Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by” Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Based on “Spider-Man” by” Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal
I love it when a plan comes together.
The funny thing about “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, the latest adventure featuring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is that it is a story about plans being formulated and then systematically being questioned, shredded and then reformulated.
And disrupted yet again.
Tom Holland had big shoes to fill in his first film, “Homecoming” as he inherited a role previously played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and he did so with grace. He joined the Avengers for their last two outings, Infinity War and the recent “Endgame”, which if you want a Marvel Double Feature, you can still catch it in theaters.
“Far From Home” takes place shortly after the events in “Avengers: Endgame,” with a running gag to remind us of those events. Don’t worry, the gag plays itself out really well. With this story immediately following “Endgame”, Peter Parker has even bigger shoes to fill as he’s reminded of the death of his mentor, Iron Man.
The creative team behind “Homecoming”, director Jon Watts and co-screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers return, giving “Far From Home” a nice sense of welcome continuity and, more importantly, some stability following the events in “Endgame.”
McKenna and Sommers balance the levity of Spider-Man’s character with the danger that faces him, as a teenager fawning for MJ (Zendaya). His trusty sidekick, Ned (Jacob Batalon) is along for the ride. MJ is a bit more aloof here than the character was in Homecoming, and that distraction serves Parker’s lusty angst towards her well. Batalon has a lot of fun as the ground cover for Parker, but his antics weren’t as unique as they were in “Homecoming”. McKenna and Sommers did a nice job of building out his character so that it didn’t seem as overbearing as it might have seemed.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck is the wild card. McKenna and Sommers present him to us as an expert on the Elementals, who mysteriously threaten the earth. The performance grew on me as the story progressed, with Gyllenhaal using his low-key dramatic style to nuance the character.
The writing duo also gave our supporting cast a very meaty presence. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, playing the detached role of “uncle” to Peter; someone to remind him of his responsibilities as Spider-Man. Marisa Tomei, whose final moment in Homecoming is still talked about two years later, has a smaller presence here, but is no less prominent. In fact, her motherly love and advice gets us on the right foot as Parker and his classmates take off on their grand adventure. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan.
Watts brings a grand sense of adventure as Parker and his classmates take a science trip all over Europe with stops in Venice, Prague and London. As with “Homecoming”, Watts continues his grounded visual style in Spider-Man: Far From Home, giving us the look and feel of an epic MCU story with the reality of the environment.
This is an important distinction as it relates to our hero. Within Watts’s reality-driven visual style, McKenna and Sommers bring a brevity to Peter Parker. As someone who is still grieving over the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark, Parker is torn between his desires as a teenager and his responsibilities as Spider-Man. In fact, there were a couple of moments where I felt that the trio, Watts, McKenna and Sommers channeled their inner Richard Donner.
Speaking of disruptions in well-laid plans, the film clips at a nice pace for a 129 – minute film, but the trademark humor of the MCU hampers the film just a bit much. There is a point in the film where the pace picks up a bit more momentum, making the second half of the film better than the first.
I had one criticism about “Homecoming” that omits the Uncle Ben character. No, it’s not because the characters’ name is similar to mine, but because I didn’t feel that strong, guiding hand presence from Tony Stark that the character gave Peter in Sam Raimi’s film. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” rectified this for me in an exceptionally meaningful way.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” is an uneven film, but it demonstrates what grown-up MCU can look like. It is still heavily dependent on the humor, which is doesn’t need to be. Both Holland and Gyllenhaal give strong performances.
Oh, and don’t forget to stay through all of the credits.