returning Homecoming screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers pile on twists that both add to and subtract from the ongoing, increasingly serpentine mythology of the Marvel movies. The film attempts perhaps one or two too many plot twists, and it keeps twisting away until its last post-credit scene.
But where Far from Home flows smoothly, with ease and winking humor, is in its sweetly giddy take on young romance, charmingly conveyed by Holland and Zendaya. Peter doesn’t necessarily get to take a day off from saving the world, but he at least learns what it’s like to kiss the girl. Tony Stark probably could have taught him a lesson about that too.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is rated PG-13, and is now playing everywhere. Visit www.fandango.com.