Listen to Austin 360 Radio

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' is a fun trip but a Marvel blip

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com
Jake Gyllenhaal, right, plays Quentin "Mysterio" Beck opposite Tom Holland's Peter Parker, middle, in "Spider-Man: Far From Home." [Contributed by Jay Maidment/Sony Picture Entertainment Inc.]

Is “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a perfectly acceptable bit of summer movie fluff? Yep.

Does anyone other than completists of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom Holland, Zendaya and/or Spider-Man need to see it to feel as if they are caught up? Eh, probably not.

In “Far From Home,” Spider-Man (Tom Holland, still the best Peter Parker of all time, and it’s not even close) just wants a break. Iron Man is dead after "Avengers: Endgame," and there are reminders of him everywhere, most of which also function as reminders of how much Peter misses him.

Most of Peter’s school friends, including best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), vanished during “the Blip,” as student journalist Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) calls it. (You might remember it as that reality-changing Thanos snap from "Avengers: Infinity War.") The teens we met in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," now returned to existence, are headed off on a summer European vacation/enrichment course, during which Peter plans to tell his beloved MJ (Zendaya, with a lot more to do here than in the previous Spider-Man picture) just how he feels about her. Straightforward, right?

Well, this is Spider-Man, whose whole thing is that he cannot win for losing. So of course an oddly underinformed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a downright cranky Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), super-spies of the MCU, track him down to help with a weird bit of monster fighting.

Spider-Man is soon asked to team up with an odd but friendly fellow named Quentin Beck (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and his tasteful beard), who says he’s from another dimension. As one does.

>> Related: The extremely Austin summer movie guide

Naturally, our man Spidey must juggle fighting elemental monsters plaguing Europe and dealing with his private life, which keep collapsing into each other. He’s also dealing with the fallout from “Avengers: Endgame,” specifically the aforementioned death of his father figure, Tony Stark, who’s such a ubiquitous post-mortem presence that one expects a “Weekend at Bernie’s” moment at some point.

Can Spider-Man live up to the burden of heroism Tony Stark seems to have thrust upon him? Well, since responsibility is as integral to Spider-Man as web shooters and wall crawling, you can kind of see where this is going.

Mysterio is a known quantity in the comics. Long-term Spider-fans have probably started laying out the story in their heads more than they ever have for an MCU movie. (That said, one Mysterio-in-action moment made more than a few middle-aged fan-persons say, “Gee, that is exactly what I thought Mysterio in action would look like.”)

While fun, “Far From Home” feels vaguely unnecessary, a bit of connective tissue between Really Big Marvel Event Movies. Where does one go after defeating a god (as in Thanos) and the march of time (see also: "Endgame")? And it may not have helped that this story is so spider-size. (There has been and always will be something slightly low-rent about the vast majority of Spider-Man baddies.)

>> Related: ‘Men In Black: International’ review: Let Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson improv the next one

Then again, this was not an issue in the wonderful “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (wherein the villainy was framed as a class conflict as much as anything else) or the groundbreaking animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (which gave itself permission to go as full comic book as any Marvel movie ever). So perhaps we can lay a bit of blame at the feet of writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, whose script seems to be a vector for a quick look at the world post-"Endgame” as much as a stand-alone Spider-Man story.

Make sure to stay for the post-credit scenes, one of which lets you know what’s been going on elsewhere in the MCU and one of which takes dead aim at a superhero trope Marvel seems to have been gunning for forever. Unfortunately, if all you see is the post-credit scenes, you are kind of caught up, no actual “Far From Home” required.

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’

Grade: B-

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal.

Director: Jon Watts.

Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Theaters: Alamo Lakeline,Alamo Ritz, Alamo Mueller, Alamo South Lamar, Alamo Slaughter, Alamo Village, Barton Creek, Flix, Galaxy, Gateway, Hill Country, Lakeline, Moviehouse 620, Moviehouse Lantana, Pflugerville 20, Sky Dripping, Southpark, Stone Hill, Westgate. 3D: Bullock Museum, Gateway, Hill Country, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Pflugerville 20, Sky Dripping, Southpark, Stone Hill, Westgate. IMAX: Barton Creek, Bullock Museum, Gateway, Metropolitan.