Spider-Man has some big shoes to fill.
Following a 22-movie march to the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has always been building towards something larger.
Left in the wake of the second highest grossing film of all time, superhero movies turn once again to a web-slinging wall-crawler to point the way forward.
Such is the daunting task before “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” a responsibility it both subverts and begrudgingly takes on.
Director Jon Watts’ second Spidey film successfully lowers the stakes for the MCU while maintaining a grandiose scale and spectacle fans have come to expect from the franchise.
“Far From Home” takes Peter Parker on a European tour as he hopes to take a break from his superhero alter ego and enjoy a class science trip until interdimensional elementals and the enigmatic Mysterio hijack Peter’s vacation.
Tom Holland further cements himself as the most authentic Peter Parker in Spider-Man film history, pairing his boyish good looks with a plucky awkwardness befitting the John Hughes-esque tone of the 80’s high school movies Watts’ take on the wall-crawler films emulates.
His performance is engaging on screen and makes viewers take notice in spite of the outlandishness around him whether that be intergalactic opponents for Spider-Man or typical high school drama for Peter.
Connecting with audiences is important here for the suspension of disbelief to the comic book Marvel-ness of the film’s plot and Holland makes the entire adventure more enjoyable to watch in much the same way Robert Downey Jr. did with the “Iron Man” films.
Holland also maintains solid chemistry with Zendaya, who sees an increased role from 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as Peter’s love interest MJ. Zendaya works best in “Far From Home” when MJ delivers quick, dry one-liners though her performance is solid all-around as a secondary character.
Jacob Batalon and Tony Revolori continue to shine in carryover roles from “Homecoming” as Peter’s best friend Ned and rival Flash respectively, though newcomer J.B. Smoove steals scenes with his smart comedic timing as school chaperone Mr. Dell.
By far, Jake Gyllenhaal outclasses everyone else in “Far From Home” with a solid supporting turn that takes advantage of his range as an actor.
His performance in the film’s second half makes his inspired casting in the role of Mysterio readily apparent as Gyllenhaal sheds the character’s rather mundane exterior persona for much richer emotional territory. This is especially true in Gyllenhaal’s tonal shift in Mysterio’s relationships with others, which becomes increasingly demonstrative over time.
Because this film represents a changing of the guard for the MCU as a whole, “Far From Home” suffers slightly as a stand-alone movie as screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have to account for the “Endgame” aftermath and set the stage for the next five years more than the film probably has room for.
This also gives “Far From Home” a regrettably larger scale than the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man feel of “Homecoming” that pushes the boundaries of the duality in Peter Parker/Spider-Man to its outer limits.
Building a world where high school trips become epic European vacations strains suspension of disbelief. This hinders the overall effectiveness of the young Peter Parker side of the film that did such a great job grounding “Homecoming” in authenticity against budding Avenger Spider-Man.
While “Far From Home” relies on CGI in its action a bit too much, the film also includes one of the year’s most visually impressive moments with Peter in a dream-like sequence that constantly moves without feeling choppy and maintains an unexpected crispness that should look equally impressive at home on a 4K Blu-ray.
Superhero fatigue has been frequently referenced in conversation about waning interest in the genre. Although “Far From Home” may feel like a step or two down from “Avengers: Endgame,” it’s still an impressive summer blockbuster that audiences of all ages should enjoy.