The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in safe hands following the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” — which was released Tuesday ahead of the Fourth of July holiday — is the first film in the MCU since April’s “Endgame,” and it’s a rollicking, smart and savvy addition to the mega-hit franchise.
This review with try to avoid spoilers for “Far From Home” itself, but it’s impossible to explain without spoiling parts of “Endgame,” so you’ve been warned.
Tom Holland returns for his fifth outing (second in the lead) as Peter Parker, aka your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He does a terrific job taking the reins as the MCU ends its “third phase” of films and gets ready to launch into “phase four,” with Spidey alongside such other stalwarts as Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Doctor Strange.
The story this time around follows Peter as he tries to resume a normal teen life following the events of the previous “Avengers” two-parter, in which the villain Thanos had eliminated half of all life. His act was reversed, but the incident — known as “The Blip” — resulted in half the population vanishing for five years and then returning un-aged, while the other half lived without them for all that time.
The result was a cultural shakeup, the repercussions of which are still being felt now, eight months after their return. The movie deftly answers many of the questions and implications brought up by “The Blip,” as humanity — which has already had to get used to the presence of superheroes, supervillains and aliens in recent years — has to adjust to a new normal.
Peter was one of those “blipped,” along with — coincidentally — most of his circle of friends and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). He’s now trying to adjust back to everyday life, complicated by the fact that many of the most well-known superheroes have died, retired, or moved on. He was hit particularly hard by the death of his mentor Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, and is intimidated by the thought of filling his shoes. Tony’s old friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is there to help Peter and perhaps get to know May a little better.
Peter desperately wants normalcy in his life, and keeps avoiding calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), instead planning to join his school’s science club on a trip to Europe — which he hopes will give him a chance to connect with M.J. (Zendaya), the sardonic, droll classmate he has a crush on.
But the life of a Spider-Man is never simple, and he soon gets caught up with Fury and the charismatic Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in a quest to save the world from extra-dimensional forces, all while trying to keep his classmates from noticing and figuring out his secret identity. The action sequences are enjoyable, if at times a bit predictable, but the cast, new and old, keep things moving at a fast, fun pace. We get new costumes, new characters and some surprising returns.
Like 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which was also directed by Jon Watts, “Far From Home” deftly mixes big, bold super-heroic action and likable, cute characters; Holland, Zendaya and the rest of Peter’s classmates would work just fine in a teen high school comedy without any of the comic book stuff.
But the heroics — and the crush of the great responsibility that comes with great power — add emotional resonance even beyond the big explosions and flashy action. In the MCU films, as in the comics, Peter Parker has always struggled with his desire for normalcy and inability to find it.
As with most Marvel movies, be sure to stick through the end credits, which have two important bonus scenes, one of which got the loudest audience reaction of the entire film at a test screening.