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‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’ review: Greater upgrade, greater responsibility

Spider-Man: Far From Home’ keeps the comic book lore fresh with its picturesque locations, strong performances and overall light-hearted fun.

Note: The following review contains spoilers from Avengers: Endgame.

I admire MCU’s Spider-Man films for managing to impart uncle Ben’s infamous words (“With great power, comes great responsibility”) without the need of explicitly mentioning it. Homecoming stands out in the superhero genre with its scaled-down coming-of-age themes that nevertheless delivers action, humor and heart. At its center is a teenager who wants to be a superhero, yet hasn’t quite figured out how. In Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is once again wrestling with that responsibility but the stakes here are much larger than saving the neighborhood. Much of the pressure comes from filling the metal boots of the late Tony Stark/Iron Man as he bequeathed Peter a pair of techie glasses which has access to Stark Industries’ database and orbital weapons. It’s a cool legacy to inherit (not to mention the spectacular spidey suits later), but can Peter have at least a week off to enjoy his high school field trip to Europe – a perfect setting to profess his romantic feelings for his classmate MJ (Zendaya)? Well, you know the drill: With great power…

Against his wishes, Peter is pulled out by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to team up with Quentin Beck a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) – a superhero from an alternate earth who emits green gas and wears a fishbowl on his head. The mystery guy quickly buddies up with a confused Peter (who’s in need of a father figure since Tony’s death) and empathizes with his struggle to moonlight a superhero job. Gyllenhaal fits wonderfully into this environment as he carries the charisma and gravitas needed to act as a mentor to a young Holland. But of course, anyone who’s familiar with his character in the comics should know early on that there’s more to him that meets the eye.

A new ally? Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) explains the existence of a multiverse to Peter Parker (Tom Holland).

Together, they try to stop various destructive “Elementals” across the globe. This mission is clearly an Avengers-level type of threat but when Peter asks Fury as to the whereabouts of the other Avengers, he simply says that they’re all either busy or unavailable. Hmmm… how convenient. Thankfully, a must-watch post-credit scene alludes to a bigger inter-dimensional threat that supports this plot convenience and fixes a huge character plothole found in the narrative. Hence, I’m letting this one off the hook.

Set several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, this installment also has the task of addressing the ramifications of Dr. Hulk’s snap that restored half of humanity wiped by Thanos. The five-year absence, referred to as “the blip,” is amusingly explained through the perspective of high school milieu. Those who are spared by Thanos continue to grow five years older, while those who are previously “snapped” went back with their original ages. Again, for convenience sake, the significant class members of Peter are still of the same age.

An unforgettable European field trip: Betty (Angourie Rice), Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya) are caught in the crossfire against the Elementals.

With all the globe-trotting and action extravaganza involved, reprising director Jon Watts finds a way to maintain a light tone that keeps the sequel intact with its predecessor, yet at the same time, fit it with the ever-expanding world of MCU. The script, penned by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, remains to be a character-based, high-school comedy just so happened to be set in multiple geographical locations – New York, Venice, Berlin, Prague, London and the Netherlands. One of the film’s twists traces back to Captain America: Civil War and another one back to Captain Marvel. It’s a testament how well-written and well-thought of this film is. I have to emphasize that with Kevin Feige and the rest of Marvel’s vision, the future of MCU is in safe hands.

New continent, new suit. Spider-Man dons the Stealth Suit.

More than the standard saving-the-world scenario, the coming-of-age sensibilities once again makes Far From Home a breezy and charming addition to the franchise. There are plenty of relevant adolescent themes like young adult anxiety and insecurity, competing love interests, class bullies, Gen Z’s indulgence to social media and the general immaturity of youth. Through it all, the story not only propels Peter’s individual story but also manages to give the supporting players their moments to shine. Nerdy Ned (Jacob Batalon) steals scenes through his unlikely romance with the prim Betty (Angourie Rice). Tony’s right hand man, Happy (Jon Favreau) strikes a spark with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). While we get a more layered character in MJ this time, with Zendaya keeping the mutual attraction to her onscreen partner under a sarcastic and awkward facade. On the other hand, Holland continues to thrive on the iconic role for this generation. His edge over Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s portrayals is that he exudes with a sincere, boyish enthusiasm that appeals to a wide audience.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) takes a greater responsibility in ‘Far From Home.’

Spider-Man: Far From Home pays homage to Tony Stark’s legacy as viewers are constantly reminded of the fallen industrialist’s presence. Sometimes it’s done literally through his mural images painted on buildings or his life story featured as a documentary in an airline, almost like he’s a religious figure. Other times, it feels symbolical through the growing paternal bond between Happy and Peter. The big question that keeps getting thrown around here is who should be the next de-facto leader of The Avengers. I stand by my opinion that Peter is way too young and inexperienced to play a leadership role. (I’m personally rooting for you, Dr. Strange). However, as the front face for the next phases in MCU, I think we might just found a worthy successor.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Jon Watts, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Remy Hii and Jake Gyllenhaal. 129 minutes. PG-13.
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