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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Rating: 3.5

July 05, 2019

Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice

Director: Jon Watts

Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t a great movie. It isn’t meant to be. Put in the unenviable position of coming out right after Avengers: Endgame, which marked the big, bold finale of the first decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Far From Home is a welcome change of tone and pace. It’s meant to be a fun adventure, a relatively low stakes affair. And it is.

When we first meet him in the new film, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants a break. Can you blame him? The world has changed since the events of Endgame. His mentor, Tony Stark, is dead. It’s little surprise that Peter wants no part of whatever job Nick Fury is trying to recruit him for. He’s focused instead on a school trip to Italy where he hopes to reveal his romantic feelings to MJ (Zendaya).

 Of course, things seldom go according to plan when it comes to Peter, and his hopes for a drama-free vacation are quickly dashed when Venice is attacked by a shape-shifting ‘Elemental’ made of water. The suit must come out and Spidey must save the day, which he does, with the help of a newly arrived superhero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who sports a cloudy fishbowl for a helmet and claims to have come from a different earth.

There’s a lot going on in the film. The memory of Tony Stark aka Iron Man feels omnipresent even though he’s six feet under. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is getting ‘friendly’ to Happy (Jon Favreau), but it’s not making Peter very happy. There’s also plenty of slick CGI action, including a big climatic battle at London’s Tower Bridge. But the film’s best bits are the ones that remind us that this is basically a teenage drama. It’s the interactions between Peter, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), obnoxious Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), nice girl Betty (Angourie Rice), and of course spunky MJ, that hold this film together. Awkward moments, shy kisses, even a seemingly straightforward attempt to snag the perfect seat on their overseas flight is mined for laughs.

Tom Holland is terrific as Peter Parker, infusing this teen from Queens with a vulnerability and goofiness that feels completely genuine. Holland brings earnestness to the part of a young boy grappling with his great powers and responsibilities, and makes you care when the odds are stacked against him, or he’s confronted with a particularly difficult decision.

There’s not a lot one can say about Jake Gyllenhaal and the character of Mysterio without slipping into spoiler territory, but this much can be said – the filmmakers exploit Mysterio’s trickeries in inventive, visually exciting ways, and the actor makes a meal of the part.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is relatively lighthearted and breezy even; a far cry from the intense stakes of most of the other films in the Avengers franchise. It’s not a great film because it’s never meant to be. It’s just a very good distraction – enjoyable and funny.

I’m going with three and a half out of five. Don’t miss the end credits. It changes everything.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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