Life after “Avengers: Endgame” has been different, and Peter Parker would surely agree.
Following that final chapter in Marvel’s 11-year stretch of superhero-stuffed storytelling, the weight of the world is on the gawky 16-year-old from Queens, known by millions as the masked web-slinger Spider-Man. Any public appearance Spidey makes leads the paparazzi to inundate him with harrowing questions about his future — specifically, is he the next Tony Stark? No longer able to leave the fate of the world in the hands of his late mentor, Peter’s time as a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” may quickly be coming to a close.
Thankfully, he has a high school trip to Europe to look forward to and a girl to romance along the way. From the plane ride to Venice to the jewelry he’ll buy to the spot in Paris he plans to sweep the dorky-but-delightful M.J. off her feet, Peter has everything planned perfectly.
Those plans don’t last long.
Peter arrives across the pond to find out that the world is facing destruction at the hands of natural disasters with ... faces? A giant monster materializes out of the waters of the Grand Canal and nearly destroys the Rialto Bridge before a mysterious, caped figure, Quentin Beck, swoops in to save the day.
Peter and Beck — whom the public has dubbed Mysterio — team up to conquer the remaining “Elementals,” but it’s not long before Spidey realizes he’s swung his way into something for which he’s completely and hopelessly unprepared.
2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the predecessor to “Far from Home,” is one of the most enjoyable movies to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its relatively low-stakes, small-scale approach made it a necessarily refreshing break from the incredible busyness in which other recent MCU films were steeped. It’s a coming-of-age story at its core, a touching and empathetic look at a young man grappling with immense responsibility while struggling to find his place in the world.
“Far from Home” is at its best when it exhibits what made “Homecoming” so great, which it often does. Though this sequel is far more oriented around grand-scale action, director Jon Watts confirms his ability to capture the joy and grief of adolescence punctured with well-timed, sometimes gut-busting laughs.
Tom Holland once again steals hearts as the best and most honest Peter Parker to ever grace the screen, utterly convincing as a high-school sophomore while ably tackling the physical and emotional demands of the role. The film also welcomes Jake Gyllenhaal to the Marvel canon as Mysterio, an act of perfect casting that plays to the actor’s chameleonic knack for pulling off multiple personality types at once.
The film also features an unexpectedly memorable turn from Zendaya, who shifts between sardonic and sweet and smart-as-a-whip in the movie’s most dynamic, and perhaps most fun performance. The days of Spider-Man’s love interest being little more than a damsel in distress are behind us — it’s about time.
Unfortunately, “Far from Home” is bogged down by several completely incoherent action set-pieces and an occasionally lazy script. The second half of the film is full to the brim with headache-inducing, computer-generated acid trips that, even in a Marvel movie, will make it difficult for viewers to suspend disbelief. The third act culminates in a confusing, disastrously choreographed fight scene on London Bridge, featuring a villain whose motivations are spilled out in a monologue so Bond villain-esque that it’s sure to elicit groans from anyone who cares about quality screenwriting.
“Spider-Man: Far from Home” loses its footing when it forgets how to capture the charm and fun of its predecessor, and it is largely ambiguous in addressing what the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe holds. Some will be fine with that; others will likely long for greater motivation to keep buying tickets to these movies. Still, “Far from Home” will bring plenty of smiles and fun to keep most everyone satisfied, even if it’s shorter on thrills than it tries to be.
John Battiston is a Times-Mirror reporter and a founder of the Reel Underdogs podcast. Contact him at email@example.com. Reel Underdogs is not affiliated with the Times-Mirror.