Spider-Man:  Far From Home

 

            First, the good news:  Tom Holland is still an excellent choice for Spider-Man.  He has the wiry build, the innocent demeanor, and the serious acting chops to pull off the complex role.  Not many superheroes, in “real” life, have to put up with being an awkward teenager who gets moody at times, gets nervous around girls he likes, and wants nothing more than to accompany his high school science class on their trip to Europe.

            The bad news is that this particular installment of Spider-Man is heavily dependent on previous movies, including the last “Avenger” film.  So this movie doesn't work well as a “stand-alone,” which limits its audience to those who are already fans of the superhero genre.  This movie also relies heavily on some viewer deception early in the action, a plot ploy which many viewers despise.  However, to be fair, the viewer is deceived right along with the main character, and it's Spidey's anguish about his own mistakes that is part of what makes him so endearing.

            Peter Parker (Tom Holland) feels like he needs a vacation from the relentless pressure of being Spider-Man, the superhero, so he decides to ignore the phone calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), because it would be about the latest crisis, and needing Spider-Man to help save the planet, when all Peter really wants to do is go on the field trip and be able to spend some time with a particular girl in the group, MJ (Zendaya).  He doesn't even pack his Spidey-suit, although his helpful Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) sneaks it in his suitcase, anyway.  Peter is frustrated in not being able to get close to MJ, because another guy in the group is also vying for her attention.

            Meanwhile, the latest world crisis is boiling over.  It seems some of the elemental powers of the universe, including wind and fire, are transforming themselves into destructive monsters.  Fortunately, another superhero has arrived on the scene, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims he's from a parallel version of Earth.  (He also claims there are many parallel versions, a concept which excites the scientifically-minded Peter Parker, but that moment passes quickly, and the idea remains undeveloped.) Mysterio, also known as Quentin Beck, has a whole team of supporters, and quickly accepts the help of Peter Parker, who's finally made contact with Nick Fury and accepted a new suit.  An important subplot, and one that relies heavily on previous films, is the legacy which Ironman (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) has left for Peter Parker, including the special-made glasses that can invoke not only Edith, the robotic assistant's voice, but also all the technology that Ironman developed, including specially-equipped satellites.

            Yes, there's a lot of computer-generated combat, complete with the wholesale smashing of entire sections of Venice and Prague.  But, naturally, it all boils down to the final confrontation between our hero Spider-Man, and the bad guy, where our teenage warrior emerges bloody, but unbowed.  But then we revert to adolescent innocence by making a big deal of a little kiss from MJ, so now the still-teenage Peter Parker can go home happy.

            It's a fun ride, especially for the fan of superhero films.  Maybe next time we'll let Peter Parker grow up a little bit.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association