Whereas 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming finally captured the light-hearted aspects of the popular webslinger, Spidey's newest foray into theaters feels flat, directionless and more like an expected next step rather than a meaningful conclusion to the first big phase of the Marvel cinematic universe.
We pick up directly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and things are finally getting back to normal for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his buds. Yes, they explain away the five-year time jump from Endgame as the so-called "blip," and jokes are made about how some people aged while others didn't. Meanwhile, Peter and his classmates are off to Europe for a poorly explained "science trip." Once there, he plans to profess his feelings to MJ (Zendaya, who is just killing in on HBO's Euphoria right now) atop the Eiffel Tower. Ooh, la la.
But whoops–Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother, in case you just thought "Who the hell is that?") need Spider-Man to stop a cadre of trans-dimensional elemental beasts who just so happen to also be in Europe, and this dude Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) is there to help out—or is he? And are they? And will he? They? Her? Monsters? Jeeze.
Cue explosions and telegraphed plot points far too obvious to even the most casual fan of comics, and within minutes, all the goodwill drummed up by the first film's better story and the fantastic Michael Keaton is squandered on exhausting comic relief from Freaks & Geeks alum Martin Starr and Curb Your Enthusiasm's JB Smoove (usually a comic genius, here not as much). On the surface, we're force-fed that tired old superhero axiom about how the friends and family of these heroes are always in danger, though why this means Marisa Tomei (a national treasure, and here Peter's aunt) had to be underused or why we had to sit through Jon Favreau's "humor" is anyone's guess. Even worse, deeper lies nothing but a few cool special effects sequences and one almost funny joke from Fury about how Peter's been to space, so he should, like, get it together already.
Holland is a fine choice for Spider-Man, all small and dorky, though maybe a little handsome to play nerd. Either way, he's surely superior to whatever 37-year-old men were playing a teen in earlier films, though. Still, he doesn't have much to work with as the script seems aimed solely at 13-year-olds. This is a disservice, both to older fans who've waited ages for movie-making to catch up to comic books' epic worlds and to youths who probably won't be thrilled about Far From Home's reductive insistence that they're a bunch of phone-obsessed assholes who submit readily to co-dependence on their best days and treat each other like shit on their worst.
Gyllenhaal does his best, though despite his performance from Nightcrawler a few years back proving he can play terrifying, never comes across as menacing so much as silly and whiny. Oh, sorry? Was that a spoiler? Deal with it—Mysterio's been around for 50 fucking years already.
Anyway, the thrill is gone, the magic faded and no matter how many times we see Holland's eyes tear up because, like, he loves so hard and has so much at stake and oh, God, does he miss Tony Stark, it's simply not possible to summon the feelings needed to enjoy this film as more than a summertime time-killer and tedious bookend to a series of films that really need some new tricks already–and no, I'm not counting Spidey's new suits.
+ Illusion scenes; Europe is pretty
– Nowhere near as fun as the last one
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Directed by Jon Watts
With Holland, Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Smulders, Tomei, Favreau and Jackson
Regal (both locations), Violet Crown, PG-13, 129 min.