“Spider-Man: Far From Home” has everything a comic book lover – and a movie lover – could expect from a summer film: great acting, unbelievable special effects, loyalty to the source material and plot twists that moviegoers will not see coming.
This is the movie we imagined while reading comics.
The PG-13 movie opened Tuesday and it officially welcomes Spider-Man into the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. This adventure takes place immediately after “Avengers: Endgame.” The world is still reeling from the events of Endgame and “The Blip,” shorthand for the return of people zapped at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
More importantly, people like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are looking to Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to take over for the dead Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) since the Avengers are gone. He’s also expected to become the world’s next tech genius AND save the planet from an invasion by monstrous elemental creatures.
Meanwhile, Peter just wants to go on the high school class trip to Europe and tell MJ (Zendaya) he wants to be her boyfriend.
Director Jon Watts stepped up his game from his first Spider-Man film, “Homecoming,” and that’s saying something. These days the words “special effects” have almost lost their meaning as technology keeps improving, but “Far From Home” shows just how far the terms can go with dizzying scenes of Spidey jumping, bouncing and spinning all over as the monsters and the other main character of the film, Mysterio, battle.
Yes, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), one of the more unusual creations from Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and the pages of Spider-Man, never looked so good. Watts took the original look of Mysterio, right down to the “cloudy fishbowl” headgear, and made it work. His powers seem more like those of Dr. Strange in this outing.
More interesting, the Mysterio we meet in this film is introduced as a good guy, a superhero from the Earth of another dimension that was destroyed by the elemental monsters. He almost immediately fills the father role that Tony Stark (Iron Man) played for Peter.
Gyllenhaal exudes a powerful presence in the film, a natural charisma that Peter is drawn to.
The movie was shot in three countries in Europe as well as Los Angeles and New York, making this one expensive film. The studio wisely planned the opening to take advantage of the long Fourth of July weekend and try to get back some of that money.
Peter’s support group, including MJ (which stands for Michelle Jones, not comic book paramour Mary Jane Watson, by the way), Jacob Batalon, who plays the portly best bud, Ned, and supplies comic relief, and others are on hand for that lover and friendship subtext that weaves through the film.
Sadly missing was a cameo by the late Stan Lee, the character’s writer and co-creator.
Director/actor Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan to offer the reassuring, regular guy perspective he used to give to Stark. That might have gone further if Happy had not made it clear that he was more interested in Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) than Peter.
There are two post-film scenes that are shocking, the first in particular, so do not leave the theater until the lights come on. That’s always good advice for a Marvel movie.
‘Yesterday’ also in theaters
The advertisements really tell the whole story: A muddling singer-songwriter in London gets hit by a bus at the exact moment the world’s timeline snaps. When he wakes up, he finds himself the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles, and he claims the songs as his own.
Director Danny Boyle played this premise like a, well, a song. It’s bright and beautiful and ultimately satisfying. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) feels guilty over appropriating the greatest songs of all time, but consoles himself with knowing that if he does not, the songs would be lost forever.
Under the science-fiction/wish fulfillment aspects of the film is a love story involving the gorgeous Ellie (Lily James), who tips off the audience to the problem when she responds “Why 64?” to Malik’s line: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”
And singer Ed Sheeran, who plays himself in a major role in the film, will surely make new fans for his performance.
Michael Sangiacomo, a freelance writer from South Amherst, can be reached at email@example.com.