‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new movie Spider-Man: Far From Home is supposed to be the last film in the current Marvel Universe arc, finally setting things in order. After all, what did happen when half the world came back from oblivion? What happens when the top superheroes are gone? And how and why should a teenager wind up with the responsibility for keeping the world in order? These questions are answered, albeit briefly and hardly in a final manner. But the film is great fun all along the way.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is back after being disintegrated in what is now being called “the blip” along with half the world. A few minutes are spent noting how strange things are, as one boy said his kid brother is now older than him. But Peter is not interested in doing great things; he just wants to go on a class trip to Europe where he hopes he can get a few minutes alone with his big crush MJ (Zendaya) and tell her that he cares… and maybe get a kiss. Also confusing things is the relationship of his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) with former Tony Stark assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Unfortunately, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other plans for Spider-Man. Peter, along with buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), head off to Europe, though Ned is quickly distracted by pretty Betty (Angourie Rice).
At any rate, Peter’s trip gets hijacked when, visiting Venice, his group is attacked by what is called a “water elemental,” destroying a nice piece of the city. He winds up defeating it with a man called Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), introduced to him by Fury as coming from another dimension. Mysterio, real name Quentin Beck, provides Peter with the paternal advice that once came from Tony Stark. Eventually there is another battle in Prague, also exciting.
Peter does not want to be Tony Stark’s heir: he knows he is a kid and wants some freedom. That eventually leads to some big changes and a major battle in London. We find out that many things are not what they seem, and Peter learns a lot about himself. The battle, which not only tests him but his friends, is sensational. As part of the action, Mysterio manages to change the shape of reality and creates some very tense moments.
One of the most interesting things about the film is that unlike the last few films, there is not a battle to save humanity. Things are far more personal. We find out that Tony Stark was, in many ways, a miserable boss and not a particularly nice human being, and that his actions are at least partly responsible for some of the current problems. But we get a chance to learn more about the characters.
Holland is by far the best of the Spider-Man actors of recent years. He comes across as a kid, one being forced to be an adult ahead of schedule, but one also trying to meet his adolescent needs. To him, getting a kiss from MJ is more important than saving a city. And that is closer to reality than we get in most superhero films. Holland is great, showing his vulnerability even while performing incredible stunts. The other cast members are also fine. Zendaya as stoic, cynical MJ is a perfect foil for both Peter and his alter ego. Batalon and Rice are really funny as the two youngsters who suddenly fall for each other. Gyllenhaal plays Beck as a seemingly nice guy, letting a whole variety of less desirable characteristics peek through. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove as the two idiot teachers leading the tour are great. Watching Smoove’s science teacher blame everything on witchcraft on several occasions was a hoot. Jackson’s Fury was not nearly as nice and supportive as he has been in other films. In some ways, he is almost the villain.
But the audience, and there was a packed theater, loved everything. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the last Avengers movie, but it was more personal. Peter is a lovable kid. And he, among all the superheroes, is the most uncertain of his goals. Is he ready to lead the Avengers before finishing high school, or does he deserve a life? See it and decide for yourself.