Where have you gone, analog Spider-Man?
You know the guy. Worked as a photographer, got chewed out by his crusty boss but loved the girl named MJ with all his teen heart.
He got picked on at school, too, and his high jinks were wildly relatable. He’s gone, for good, according to “Spider Man: Far From Home.”
That’s no knock against Tom Holland, still a marvelous choice to play Peter Parker. It’s just a sign the MCU is depositing Spidey into increasingly strained scenarios. It’s not a good look for the web slinger, or a franchise stumbling into a new phase.
Peter Parker can’t wait to go on a European field trip with his high school chums -- especially the inscrutable M.J. (Zendaya). He’s had enough super-heroing for a while. Now, he just wants to be an ordinary high-schooler and woo the girl of his dreams.
Nick Fury has other plans.
The one-eyed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, as cool as ever thanks to Samuel L. Jackson, is tracking a new threat to the globe. He wants Spider-Man to take the lead, along with a new hero (Jake Gyllenhaal) who looks suspiciously like the old-school villain Mysterio.
This version would rather mentor young Spidey than attack him. Plus, Mysterio excels at saving entire city blocks from the aforementioned threat.
Will Peter finally win M.J.’s heart? What new villains will ruin his Euro vacation?
Can “Far From Home” survive a twist so dumb it makes a Scooby Doo reveal look profound by comparison?
FAST FACT: Director Sam Raimi’s 2002 “Spider-Man,” which kicked off a run of six Peter Parker films (and counting), earned $403 million at the U.S. box office.
Spider-Man is haunted by recent the death of Iron Man. To be blunt, it’s exhausting. There are many other superheroes who save the day regularly, too. Why obsess with the late, great Tony Stark?
Yes, Stark helped guide Spider-Man in his first few battles. Still, it doesn’t flatter “Far From Home” to keep reminding us of the MCU’s greatest master stroke -- hiring Robert Downey, Jr.
The sequel wrings some laughs from The Blip, the five-year time jump revealed in “Avengers: Endgame.” What, you didn’t see that movie? Shame, shame. The MCU demands you watch every installment.
— Variety (@Variety) July 1, 2019
“Far From Home” has more on its mind that a possible Peter/M.J. buss. The story touches on Fake News, the scourge of our media age. What’s illusion and what’s reality? The film smartly flirts with that question but in ways that offer little insight.
Other themes beyond standard superhero business? They come, they go, and you won’t care when they’re off screen. Consider Peter’s conflict at the demands of superhero living, or whether he’ll ever be free of Iron Man’s heroic shadow.
Zendaya remains an intriguing take on the classic Spidey love. She’s nerdy but cool, a brainiac comfortable in her own skin. Her character (mostly) avoids woke speak this time around, but her aloof presence keeps both Peter and audiences at arm’s length.
That’s troubling, especially since “Far From Home” lacks the easy warmth of Raimi’s Spider trilogy.
Director Jon Watts, on his second Spidey romp, still can’t deliver action worthy of a top-tier MCU entry. He’s adept at the comic beats, even if the script this time ’round is sillier and less substantial than “Homecoming.”
To be fair, the film’s huge twist does him no favors.
You’ll still giggle over Jacob Batalon, ever endearing as Peter’s confidante. The teen finds true love at a lightning pace, an early gag that connects. The Aunt May/Happy bond is equally sly, giving Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau room to make select moments their own.
These running gags are fun but shallow, signaling a screenplay that didn’t explore more substantial laugh lines.
“Far From Home” does boast an imaginative visual palette in the third act. Yes, it’s a blur of CGI wizardry, but it’s novel for a Spider-Man adventure. Did Doctor Strange magically appear in the editing bay?
The rest of “Far From Home” reminds us the Spider-Man of yore could teach this version a trick or two.
Note: The film ends with two bonus scenes. One packs a surprise appearance sure to make hardcore fans squeal. The second? It’s a snooze.
HiT or Miss: “Spider-Man: Far From Home” offers more high school-sized laughs from young Peter Parker, but the film’s silly streak makes saving the world feel oh, so small.