Time Out says
Awkward teenage energy is the secret weapon in Marvel's post-Avengers palate cleanser, one that strains to keep things light and fun.
Review by Joshua Rothkopf
“I didn’t think I would have to save the world this summer,” says a near-terrified Peter Parker (Tom Holland, still charmingly dorky in an Anton Yelchin vein) near the front end of Spider-Man: Far from Home. Many viewers will feel heard: Little more than two months have passed since Avengers: Endgame crushed it with three hours of intergalactic pain, not to mention last December’s superb animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Can’t Marvel give it a rest for a season?
Well, no. Almost aware of how thirsty it is, the new movie—meta, irreverent and nowhere near a bad time—works best when it plays like a vacation from MCU seriousness. An unexpected blast of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and a cheesy montage of fallen superheroes (it turns out to be a high-school AV club’s video tribute) brings us up to speed in a new post–Tony Stark world of people reckoning with the “Blip,” when half the world’s population disappeared and suddenly came back. Peter, meanwhile, a self-described “16-year-old kid from Queens,” hopes to reveal his true feelings to MJ (Zendaya, feisty while being quietly vulnerable, showing off big range between this and HBO’s Euphoria) while on a class trip in Europe.
As Far from Home leans into this travelogue section, much of it shot on location (the exquisite gondolas and cozy back alleys of Venice require no CGI to be superheroic), you wish the film would remain a breezy teen comedy, one with a panicky best friend (Jacob Batalon), a neurotic chaperoning teacher (Martin Starr) and a handsome romantic competitor for MJ’s heart who’s actually named Brad (Remy Hii). But Samuel L. Jackson’s glowering Nick Fury won’t be ghosted—he busts into the teen-centric flow like Jules from Pulp Fiction—and the question of who will step into Stark’s shoes is never far from hand, especially when a giant fire monster starts tearing apart Prague. (The destruction feels harsh on these lovely Old World cities.)
Director Jon Watts repeats a lot of the moves he flexed in 2017’s amiable Spider-Man: Homecoming, with a return rate that’s about the same. There’s another Ramones song on the soundtrack, adding instant attitude, and another chatty female AI for Peter to bond with (nowhere as cool as Jennifer Connelly was). Watts hopes to wear the spandex as loosely as possible: When Jake Gyllenhaal shows up as the fishbowl-helmeted Mysterio complete with lantern-jawed sincerity and a cape, you can sense there’s a joke afoot. As Sam Raimi proved with his definitive Spider-Man outings, this is a franchise that works best when you bring out the playfulness. On those grounds, the emotionally exhausted Marvel faithful can treat Far from Home like the selfie-laden escape it wants to be—and sometimes is.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew
Samuel L. Jackson