Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

“You’re saying there’s a multiverse?”

Set directly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the aptly titled sophomore Spidey effort Far From Home has the unfair task of being the conclusion to the first chapter in the Marvel universe and an introduction to what will be the new normal, all in the form of one big Summer popcorn flick. I’m surprised by how well it works, and after having seen him in space fighting Thanos a few months back, it’s all the more rewarding and amusing to watch the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man stumble in his pursuit of a girl, all while dodging destiny and purpose. It’s fun, action packed, thoughtfully told, and is somehow forgettable at the same time.

Far From Home most separates itself from other iterations when the suit is ditched altogether. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, serving up undeniable essence of the character with the mask on and off) wants to be a teen. Peter makes plans with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) in the back of the classroom about how he’s going to express his emotions to MJ (Zendaya) during the class trip to Europe. He shudders when she comes near, darts his eyes, jumbles his words. Peter wants to tell MJ, but even Spider-Man can’t overcome the defeat of the good-looking Brad Davis (Remy Hii) swinging into the scene at every passing chance. Saving the world is hard; winning the girl seems impossible.

That kind of pining plot might sound antiquated and unrefined, but Far From Home doesn’t remove any of MJ’s agency or sense of choice either. She’s a full-bodied character in her own right, and as portrayed by the talented Zendaya, a real person of strength. Turns out that’s needed during the trip across the pond, and that Peter, trying to shirk his responsibilities, must don the suit sneakily packed into his luggage by his loving Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Peter dodges calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), argues with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and ultimately meets Quentin Beck / Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). He’s purportedly from an alternate universe, now on Earth after Endgame’s “Blip” in order to ward off and to fight the “Elementals” that killed his family and are now decimating cityscapes. There’s excellent chemistry between Holland and Gyllenhaal, and the latter brings complexity to a plainly written character, but the dynamic doesn’t get enough screen time to fully root this buddy comedy film into something that can truly blossom.

Far From Home’s expected twist feels a bit forced, like an excited Olympic gymnast over-rotating off the vault and stumbling forward before falsely sticking the landing, and the film never fully recovers once the cards its playing are finally revealed. The choreography throughout remains sprite, the camaraderie is aces, and director Jon Watts deftly blends comedy and drama into one cohesive meal. And with the stealthy presence of Gyllenhaal, Watt’s globetrotting movie is able to believably offer insight about our current disinformation age and it stresses the anonymity of modern warfare, all while maintaining the fractured facade of a big-budget superhero blockbuster with brawn and brains.

In that way, Far From Home might be the most accurately duplicitous Spider-Man movie of them all. The movie is about a young man with two faces, navigating two worlds, distinguishing grief from relief, and trying to decide which version of himself he wants to be, all while facing his fears and the girl of his dreams. Not many superhero movies are as tempered and devoid of action as this one is during its opening half. Having said that though, things do collapse a little and don’t necessarily hold up all that well in the second portion, and the visuals are way weaker than the inspired design of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But Spider-Man: Far From Home earns its fair share of points, even if it’s far from securing the top spot on the podium.

“We’re all counting on you.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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