Poor Peter Parker — and, by extension, poor Jon Watts.
Watts directed “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s 2019, and you should know who Peter Parker is.
Cough up some compassion for both of them. Watts is shouldering a huge narrative burden in telling the first franchise story that takes place after the game-changing, paradigm-shifting showdown with Thanos that concluded in “Avengers: Endgame.” Watts must provide a sense of closure for the Infinity Saga — the first three phases of the MCU — while laying the building blocks of future films in the sprawling shared universe centered on an ever-changing pantheon of superheroes.
Parker deserves some sympathy, too — because he’s just an awkward teenage kid trying to tell a girl he’s sweet on her, which is particularly difficult when monsters keep popping up and trying to destroy stuff.
“Spider-Man: Far from Home” tackles the heavy emotional baggage right out of the gate in a sincere but appropriately quirky way: By letting the Middleton School of Science and Technology’s in-house, student-run morning news broadcast summarize “The Blip” — the five-year period when half of all life ceased to exist but was restored during the events depicted in “Avengers: Endgame.” Deceased heroes are memorialized and audiences get an explanation as to why some little brothers are now big brothers. Weird science.
Parker and some of his fellow students find themselves on a two-week summer field trip to Europe. Before the action starts, the movie starts to feel a bit like a 1980s teen romantic comedy, with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker standing in for John Cusack’s Lane Myer or Hoops McCann. It’s an endearing reminder that this hero who helped defeat Thanos is still just a kid pining for love — and Holland absolutely nails the impetus behind Parker’s struggles.
The object of his affection is MJ, played by Zendaya, who starred as K.C. Cooper for three seasons on Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover.” Thankfully, MJ has a bigger role in “Spider-Man: Far from Home” than she did in the previous Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Of course, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” isn’t just about teenage romance.
The film’s conflict involves four Elementals. Sorry, true believers: These aren’t the Elementals from Marvel’s Bronze Age Supernatural Thrillers series. Instead, they are basically elemental monsters plucked from Greek mythology — or, if you prefer a Disney tie-in, you could make an argument that they are the same Titans that Hades unleashed in 1997’s “Hercules.”
This threat coincides with the appearance of Quentin Beck, who claims to be a superhero from Earth-833 in the Multiverse. Nick Fury conscripts Parker to assist Beck in defeating the Fire Elemental in Prague. They are victorious, but there are complications. The tone of the movie shifts at this point. The change in direction won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the background material.
Those pesky complications force Parker to face his fears and make grown-up decisions. They also lead to a visually stunning, fast-moving showdown that reminds moviegoers that Spider-Man may prefer the minor leagues, but he can hold his own in the big leagues, too.
Jake Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as Beck. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Fury. The film also features excellent performances by Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds and Marisa Tomei as May Parker.
On the surface, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is not too serious and not too bleak. For the MCU diehards, it provides a short reprieve after the costly climax of the Infinity Saga. It’s the scenes between the battles that give this film buoyancy. In the collective performances of Holland, Zendaya, Favreau and Batalon is a resilience and an optimism that is uplifting and enchanting.
More seriously: Watts depicts a world rebounding from unimaginable chaos and turmoil, traumatized and grieving. There are obvious metaphors here about how desperate people who find themselves in a power vacuum can easily latch on to anything or anyone who offers a promise of hope. In such circumstances, reasoning and logic don’t necessarily come into play.
Assistant reviewer B.C. Zumpe, a 12-year-old, shares her thoughts on the film:
“Spider-Man: Far from Home” takes place after “Avengers: Endgame,” which I hope you have seen at this point. If not, you might want to stop reading this review and hold off on seeing the new Spider-Man movie because, obviously, spoilers!
The Middleton School of Science and Technology is restarting the year for those who were wiped out during “The Blip.” The school is going on a two-week field trip to Europe, and Peter (Tom Holland) wants to tell MJ (Zendaya) his feelings for her. Peter is still grieving over Tony Stark’s death (see, spoilers) and wants a break from being a superhero. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) tells Peter that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is going to call him, but Peter ignores Fury.
In Venice, Italy, the students and the rest of the city are attacked by the Water Elemental. A man named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes and kills it, and Peter tries to help. After the battle, Fury meets with Peter and gives him Tony’s E.D.I.T.H. glasses, equipped with artificial intelligence, along with a note from him that says that he trusts him to be the next Stark. Meanwhile, Beck says he is from a different universe and the Elementals killed his family. Fury enlists Peter to help Beck — now going by Mysterio — stop the Elementals from destroying the world. Peter doesn’t want to do it, but Fury just relocates the field trip to Prague, where the Fire Elemental will attack.
I think the film teaches about responsibility, like the last film in the franchise. Peter doesn’t feel like he is ready to be the next Iron Man. He just wants to be a kid and find another hero. Events in “Spider-Man: Far from Home” force him to remember the responsibility of possessing great powers.
This film provides the first look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe world in the aftermath of the Infinity War. Peter and everyone else are traumatized from the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” with most of the heroes either dead or missing. I can empathize with Peter being a kid.
I liked MJ because she was funny and she was a strong female character. I liked the relationship between MJ and Peter. They have good chemistry. I liked the soundtrack of the movie. The special effects were very convincing.
Brad (Remy Hii), who is a rival for MJ’s affection, was kind of annoying. The writers did a good job making the character unlikable. The plot was kind of a roller coaster. It made me feel different emotions throughout the movie.
I think that people should go see the movie. You get to see Spider-Man grow more in the movie and I think we’ll be in for some surprises. Also, stay for one in-credit scene and one post-credit scene, which both feature setups for future Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
Lee Clark Zumpe is entertainment editor at Tampa Bay Newspapers and an author of short fiction appearing in select anthologies and magazines. B.C. Zumpe, Lee’s 12-year-old daughter, is a middle school student, film buff and aspiring writer and director.