It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and we all know that they have tried again (and again) with Spider-Man reboots. Any regular reader knows that I suffer from superhero burnout, having soldiered through all, yes, ALL of the Marvel movies to try to untangle and understand what was going on in Endgame. So, I found myself as surprised as anyone that Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spidey movie featuring Tom Holland as the lead, ended up making my Top Ten for the year. It was disarmingly charming and funny, like an 80s teen movie got mixed up, in a good way, with a ridiculous sticky web of yet another superhero origin movie.
In this case, I was actually looking forward to a superhero movie!
Was it great as Homecoming? Well, no. But it checks most of the important boxes and should entertain the casual fan. After all, you’ll end up seeing it anyway since it will probably be playing in 90% of the theaters over the holiday weekend. There’s that.
Far From Home picks up after the epic Avengers: Endgame, assuming a big chunk of knowledge on the part of the audience. You won’t have time to wipe your eyes, though, as it quickly leaves any sense of gravitas behind. Leaps of logic and plot are quickly explained by the Endgame plot device flippantly dubbed The Blip by the characters (no crying in support groups this time around). Even calling the event a blip shows you how heavily they are going to lean on what happened in that film (not much). Instead, the previous events are just enough to put some pressure on Peter Parker: He is inheriting great power and responsibility from the Avengers as the next generation of hero. But maybe he doesn’t want that responsibility, and just wants to go on his high school class trip to Europe and tell cute nerdy MJ (Zendaya) that he, you know, likes her.
Cue destruction of Venice! The bad guys this time around are called Elementals (baddies made of water, fire, earth… you get it). And a new hero named Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) has swooped in from one of the multi-verses (yesssss! will exclaim loyal fans) where his own planet was destroyed. Mysterio flies around with a cape, has a Tesla ball for a head, shoots flamey triangles out of his hands, and when he is not fighting bad guys, is a sensitive nice uncle-figure for Peter. But Quentin Beck may not be who he seems. Cue trouble for Peter/Spidey!
Far From Home makes the most of destroying fabulous European tourist destinations (so sorry, Tower Bridge), while Peter Parker scrambles to keep his identity secret from his classmates (while simultaneously trying to keep them safe). As was the case in Homecoming, the diverse cast of young actors playing his buddies are having a blast, and Samuel L. Jackson shows up just enough to steal his scenes as Nick Fury. And despite her bizarre 70s bell-bottom jeans, I’m still delighted to see Marisa Tomei as Hot Aunt May.
Where casting falters is with the normally fabulous Jake Gyllenhaal. Whether playing good or bad, he is just a little… dull as Quentin/Mysterio (we all know that a good villain is the most important thing in a movie like this). Even with a fancy suit and technology to boot, Quentin doesn’t have much zing.
Despite some spectacular action sequences, the plot is pretty much by the book (action! action! action! Spidey wins! kisses girl!… oops, spoilers!). What we have is basically a solid and predictable chapter two in this iteration of the Spidey-verse. Far From Home is entertaining enough to keep you interested, but it’s the teasers at the end that will keep you coming back (stay for the closing credits).