In the midst of his high school trip, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, and Quentin Beck aka Superhero Mysterio, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, sit together on a bridge in Venice, Italy. Peter says, “I didn’t want to save the world this summer…” He just wants to tell pretty MJ, played by cool smart Zendaya, that he likes her. Hoping she might like him back, too.
Sure, Peter is the Superhero with ‘Peter tingle’, great strength and agility. Robert Downey Jr.’s late Tony Stark even made Peter an Avenger. At 17 years-old, Peter fearlessly risks his life as Spider-Man battling the gargantuan ‘Elemental’ Water Monster. Yet, he fears more telling the cool girl, “You know, I really like you…” Makes a lot of sense.
That’s the distinct deft charm of Director Jon Watt’s “Spider-Man: Far from Home”. Jon also directed the previous “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. He has a genuine feel for teen angst and bravado. Tom Holland returns as the screen’s most authentic Spider-Man. As Peter, Tom uniquely balances innocence, doubt and courage on the tipping point of boy and manhood. Tom is the dork when Peter clumsily tells MJ, “You look pretty.” His eyes well in tears, getting that he might have disappointed his ‘surrogate’ Father Tony Stark (Robert).
The story and screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers succeed the events in “Avengers: Endgame”, where Tony’s Iron Man died defeating powerful galactic villain Thanos. Thanos had wiped out half of all life in the universe with his ‘Infinity Gauntlet’. Those affected disintegrated from existence. When Tony defeated Thanos, those banished returned back “to life”. However, 5 years had passed. So those returning were the same age as when they left. Those who had remained on Earth were now 5 years older. That event is called “The Blip”.
Peter experienced “The Blip”. Apparently, so did his Aunt May, strong beautiful Marisa Tomei, and MJ. Returning back to Planet Earth, Peter reunites with best bud nerdy Ned, played by spritely funny Jacob Batalon. Both prepare for their school European trip with MJ. Peter plans to tell MJ: He likes her. Peter faces romantic competition from handsome “ripped” Brad, too cool for school Remy Hii, who was 13 years-old before “The Blip”.
Challenging his resilience, Peter discovers that Aunt May might be in love with Tony Stark’s driver best friend Happy Hogan, comically irreverent Jon Favreau. WTF? S.H.I.EL.D.’s Nick Fury, no-nonsense charismatic Samuel L. Jackson, wants Peter for his ops mission in Europe as an Avenger. In doing so, Peter meets Jake’s Mysterio.
Nick bestows upon Peter a gift from his mentor Tony: EDITH – Stark’s multi-billion-dollar weapons, communication, database system encased in eyeglasses. In a hysterical experiment, Peter averts a nuclear-targeted strike, when he doesn’t use his powers for good, albeit hormonal. Jon and his Writers have a wicked sense of humor and eloquent coherence.
With EDITH, Tony leaves Peter a note from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV”: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” “It’s not from ‘Star Wars’.” Possessing great power is the responsibility, perhaps even a curse. That resonates with Peter. That resonates with us, as well. Is Peter enough to be the next “Iron Man”, to be the next Hero? Perhaps, Peter fears becoming greater than he knows himself to be. That’s so very human.
Writers Chris and Erik invent the narrative where all is not what it seems. Thematically, it reflects Mysterio’s ‘power of illusion’. Jake is brilliant in his presence. As Mysterio, he’s the heroic paradox. He displays compassion and a disarming singularity. Jake’s innate chemistry with Tom is one of the movie’s distinct strengths.
Jon Watts creates breathtaking visuals as Mysterio and Spider-Man fight to stop the Water Monster in the canals of Venice. He awes as Spider-Man entangles holographic drones with his web. That being said, I was most captivated by Peter and MJ. Theirs is a profound sweetness. As MJ, Zendaya confesses that she’s purposefully unkind, fearing anyone getting too close. Yet, from her heart, MJ touchingly tells Peter, “I’ve been watching you…” We get it. Maybe, liking the girl is as important as saving the world. Just saying.
“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is occasional predictable misdirects, dazzling action, and needlessly convoluted. Still, what makes us cheer is the big heart and profound kindness. Maybe for the Hero, falling in love is just as important as saving the world. That’s something we can relate to.
“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is definitely worth seeing.