Spider-Man Far From Home movie cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L Jackson, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Cobie Smulders
Spider-Man Far From Home movie director: Jon Watts
Spider-Man Far From Home movie rating: 3.5 stars
Drone attacks, megalomaniacs, truth vs illusion in a post-truth world, and the overarching, omnipresent presence of Tony Stark, who hangs over the Avengers world now from the grave and is invoked here with the song “And I Will Always Love You”. It could all get a bit much. That it goes down as smoothly as it does is thanks to Holland and Gyllenhaal, two slightly-built, engagingly-amiable actors who can pass off as each other — which is all the more better for Far From Home.
We are in the post-Endgame era, where the burden of saving the world is on the deceptively delicate shoulders of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Holland). Much of Far From Home’s conflict is driven by whether the 16-year-old wants that burden at all, longing as he is for both father figure Stark and love interest MJ (Zendaya). A school trip to Europe for which Peter, MJ and Ned (Batalon) have all signed up is, he believes, his chance to confess to MJ his feelings. So when a monster given the name Elemental (for drawing his energy from the elements) turns up at Venice, their first stop, he tries as best as he can to dodge the persistent and gradually more furious Nick Fury (Jackson). The person who steers him to rise to the occasion is a superhero-like Mysterio (Gyllenhaal), who claims to have come from another Earth and has surprisingly found a place very quickly with Fury. Saving Venice, and later other European cities, Mysterio wows an impressionable Parker, particularly over a moon-lit heart-to-heart talk, sitting on the edge of a skyscraper. You know how that goes.
But do you, now? Director Watts, who also wrote and directed the 2017 Spider-Man: Homecoming, knows that he has a winner on his hands with the awkward Holland playing an even more awkward Peter-in-love, and with the charming Zendya as crusty MJ and the brilliant Batalon as his best friend Ned making a winsome threesome. Ned gets his own parallel adorable love story, and while he may be the overweight sidekick and she the straight-A, good girl, their relationship is not played just for laughs. Far From Home’s best moments come when it sticks to Peter’s school group, including two hapless teachers and many teenagers with different interests (plus one hunk with a crush on MJ).
However, it is how it is, and so it all comes down to 30-plus minutes finally of CGI mayhem, often confusion, as buildings go down, bridges blow up, lakes rise and cars tumble. It’s best not to ask if there is much sense in what’s unfolding, though Far From Home is admittedly more lucid than some of its counterparts. It also has a villain who reveals himself in a purely delightful sleight of hand and who could just be an aggrieved employee till he reveals himself in bursts of madness.
But above all, right till the end, the film’s heart remains in the right place, whether it’s the brief moments Peter can steal for MJ, the times he reaches out for someone to talk to, from a generous Happy (Favreau) to the magnetic Mysterio, and the short sequence that shows he is ready to be what the film always intended him to be: Tony Stark.