Imagine being Tony Stark’s chosen one. Imagine your mentor placing all of his trust in you. Imagine being asked to fill his larger-than-life shoes. So goes the life of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) at the beginning of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Peter thinks Mr. Stark’s dying wish was for him to become the new Iron Man, but he doesn’t want to step into that role.
Think of this as Spidey’s superhero coming-of-age-film. This is Parker’s starring moment in the limelight, one that captures the idea of the reluctant hero who’d rather be hanging with his buddies and fighting crime on the local neighborhood level. He’d prefer to live the life of a typical teenager and is uncomfortable with becoming the hero the world needs post snap (here Thanos’s gesture of destruction is called the “blip”). What a shame the film doesn’t focus enough on this raw, emotional conflict and opts for a convoluted technology plot instead. We should all be thankful that the word “multiverse” is only uttered once in this installment (insert silent scream here).
Peter joins his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), love interest MJ (Zendaya), and his other classmates for a European vacation with the Science Club. Hoping to spend his time overseas to relax and unwind, Peter’s plans are brought to a screeching halt when he’s contacted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help solve the mystery of several elemental creature attacks that are destroying the planet. Jake Gyllenhaal is a great addition as Mysterio, a strange superhero with questionable motivations. Revealing anything more about his character would give away too many spoilers, but know that his performance is by far the best, even if it can’t wholly carry the movie.
I’ve never been a fan of Spider-Man but it’s hard not to like Holland in the lead role, even if this film feels a tad bit more amateurish than the others in the series. I believe there’s a decent movie inside the glossy package just waiting to get out, but it’s buried beneath a steel wall of over-the-top special effects and a head-scratcher of a plot that weirdly melds the MCU world with virtual reality (and all the while, not following any of its own established rules of existence). It’s a tech-heavy screenplay that throws a few too many tricks and “gotchas” at the audience, which left a bad taste in my mouth.
The film is at its best when it keeps its fingers on the pulse of real high school behavior, especially in the cute and fun scenes focusing on the school trip of a lifetime with idiot teachers and heroic teenagers. There’s a good balance of energetic action sequences that are well done too, with exceptional flying effects that made me dizzy as Spider-Man swings through the high-rise rooftops of New York and over the canals of Venice.
Another element of the film that works is that you’ll believe Spider-Man is really, truly in peril. He’s not invincible and it’s hard to see the youngest would-be Avenger taking his licks. Peter’s a hero, but he’s still just a kid. (Parents, be advised there’s a nightmarish dreamlike sequence that may terrify the little ones).
Despite the positives, the final act proves to be a big letdown because watching Spider-Man fight an army of drones is about as exciting as it sounds. The most hair-raising part of the film are the two big reveals in the mid and post credits scenes. Writing a spoiler-free review isn’t easy for this installment, but it’s fair to say that there are no big surprises until the end stingers. Make sure you stick around until the very end or you’ll miss the twists everyone will be talking about.
I’m not a big fan of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “rotten.” It’s borderline for sure, but this undemanding summer blockbuster may be just what the doctor ordered and should satisfy those looking for a way to beat the heat for a couple of hours.