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Spidey finds action, adventure & romance—and learns superheroes don’t take summers off

Zendaya (Finalized)

Zendaya gets a lift from her friendly neighborhood Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Far From Home
Starring Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau & Samuel L. Jackson
PG-13

The combative, catastrophic events of Avengers: Endgame, earlier this year, were hard on superheroes. The Marvel casualty count was high, most notably Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Everybody needed a break after that cosmic battle royale, which marked the official finale of the Avengers franchise.

So you can’t blame anyone involved for wanting to chill out. Like Peter Parker (Tom Holland), the teenager who moonlights as Spider-Man, who’s really looking forward to his senior summer trip to Europe. A trek Over There is going to be a nice getaway with his friends, a chance to leave behind his super-suit—and his superhero responsibilities—and hopefully an opportunity, finally, to make a play on his crush, his oddball classmate MJ (Zendaya).

But not so fast. Trouble follows Peter to Vienna, where a massive, roaring water monster rises up out of the canals to wreak havoc—and a strange new character swoops in to defend the ancient city. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the eye patch-wearing former director of the superhero agency S.H.I.E.L.D, gives Peter the lowdown: That flying, fishbowl-helmet-wearing, caped Mysterio is an ally from another dimension who’s arrived to fight the Elementals, cosmic monsters who’ve arrived on our planet to take their powers from air, water, fire and earth.

And since Peter’s already in Europe, and none of the other Avengers are available, Fury recruits Spider-Man for Mysterio’s cause.

Tom Holland (Finalized);Jake Gyllenhaal (Finalized)

Jake Gyllenhaal is Mysterio

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mysterio, in his first comic-book-movie role, and you can add this to his long list of “interesting” characters—the gay cowboy of Brokeback Mountain (for which he was Oscar-nominated), the creepy news photographer in Nightcrawler, the obsessive, driven detective of Prisoners, the deeply disturbed novelist in Nocturnal Animals. He brings something special, compelling and sometimes unnerving to every movie in which he appears, and you can rest assured that his Mysterio—a shady character who’s been in the rogue’s gallery of Spider-Man comics for ages—lives up to his name.

As things move across Europe, from Venice to Prague and finally to London, the story builds on two parallel tracks—Spider-Man, Mysterio and the Elementals, and how all that complicates Peter’s plans to hook up with MJ, especially without revealing to her, or anyone else, his secret identity.

Samuel L Jackson (Finalized);Jon Favreau (Finalized)

Samuel L. Jackson and Jon Favreau

Fury has a new suit (all-black) made to help Peter do his Euro web-slinging without anyone knowing he’s really America’s Spider-Man (the locals start calling him the Night Monkey). Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) with Stark Industries strongly implies to Peter that the late Tony Stark/Iron Man had high hopes for the young man—and his potential not only as an Avenger, but as a leader. He gives Parker a set of high-tech, multi-billion-dollar “smart” eyeglasses, called EDITH (you’ll laugh when hear what the letters stand for), that make Alexa look like a Tinkertoy.

Marisa Tomei returns as Peter’s Aunt May, with a new romantic interest of her own. J.B. Smoove and Silicon’s Valley’s Martin Starr get chuckles as hapless class chaperons. Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice) and Flash (Tony Revolori) reappear as Peter’s classmates and also help keep the humorous high-school vibe flowing.

There’s action and laughs, danger and derring-do, comedy and close calls—and surprises and shockers and one real golly-whopper of a game-changer, and if I say much more about the movie, readers will hate me.

It may not be quite as polished and punchy and near-perfect as director Jon Watts’ first Spider-Man outing with Holland, Homecoming (2017). But it’s still a fine entry in the post-Avengers MCU (Marvel Comics Universe) franchise, which now looks to other superheroes to carry the torch—and drive the formidable box office. Even though he’s now 23, Holland still manages to convey the youthful angst of one of Marvel’s most popular characters as he grows into the responsibilities that go with his sticky superpowers.

“I didn’t think I was gonna have to save the world this summer,” Peter laments.

Superheroes, Spider-Man learns, don’t get summers off—even when they’re Far From Home.

In theaters July 2, 2019

 

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