By Jessica Xu
Given that Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) life was upended and that he endured the traumatic loss of his mentor, Tony Stark, in “Avengers: Endgame,” it might be hard to see how “Spider-Man: Far From Home” could be a comedy. But Parker’s repeated attempts to escape the responsibilities of being Spider-Man will resonate with audiences craving a more lighthearted movie after the heartbreak of the previous film.
The movie picks up after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” in a world that is slowly returning to normal after having half of its population wiped out, then restored. Parker embarks on a class trip to Europe along with best friends Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya), all the while attempting to keep his superhero identity under wraps and fill the void that Stark’s death has left.
At a first glance, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is tonally different from most movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It pays homage to the original comics with the entrance of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a caped superhero that wears a fishbowl helmet and shoots lasers out of his hands, then goes a step further by pitting the heroes against huge, hulking monsters hell-bent on smashing everything in sight. Many of the movie’s twists and turns, too, could have come straight out of an old Spider-Man comic.
In any other action movie, the plot twists might have felt crude, but they actually keep “Spider-Man: Far From Home” refreshing. Individual parts of the story slot together like a puzzle; everything that sticks out as even slightly odd is probably significant to the plot later, and watching the events unfold is like opening a series of Russian nesting dolls without knowing how many there are. In a display of self-awareness, the script acknowledges some of the more hard-to-believe aspects of the story, which adds to the movie’s simultaneously grounded and fantastic feel.
For people who have been following the MCU for the past few years, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a welcome break from the doom and gloom of the latest Avengers films. It seamlessly weaves comedy, action and teen drama together to create a film that’s hard not to smile at. Although the movie is chock-full of jokes, the humor never feels too heavy-handed or awkward. While a few of the jokes that worked well in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fall flat in “Far From Home,” the cast delivers them so well that the story never really suffers. The off-screen friendship between the main cast shows in their on-screen chemistry; even though we see new sides of their characters, the dynamics between them still feel natural.
As a sequel to “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” has to juggle the tasks of developing the characters from the first movie and keeping the storyline fresh. It does a wonderful job of this, going above and beyond to deliver lovable characters and an absolutely delightful storyline that speeds up and slows at just the right moments. Parker is endearingly awkward and naive, even after he’s gone to space, fought against the most powerful beings in the universe and helped save the world. Spidey risks his life battling deadly enemies, but he’s just as terrified when he tries to talk to his crush. At the end of the day, he’s achingly human, and he retains the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” charm that has been so central to his character for decades.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” delivers poignant emotional moments so well that audiences can’t help but feel for the characters. However, the movie tends to shy away from building on these moments, passing up good opportunities to further flesh out its characters. With the solemnity of “Avengers: Endgame,” though, it’s hard to blame the creators for steering “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in a more comedic direction. We still get to see Peter grow and evolve throughout the course of the movie, but he still has a long way to go before he can truly be comfortable as Parker and Spider-Man. The movie feels like one part of a coming-of-age story, and with how well it delivered this time, it isn’t a stretch to assume that the next Spider-Man movie won’t disappoint.
Contact Jessica Xu at jessica.xu48 ‘at’ gmail.com.