By Jonas Schwartz
Peter Parker has always been the most relatable Avenger. He is an everyday kid thrust into greatness by circumstance. His gee-whiz attitude towards the gadgets and special powers he’s gained are endearing. Yet, at the end of the day, Peter Parker just wants to be a regular boy. He wants the prom, first dates, birthday parties, and true love, and sometimes battling a ginormous creature can cramp a kid’s style. The team that helmed Spider-Man: Homecoming, director John Watts, writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, launch Tom Holland in his latest adventure as the swinging super-youth, in a clever romp, Spider-Man: Far From Home.
In the Marvel equivalent of The Facts of Life Go to Paris, the latest Spider-Man film finds Peter longing for his close friend MJ (Zendaya). His high school is in minor chaos because many of the kids had blipped (They disappeared for the five years between Avengers: Infinity Warsand Endgame), and some have merely grown up and are now interacting with other kids who had vanished at a time when they were in elementary school.
The science team has a cross-Europe trip planned and Peter wants to leave the Spidey-suit at home so he can focus on being a kid. Thankfully, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) has packed it along because a monster made of water attacks the vulnerable city of Venice, almost drowning Peter and his friends. Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are on hand, and a new friend, a human from another dimension, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), substitutes as a mentor for Peter now that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) has passed away. Though the team destroys the water beast, there are other elementals (creatures using the power of the elements: water, fire, earth, air) out to demolish the planet.
As the first film in the MCU to follow Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Homehad the great responsibility of handling Tony Stark’s death, and revealing and how planet Earth dealt with the return of millions of blipped people. The movie handles both in funny and touching ways. Writers McKenna and Sommers, who before joining MCU produced both Communityand Happy Endingson TV, two sitcoms rightfully considered most inventive in their genre, manage to create levity and goofiness without dumbing down the humor. It’s a silly film, but very enjoyable. There is a very clunky exposition scene that the writers probably felt they handled adeptly, but it still feels like 10 minutes of a villain telling people in the room something they all already would know. But that’s a minor quibble.
Director Watts matches the youthful humor with exhilarating action sequences. Like the successful Mission Impossiblefilms, Watts takes glee in decimating world landmarks: The Washington Monument in Homecoming, the Venice and London towers in Far From Home. Because the audience is invested in not only Peter, but his friends, those in danger are not faceless extras.
Tom Holland is engaging as a more juvenile Peter Parker than either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. Audiences can sense he’s crossing over to puberty, while Maguire and Garfield’s Parkers always seemed like they were a month away from AARP mailings. Zendaya, Remy Hii, Jacob Batalon and Angourie Rice make great counterparts as Peter’s friends. Gyllenhaal is commanding as the new hero on the block. And Samuel L Jackson can do no wrong. He was born for this role ,and always is a delight when he shows up in the MCU.
Peter Parker and his alter-ego have been celebrating a renaissance. Besides the successful Homecoming, an animated version Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,was a creative, financial and award success last season. Though light fare, Spider-Man: Far From Homewill delight kids and thrill adults. It’s a quirky summer epic.
Jonas Schwartz is Vice President / Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, West Coast Critic for TheaterMania, Contributing Critic for Broadway World, and a Contributing Critic for ArtsInLA
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