The title of this first film from Marvel Studios in the wake of End Game actually goes a long way to highlighting its biggest flaw. The popularity of Spider-Man as a character stems, in large part, from the fact that he has been a ‘friendly, neighbourhood’ superhero more concerned with chasing down bank robbers and bag snatchers on the streets of New York. Whilst the movies have seen him take on more bombastic bad guys drawn from the Marvel menagerie of menaces, he has always remained entrenched in the Big Apple. By moving the character away from the cityscape with which he is synonymous, the filmmakers have removed one of the elements that have made the character so enduring. Bigger isn’t always better and that is certainly the case here as Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is shipped off to Europe to take on a new threat that comes in the form of bad tempered weather systems with faces (and arms and legs as well).
With all other Avengers apparently unavailable and Parker already headed for Europe as part of a school excursion, superhero wrangler Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) turns to a reluctant Spider-Man to take on this new threat. Now, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man movie if our intrepid hero isn’t faced with the dilemma of trying to woo the girl of his dreams – in this case MJ, played by Zendaya – whilst keeping his superhero identity a secret, and that is exactly what transpires. In fact, Peter’s plans to declare his love during a visit to the Eiffel Tower become spectacularly derailed when he and his classmates find themselves re-routed on more than one occasion by Fury in his efforts to get the teenage webslinger to where the action is, a course of events that play out amidst minimal suspicion from teachers or students. His first encounter with what would become known as the Elementals takes place in Venice and with young Spidey seemingly out of his depth, the arrival of a new ‘hero’ in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio results in the quelling of the beast amidst plenty of damage and destruction.
With Peter still struggling in the wake of the death of his mentor Tony Stark/Ironman and the weight of expectation that he now carries, he sees Mysterio as the person best served to continue Starks legacy. However, when it is revealed than neither Mysterio nor the Elementals are what they seem, our young hero is called upon to save the day. With less action here than in other Marvel movies of late, franchise regulars such as Fury, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) are afforded much more screen time than in recent outings. In fact, director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are also able to squeeze a romance between Hogan and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) into the two-hour run time. Jacob Batalon returns as Peter’s friend Ned and Australia’s Angourie Rice (The Beguiled) also features as one of Peter’s classmates, as does Tony Revelori, who is yet to secure another role as brilliant as his debut in Grand Budapest Hotel some five years ago.
Holland’s likeability in the lead role is one of the real strengths of the film and, although in his early 20’s, he is believable as a teenager torn between the responsibilities that his powers bestow upon him and his desire to lead a more typical life, as evidenced by his determination to dodge phone calls from Fury. Zendaya is devoid of any real charm through the first half of the film but brings MJ to life as the relationship between her and Peter blossoms. Spider-Man: Far From Home is an amiable enough entry in the endless Marvel production cycle but, given this character is so quintessentially connected to the built environment over which he watches, moving the action to the other side of the world is an unnecessary indulgence.