WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Avengers: Endgame."
GREG'S GRADE: A
It's a good time to be Spider-Man.
Three years ago, Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the highlight of "Captain America: Civil War." In 2017, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" brought a fresh take on the genre, successfully melding the tried and true MCU superhero formula with a teen comedy. Last year, Holland stole scenes in "Avengers: Infinity War," and then there was the unrelated "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," the webslinger's best-ever big screen outing and winner of the Oscar for best animated feature.
Now, there's Spidey's second solo MCU outing — and his finest live-action movie to date — "Spider-Man: Far from Home," which deals with the fallout of the universe-shaking events of "Avengers: Endgame" while remaining a relatively smaller-scale romp that's just as comfortable dealing in John Hughes-esque comedy as it is battling monsters made of earth, wind and fire (and water).
Five years after half the population turned to dust, and eight months after those same people returned — ending a period of time now known as "The Blip" — 16-year-old Peter Parker just wants to have a normal summer. With the state of the Avengers uncertain, the world needs to know who will be the next Iron Man. By Peter's thinking, he's just a kid who never could live up to that mantle, even if Tony Stark believes he's worthy. He'd rather go to Europe with the rest of his science class and, after an elaborate set-up, tell his crush, M.J. (Zendaya), how he feels about her.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other ideas, tracking Peter down in Venice to enlist him in fighting the elemental monsters that have been popping up around the globe. He already has on his side Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), aka Mysterio, a high-powered superhero from an alternate reality who's here after the elementals destroyed his Earth. Fury is skeptical that Peter has what it takes to step up in this time of need, and Peter is torn between wanting to justify Tony's faith in him and his own self-doubt. And he's a teenager, so who can blame him for wanting to spend time with M.J. in some of the most romantic spots in the world?
Further plot details must be left for the viewer to discover.
Like its lead actor — what a find Holland was for the MCU — "Far from Home" is funny and charming without ignoring the gravity of what occurred in "Infinity War" and "Endgame." It's a light, breezy film but not one without consequence. Director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, all returning from "Homecoming," move the larger story forward even as they craft arguably the most personal, character-driven film the MCU has ever produced.
The formula works largely due to a deep cast that includes Jon Favreau as Stark Industries security head — and love interest for Peter's Aunt May (Marisa Tomei)? — Happy Hogan; Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Nick Fury's most trusted associate; Jacob Batalan as Peter's best friend, Ned; Tony Revolori as the constantly live-streaming Flash; and Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove as Peter's clueless science teachers.
Similar to last year's "Ant-Man and the Wasp" following the ultra-grim ending of "Infinity War," "Far from Home" is the perfect palate cleanser after the monumental "Endgame." And while most know to stick around for the MCU's obligatory mid- and post-credits scenes, it's almost imperative to do so here. The first one in particular will have huge ramifications on what's to come.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments. 129 minutes.
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