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New film: Spider-Man: Far from Home

Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far from Home
Directed by Jon Watts

Although many seem to have viewed the still very recent “Avengers: Endgame” as the last installment  in an era of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, if direct statements to the contrary from the producers weren’t enough, then the actual last film in the current series should set them straight.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” manages to come out of the gate riffing on many of the little things that “Endgame” didn’t take the time to explain – and which, frankly, deserved a little explaining. Like what happened when people who had been missing for five years suddenly re-appeared where they hadn’t been? “Far from Home” picks up immediately after the events of “Endgame” and, with a far from “Endgame” tone, immediately makes it better.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates, some a little more aged than others, are off on a school trip to Europe and Peter is determined to focus less on superhero missions and more on superteenage missions, such as winning over MJ (Zendaya), the girl of his dreams. The problem of course being that the world suddenly needs saving again.

While in Venice, they encounter a sudden, violent attack and another apparent superhero (Jake Gyllenhaal) shooting green lasers and fighting off a monster made of water. Not exactly what Peter had in mind but something inherently destined to pit his desire to be a normal kid against the obligation to use his powers to help others.

Up through this point, the film is an absolute delight. The struggle between normalcy and heroism, and the awkwardness of being a teenager with more power than social acumen, is carried over well from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” by the same director, Jon Watts. Tom Holland improves further on what was an already impressive interpretation of the role – and when the film is primarily “Peter Parker: Far from Home,” it’s as much fun as anything in the MCU.

But the film suffers to an extent from enormous set-piece action sequences that take away from what this iteration of Spider-Man does best. It’s consistently better in the small moments than the big ones, with certain sequences outstaying their welcome. We may need Gyllenhaal’s character to explain his motivations, but perhaps not every tiny expositional detail. And fight scenes aren’t necessarily better just by being bigger and longer. One smaller scale action sequence, early in the film and set on the school’s tour bus, in which Peter has to use his Spider-Man skillset to undo a problem of his own making, while still trying to blend in as Peter, is more fun than any of the later, greater conflicts.

It’s still a fun film with some wonderful content and moments. I enjoyed a small scene between Gyllenhaal and Holland ,with The Jam’s “A Town Called Malice” playing in the background. That song featured heavily on the “Billy Elliot” film soundtrack, with Holland having played Billy on stage and Gyllenhaal having played a similar character in “October Sky.”

I came out of the film having enjoyed it, a lot. But I would have traded a few bloated minutes of Spider-Man action (maybe snap away half of it) for a few more minutes of Peter Parker conflict and awkwardness. The target demographic would probably disagree.

(Stay for ALL of the credits!)

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About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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