Tom Holland is the big-screen's best-ever Peter Parker, and "Far From Home" is maybe the best Spider-Man film of all-time as well. There, I said it.
SPOILER ALERT! I will NOT be spoiling anything major regarding the new "Spider-Man: Far From Home," however the movie itself spoils the events of "The Avengers: End Game" from earlier in the year. So if you have yet to see "End Game" and don't want it spoiled, please stop reading now! Spoilers to follow...
RELATED: Read Tom's Review of "Avengers: End Game"
"Far From Home" is now the fifth appearance of Tom Holland's Spider-Man/Peter Parker, and his second stand-alone film. This incarnation of the character began as part of "Captain America: Civil War" and imagined the web-slinging, Spidey-sense-tingling super-hero as an understudy to Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). He has been a loyal soldier of Stark ever since, and has even battled in space, nevermind that in his own head Parker still just considers himself your "friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man."
Spidey was one on of the super-heroes that was turned into ashes during the massive "blip" that occurred at the end of "The Avengers: Infinity War," when Thanos snapped his fingers and disintegrated half of the universe's population. In "End Game," he returned and played a major role, but most definitely Parker was the hardest hit of them all when his mentor, Tony Stark, was killed.
RELATED: Read Tom's Review of "Avengers: Infinity War"
"Far From Home" picks up the pieces of that tragedy and gives us a glimpse of what the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) looks like post-End Game. Peter is attempting to return to some semblance of a normal life, and finally plans to make a move on his crush, MJ (Zendaya), during a European field trip. Along for the excursion are all of the class-mates we met beck in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," including Peter's best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), the self-absorbed Flash (Tony Revolori), MJ's friend Betty (Angourie Rice) and some competition for MJ's affection in Brad (Remy Hii), one of the kids that was "left behind" after the blip and is now five years older than the rest of his classmates. Chaperoning the trip is Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr) and Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove), and reprising their roles as "Aunt" May and Happy Hogan is Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau, respectively.
But this is not a movie about studying abroad. There are of course larger things going on in the MCU than term papers and teenage romance. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his partner Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are trying to track down Spider-Man because there is a new threat in the world: A group of dastardly creatures known as "Elementals" are threatening Earth, somehow ending up in this realm following some sort of glitch during the Infinity War. Luckily for Fury and Spidey, the powerful Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) also crossed-over, and is hell-bent on ridding the world of these new threats.
The Tom Holland Spider-Man's have resembled and have embodied the spirit of the comic book character better than any that had come before. They do a great job of keeping Parker a teen, who so desperately wants to shed the great responsibilities that he faces (if that's not the perfect metaphor for "coming-of-age," I don't know what is). Because of this, "Far From Home" is very light and funny, and even pokes fun at some of the events that have come before in the MCU. And I just love how they have updated the character of Mary Jane, or MJ, as portrayed by Zendaya. Her doom-and-gloom spin on the wholesome stereotype is both refreshing and fitting, and her coy performance here can be appreciated even more if you consider the work she's doing on the provocative new HBO series, "Euphoria."
RELATED: Read Tom's Review of "Spider-Man: Homecoming"
But "Far From Home" raises the bar a notch in telling the first MCU story that actually has relevance in today's world. The idea of what constitutes "truth" is a major theme, in a world where so many of us tend to only believe what we want to believe. The filmmakers play with this, all the way up to and through the end credits, and it's a very astute observation and exercise. We all know the famous phrase: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story," and this time around the villains of this tale know that the same philosophy can be applied to the world's perception of its heroes. In other words, it's not as important to be a hero or a villain, it's how you spin it that counts. Sad, but true nowadays.
One negative ramification of having a "shared universe" is that in every Marvel movie these days, we get a scene that has to explain to the audience why other superheroes aren't being called in to deal with the threat...it was a plot-hole that was exposed with "Captain Marvel" (why was she MIA during all of the world-ending threats that came before Thanos?), and it's a fair question. But again, stick with this story through the end credits and this one actually makes a bit more sense than normal.
Speaking of the end credits, there are two post-credit scenes, both of them worth the wait and full of purpose. Tony Stark is gone, and the Avengers are no more, for now...but if "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is any indication, there are many more stories to be told, and characters that will rise to the occasion.
Interestingly enough, Sony Pictures still owns the rights to the character of Spider-Man on film, and the five-picture deal that they struck with Marvel/Disney to share the character in the MCU is now expired. So even though future Spidey-films are considered a sure-thing, it'll be very compelling to see just where they take the character in the years to come, if he does continue to rub shoulders with the characters of Disney's MCU, or if Sony plans to give him his own extended universe (will Spidey ever meet Venom?).
I never thought that a Spider-Man movie could match the excitement of Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2," but "Far From Home" is really the perfect Spider-Man film, and for me a notch better than the 2004 film...starring the best, most well-rounded version of Peter Parker that we've ever been introduced to. It's fun, has great action and actually is about something deeper than just alien invasions or multi-dimensional monsters. Spider-Man may be far away from NYC in this adventure, but never has his story hit closer to home.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi.
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes.
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Remy Hii, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, Cobie Smulders.
Directed by Jon Watts ("Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Cop Car," "Clown").
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" is in theaters everywhere on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019.
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