[Screen It]


(2019) (Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action: After helping save the world, a young superhero hopes for some time away on vacation with his friends, but must contend with a new and unusual threat.
Following the events of "Avengers: Endgame" where he helped other superheroes defeat Thanos and bring back half of the world's population, 16-year-old Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (TOM HOLLAND), is still grieving the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. That late superhero's former head of security, Happy Hogan (JON FAVREAU), informs him that the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), wants to talk to him about providing continued superhero protection for the world.

That's a timely request considering that monsters known as Elementals -- named for showing up in the form of air, water, fire, and Earth -- have been wreaking havoc in isolated parts of the world. And a superhero, Quentin Beck (JAKE GYLLENHAAL), who's fought them before in an alternate universe version of Earth and has recently arrived in this dimension, warns that the most dangerous of the monsters will soon arrive.

Peter, however, simply wants some downtime and is looking forward to a high school trip to Europe with his friends -- including MJ (ZENDAYA), Ned (JACOB BATALON) and Betty Brant (ANGOURIE RICE) -- other classmates such as Flash Thompson (TONY REVOLORI) and Brad Davis (REMY HII), and their teacher chaperones, Mr. Dell (JB SMOOVE) and Mr. Harrington (MARTIN STARR). After saying goodbye to Aunt May (MARISA TOMEI), Peter takes flight with the others but is quickly found by Nick Fury and his assistant, Maria Hill (COBIE SMULDERS), and after seeing one of the Elemental monsters in action, Peter reluctantly agrees to help.

But not all is as it seems and once that's revealed, Peter must contend with a new villain and save the day once again, all while hoping to tell MJ how he really feels about her.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Let's face the facts -- it's often quite challenging and daunting to have to follow anything that's big and epic, especially when it involves the same person or organization that's just hit whatever their last endeavor might have been out of the ballpark. For instance, following the mega success of the "Thriller" album, it was almost impossible for Michael Jackson to match, let alone surpass that sort of success and thus the only real viable result was a release that didn't have the same degree of financial success or fan love.

It can happen across all vocations and industries, and movies certainly aren't immune. In that regard, it would have been foolhardy for the follow-up release from Marvel Studios immediately after "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame" to try to equal the epic scale -- on a number of fronts -- of those films.

Accordingly, the folks behind "Spider-Man: Far From Home," which takes place not long after the conclusion of "Endgame," have opted to scale back most everything about the offering from the villain to what's at stake and the goal of the hero.

For Peter Parker (Tom Holland reprising his role that began in "Captain America: Civil War" and continued through those last two "Avengers" flick as well as the character's standalone movie, "Spider-Man: Homecoming"), the latter is hoping for some downtime via a European vacation where he plans on letting his friend MJ (Zendaya) know how he really feels about her.

As in any budding teen romance movie, though, there are obstacles to be overcome. And they range from Peter's best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), wanting their across the pond excursion to be of the bachelor variety (despite being easily swayed the other way during the flight in which he and classmate Betty (Angourie Rice) end up as a couple), to another student, Brad (Remy Hii), who came back from the "blip" that occurred in "Infinity War" now looking about five years older, thus worrying Peter that MJ's eyes might be drawn his way instead.

The biggest challenge, to no one's surprise considering the genre, is of the superhero danger variety and that's a watery whirlwind of a monster known as an Elemental that begins to lay waste to Venice, thus prompting Peter to figuratively and literally swing into action to try to save the day. He gets help from an older superhero, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) who arrives, states he's from an alternate dimension of Earth, and informs Peter along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) that another bigger and badder Elemental will soon be arriving.

Peter really wants no part of this -- after all, there's that pressing MJ matter -- but the old "with great power comes great responsibility" reality rears its head, plus Quentin sort of, kind of has a Tony Stark thing going on with him, and with Peter no longer having that mentor and friend around, he feels drawn to this newcomer and to help save the day.

Of course, the threat is scaled way back from that which occurred in the last two "Avengers" films, but that allows this offering -- directed by Jon Watts from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers -- to feel far more nimble on its feet and thus easier to behold as light, summer entertainment, and escapist fare.

And in that regard, I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially regarding the teen romance material, other humor (including that involving Tony Stark's former head of security (Jon Favreau) wooing Peter's Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and the way in which Holland plays the character (which, for me, is more satisfying and true to the role than what Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield managed to do).

Where the film falls short, even appreciating the scaled back scope and ambition, is with the villain who ultimately shows up, his motives and goal, and the related battle scenes. All of that just feels, well, fairly lackluster and akin to something you might have seen in a superhero movie back before Marvel really got their act together.

Thankfully, that doesn't come anywhere close to derailing the project or applying cinematic pesticide to this particular webslinger, but the third act -- despite being fairly frenetic, doesn't match the first two in terms of overall engaging and escapist entertainment. Again, I wasn't expecting anything on the scale or scope of this film's immediate "Avengers" predecessors. But whereas the likes of "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and especially the animated "Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse" managed to pull off the smaller scale yarn, I just felt this one faltered a bit toward its end. Even so, it's worth seeing for the parts that do work and thus rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed June 26, 2019 / Posted July 2, 2019

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