Spider-Man: Far From Home. Directed by Jon Watts. Starring Tom Holland. Rating: 8 (out of 10).
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave!” -- Sir Walter Scott.
It’s a fitting line for a superhero generated by a spider’s bite and the perfect phrase to describe the increasingly knotty Marvel cinematic universe.
It’s no longer enough to pick and choose from among your favourite supers: the tales are so interconnected that you’d better see them all; miss one, and you’ll be left in the rubble. Writers have to tread carefully to avoid divulging devastating spoilers (though is there anyone left alive who hasn’t seen Avengers: Endgame?) and the content of those almighty post-credits scenes while we’re at it.
But we can’t talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home without discussing a crucial death – and a whole lot of resurrections – from Endgame, so if you haven’t seen the latest Avengers film then read no further.
Back from the dead following the epic battle that claimed the life of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is devastated; he just wants to lay low for a while. We rarely see our “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” travel far from the New York boroughs, but as the title suggests he takes in some very far-flung sights in his new adventure. What begins as an R&R school vacation to Europe turns into yet another battle of a lifetime.
Thank S.H.I.E.L.D’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who comes all the way to Venice in pursuit of Spider-Man, the reluctant heir apparent to Iron Man. The remaining Avengers are otherwise engaged, so Fury needs Spider-Man’s help with a foursome of fearsome creatures that threaten humankind. Collateral damage from Infinity War and Endgame, when all that battling put a monster-sized tear in the fabric of the universe, the creatures are each named for an earthly element – Earth, Fire, Air and Water.
Spider-Man will be fighting alongside Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), also known as Mysterio, a man from an alternate planet Earth. Longtime fan-fave Mysterio emerges as an exciting new film character in his own right thanks to a charismatic performance by Gyllenhaal.
Holland continues to be a top-notch web-slinger, bringing nuance to a role that’s evolved only slightly over the years. He and Jon Favreau, returning as Happy Hogan, share several lynchpin scenes in the film: both characters mourn the loss of Tony Stark and struggle to find their place in the world now that he is gone.
This is Spider-Man’s coming-of-age movie. Not because he shares a wet upside-down kiss with his longtime crush (though there’s romance aplenty with Zendaya as MJ), but because through loss and grief Peter/Spider-Man finds his purpose and grows into the role that was thrust upon him.
Weighty stuff, right? True, but director Jon Watts (who also helmed Spider-Man: Homecoming) and his team are careful not to bury all the trademark Spidey humour and fun under too much grief, throwing in lots of jibes and teen goofball antics amidst a bouncy soundtrack. Some of the comedy misses the mark, but the excellent effects and detailed scripting elsewhere make up any lost ground.
Tough to compete with the number-one box office opening of all time, but filmmakers are banking on the fact that you still have all the feels from Endgame to rush into theatres and see what happens next.