REVIEW: Latest ‘Spider-Man’ adventure weaves a fun international web

After the big, full meal that “Avengers: Endgame” was, having a smaller, simpler movie like “Spider-Man: Far From Home” works nicely as a dessert.

The latest flick starring the web-slinger seemingly starts at least a few months or so after the events of “Endgame.” The people of Earth are starting to get back to their regular lives and the world is seemingly getting back to peace. There are those few who are having trouble adjusting, though, as five years passed since the first and second snaps.
For those falling through societal cracks, May Parker (Marisa Tomei) is running an organization to assist people who need help adjusting.

Her nephew Peter (Tom Holland), also known as Spider-Man, is trying to help where he can, as well as handle his time as a student. However, he is exhausted from his experiences fighting in the Infinity War and is still mourning the death of Tony Stark. Because of the situation, Peter is looking forward to a class trip to Europe, not only to relax, but also to confess to the girl he likes, MJ (Zendaya). The issue is that another threat seems to be coming and Peter might be forced to use his web-shooters on his trip.

The first “Spider-Man” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe put a superhero movie formula in a high school comedy template. Its sequel goes in a similar route, putting the formula in a road trip comedy structure. Like its predecessor, this really works to the movie’s advantage.

This has usually been Marvel’s pathway to success when it comes to providing something fresh in its films, other than the typical hero’s journey. For the first “Captain America,” it was a World War II epic. For “Black Panther” it was a family struggle for the monarchy.

Because Peter is a younger character in this universe, the filmmakers have wisely chosen to create high school genre movies.

The result with the first and now “Far From Home,” are films that tell very convincing coming-of-age narratives and provide a lot of relatable high school humor. At the same time, “Far From Home” features a compelling superhero story, with a satisfying amount of action.

An example of the latter includes a great action sequence near a river where Peter has to fight in his civilian clothes. Examples leaning toward the former, meanwhile, include sequences of relationship building between Peter and MJ.

SpiderManMJ
MJ and Spider-Man in “Far From Home.” Courtesy Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Where “Far From Home” really stumbles, though, is how the character Quentin Beck, or Mysterio, is handled. Now, on one hand, Jake Gyllenhaal does a really good job in the role, and the movie does stay true to the character’s origins. However, the way the character concept is written into the MCU fell really flat.

The setup given to Mysterio has already been done, not only in the MCU, but in other superhero movies, too. It felt so rehashed and gave the movie a “here we go again” vibe. Again, to specify, Gyllenhaal acts the role well, and at its center, the core of the character is right, but the motivation really sinks things.

Fortunately, the rest of the characters are all on point. Peter is given a good arc here, having to carry the Stark legacy moving forward. Tom Holland is again great as the webslinger, providing a balanced performance as the awkward teenager and the superhero who now has to step up and be an Avenger for real.

The lead characters are well-rounded, too. MJ again is a cool, collected character, and good contrast to Peter’s more awkward persona. Zendaya really makes the character work with a sort of deadpan approach to humor. Jacob Batalon, meanwhile, is again a positive addition to the cast as Peter’s comic relief friend Ned.

The movie also benefits from featuring acting vets in Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau.

Overall, “Far From Home” is another above average addition to the Marvel library, although it doesn’t reach the heights other films in the series do. The movie’s story and characters work well overall. Plus, visually, it looks pretty good. Yet the issue with Mysterio sticks out, and, as a whole, “Far From Home” is on a smaller scale without as much going on in the subtext. 3.4 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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