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After the Endgame

New Spider-Man amuses but doesn’t innovate

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There’s nowhere to go but down for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) after the critical and box office triumph of Avengers: Endgame, so it’s no surprise that Spider-Man: Far from Home is a bit of a disappointment. Sure, the story, action and visual effects are serviceable, but they are by no means impressive. Above all, the sequel lacks the humor and charm of Spider-Man’s first solo MCU outing, Homecoming (2017).

He may be Spider-Man, but Peter Parker is also a 16-year-old teenager (once again played by 23-year-old Tom Holland). His crush on MJ (Zendaya) continues, and he has a plan: During their European school trip, he’ll give her a special necklace and proclaim his feelings for her atop the Eiffel Tower (oh, the romanticism of teenagers). Peter’s chubby buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) is bummed—he envisioned them scoping for babes together throughout Europe—until he is smitten with Betty (Angourie Rice) on the transatlantic flight.

Then Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls. Peter blows him off, eager to enjoy his vacation. A supernatural force, an “Elemental” appears. The entity seems to draw strength from the Earth and uses that to threaten mankind. With the Avengers defunct in the aftermath of Endgame, the one-eyed superhero matchmaker has few candidates to help him handle the disturbance. There is one person on hand, though: Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a.k.a. Mysterio, hails from an alternate dimension of Earth and has experience fighting Elementals. What could go wrong?

One issue with director Jon Watts’ film is that the visual effects for the Elementals are too reminiscent of the Sandman effects from Sony’s Spider-Man 3 (2007). Nothing wrong with that per se (the effects don’t look bad), but given all the cinematic innovations that have since emerged, seeing a new release that harkens back 12 years is underwhelming. The rest of the effects are typically cartoonish, and don’t represent a step forward from what we’ve seen before. It’s competent, just not impressive. Similarly, screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers don’t bring much creativity to the teenage drama; credit the cast for nonetheless making the material mildly amusing.

On a larger scale, Far from Home doesn’t provide much clarity regarding the future of the MCU. It sets up for more Spider-Man movies, sure, but doesn’t really open channels to other characters and storylines. Thus what lies ahead for the MCU remains largely TBD, which makes this movie feel like a slightly frivolous, inconsequential one-off.

Spider-Man: Far from Home does have a few cameos that are a real treat, but that’s the extent of the surprises. Overall, it’s a lackluster blockbuster, a letdown after the colossus of Endgame. If you insist on going to this, do so with understanding and patience.

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