Another take: Spider-man ventures out and spins a new tale

Far From Home builds on the success of Homecoming while expanding the idea of what an MCU movie can be, and that there is narrative life after Thanos.

Tom Holland is  Peter Parker,  in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN:™ FAR FROM HOME. Tom Holland is Peter Parker, in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN:™ FAR FROM HOME.

The first question that will inevitably come up regarding Spider-Man: Far From Home is: How  does it compare to the other screen portrayals that followed Sam Raimi’s landmark films? But let’s be honest, that train of thought goes nowhere useful. In terms of superhero movies and blockbusters in general, almost nothing is on par with Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and basically everything else Spidey-related from then until Civil War and Homecoming is a bust. (Into the Spider-Verse is an artistic statement all its own against which there can be no comparison, so let’s not even try.)

We need a better metric, so here goes: The Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of Spider-Man is the most dependable when it comes to consistent entertainment—the kind we’ve come to expect from the MCU. Raimi’s take was a revelation that changed the way people looked at comic book movies, but as Spider-Man 3 showed, it was not built to last. The Amazing Spider-Man movies showed another take on Peter Parker was possible, and despite an admirable performance by Andrew Garfield, they were a rudderless, joyless mess.

However, there could be five more of these MCU movies, and Tom Holland would never wear out his welcome. The goofy, high school tone never aims too high, while the stakes are never minimized. The action is fun but the danger always feels genuine. The jokes are solid, even when they play on obvious tropes like teen crushes and Americans adrift in Europe. It builds on the success of Homecoming while expanding the idea of what an MCU movie can be, and that there is narrative life after Thanos.

Let’s see if we can get into the plot of a movie where even the trailer was once considered a spoiler. After the events of Endgame, Peter Parker (Holland) and the rest of the once-missing people of Earth attempt to return to life as it once was. With the death of his mentor Tony Stark and other key Avengers, Spider-Man returns to being a neighborhood hero, leaving space behind in pursuit of as normal a life as possible: to finish school and tell his crush MJ (Zendaya) how he feels. But nothing is normal anymore, especially for anyone with a connection to SHIELD. While on a field trip to Venice, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes calling, along with a puzzling arrival of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Peter has some quick decisions to make about his future before it’s too late.

One of Far From Home’s strengths is its use of supporting characters. This is Spidey’s story first and foremost, but one trait he shares with Stark is his fear of unintended consequences from his actions, and he is similarly burdened with the knowledge that both action and inaction will affect the people he loves. Zendaya is as great as she was in Homecoming, and Martin Starr and JB Smoove are terrific as teachers out of their depth. Jacob Batalon deserves special recognition as Ned, Peter’s best friend, as does Jon Favreau as Happy; including the man who started this whole juggernaut as director of Iron Man as comic relief is pretty great.

If we have to give up the hope of Raimi-level greatness for Jon Watts’ consistency to avoid the disappointments of the past, it’s a worthwhile trade.

Spider-Man: Far From Home / PG-13, 129 minutes / Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056,  / Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213,  / Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000, / Check theater websites for listings.

See it again

The Dark Crystal / PG, 93 minutes / Violet Crown Cinema / July 10

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