Review: ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (the truth hurts)

Or, how the MCU “Vultured” Mysterio (because that’s a thing now).

Following the heroics of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) prepares for a summer class trip to Europe. Working up the courage to tell MJ (Zendaya) that he likes her in the hopes the feeling is mutual, he leaves his Spidey suit at home to focus on just being un-heroic for a while. Unfortunately for Peter, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and an inter-dimensional traveler (Jake Gyllenhaal) have other ideas, specifically saving the Earth from a elemental threat that’s already murdered another world. As Peter wrestles with the loss of a father figure and balancing being an Avenger with living a normal life, he will be tested… because even the truth may be just another lie.

There’s no question that actor Tom Holland may as well be Spider-Man, having not only natural athletic ability (imitating his future comic book persona growing up) but inexplicably embodies all that is a high-school-aged Peter Parker. While last year’s Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse covered new ground with all things “ultimately” Spidey-related, the MCU’s Parker is the only superhero still maintaining some semblance of a traditional secret identity. Being his fifth Marvel appearance since the character was liberated from Sony, is the Wallcrawler’s second full-length feature coasting on street cred or still taking storytelling risks?

Fair warning: Far From Home spoils Avengers: Endgame and doesn’t look back. As the actual end of the MCU’s “Phase 3,” this year’s San Diego Comic Con will be a preview of things to come, so those having kept up-to-date in their Marvel-watching will be most rewarded… up to and including the end credits scenes. After bringing in Michael “Batman” Keaton to recreate the villainous Vulture in the MCU’s image, we needn’t have worried that Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio might not be up to par: he’s perfect. From costumes to backstory and every plot twist in between, Far From Home grounds high-concept adventure with base human impulses that everyone can relate to.

Marvel comic fans know Mysterio… and have made fun of him for ages: the purple-caped fish-bowl crusader in green spandex. Not only did filmmakers find a way to make the costume and powers work on-screen, early concept images show that creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko already figured out the best design proportions in spite of trying to improve upon it. Gyllenhaal simultaneously provides both a worthy foil as well as a surrogate father figure, all informing an adversarial complexity seldom seen in the MCU but right in line with Keaton’s blue-collar Vulture. Of the most interest are all the “extra” characters being introduced in the same way as Spider-Man: Homecoming — deliberately played off as being incidental — as if the rumored roster for the super-villain group “The Sinister Six” is already waiting in the wings… not to mention a far smarter way to go than Andrew Garfield’s series-low The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Jacob Batalon’s “man in chair” Ned didn’t get near enough screen time — his biggest moment is in the trailer — while the entire film walks the edge of almost too much going on too quickly. Fortunately, it’s edited to the bone and inexplicably works… just in time to seed a taste of things to come in mid and end-credit scenes. It could be argued that a planet missing half its population for five years made miraculous (read: impossible) accommodations following the events of Endgame… never mind speculating what recently acquired super group might be remodeling Avengers/Stark tower in midtown NYC. Yet for the hinted setups and overblown spectacle, the film never loses what makes a perfect Spidey story: Parker doing whatever has to be done… no matter how far in over his web-head that might be.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, brief suggestive comments, and steaming out all those damn wrinkles.

Four skull recommendation out of four

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