12:00 pm EDT, July 1, 2019

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ review: The sequel is best when it’s in its feelings

Spider-Man: Far From Home wants to dazzle you with action and effects, but the first post-Endgame Marvel movie is at its best when it shows its heart.

Before the film even starts, Spider-Man: Far From Home has hurdles to jump and a lot of questions to answer.

How will it deal with the time jump? Thanos snapped away half of the population of the world and, as Endgame showed, life went on. So what happened when those people suddenly came back 5 years later?

How is the rest of the world dealing with the loss of certain Avengers? What does the world look like in the wake of everything that happened? And how does everyone feel about it? And how should we feel about it?

That’s a lot of responsibility for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man — and Peter Parker is definitely feeling the pressure.

Which may be why director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers used the “power” part of Uncle Ben’s famous advice to Peter to set a tone that immediately pulls you out of any potential post-Endgame funk you may think you were about to feel the moment Spider-Man: Far From Home begins.

I’ll admit, for a second there, I was thrown. There’s an irreverence to the opening minutes of Far From Home that may ruffle a few feathers after the strong emotions of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but Far From Home knows what it is and what it has to do, so it dives in head first and damn the torpedoes.

Before long, Peter’s off on his school trip and doing his best to just be a high school kid who’s got a crush on a girl and a plan to make sure he tells her. He even leaves his suit at home because, after all, the world has been saved and he’s just a normal kid and he’s earned this time off, right?

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In another universe, Far From Home would become some breezy little rom com in which Peter Parker gets to be a normal kid tripping around Europe without a care in the world and I’d watch the heck out of that. With Spider-Man: Far From Home, that rom com happens in the middle of a great big action film that also does time as a thoughtful drama in a few places.

In other words, there’s a lot going on and, in some ways, it’s the number of things thrown into the mix in Far From Home that weighs it down a little bit. Whether it’s the framing of the camera or the sheer number of actual things going on in the shot, there are parts of the movie that feel overwhelmingly full of…things. This is a film that definitely decided to use every single penny of its effects budget to pack the action to the gills. Even when the film itself is commenting on the way visual effects are used to fool others, it’s gotten a little too wrapped up in what it can do.

Once you throw in the plot, the misdirects, the genuinely hilarious moments, the definitely effective drama and whatever it is that’s going on between Happy and Aunt May, there are times you’re just on the rollercoaster and hanging on for dear life and just trying to keep up as you enjoy the ride.

In the middle of this visual cyclone, however, are the very best things about of Spider-Man: Far From Home… the performances.

As much as I adore Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal is the true MVP of Spider-Man: Far From Home. I can imagine Gyllenhaal reading this script and whooping about halfway through as he realized just how much fun it was going to be. The man is having a blast. It’s obvious.

What also makes Gyllenhaal perfect for this role is his ability to be multiple things at once; including something that fills a very empty space in Peter at a time when he’s lost both a mentor and a father figure.

Not that Tom Holland fails to bring his A-game. In a film that sees Peter Parker shift between doe-eyed lovesickness and some very deep grief, Tom Holland brings an honesty and vulnerability that grounds this superhero film in reality, explores PTSD, and allows Peter to process his feelings in a way that brings us along for the ride. Something many fans may still need moving into this next phase of the MCU.

Zendaya is given a lot more to do and the film is better for it. Michelle gets fleshed out as her own person instead of just Peter’s love interest. There are a few moments with a mace that get particularly fun. Meanwhile, Jacob Batalon’s Ned gets a new scene partner in Betty Brandt (Angourie Rice) and it’s perfection.

For his part, Samuel L. Jackson may have had the most fun of anyone in this film for reasons I can’t and won’t disclose. Let’s just say that you’ll see a side of Nick Fury you’ve never seen before.

Ultimately, Spider-Man: Far From Home achieves its goal and hits all the notes it needs to hit. It’s a lot of fun, it offers catharsis, and it leaves plenty of room for Spider-Man in the future of whatever Marvel has planned. Whether that’s a future with Sony or Disney remains to be seen, but Peter Parker’s gotten his vacation. I have a feeling it’s time for him to get back to work.

Spider-Man: Far From Home opens July 2.

Official synopsis:

Peter Parker returns in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the next chapter of the Spider-Man: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!

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