Fear not, Marvel mavens. Not all of your beloved characters said adios in the devastating “Avengers: Endgame.”
One of the most popular, Spider-Man, is back, and he’s just in time to sling some webs, save Europe (or try to), get the girl (if she’ll even notice him!), and have an awesome overseas class trip in the breezy, lighthearted “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
Tom Holland is on board for another spin as Peter Parker, following “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in 2017. And it’s a good thing. Holland's boyish charms help smooth over some of the film’s more wobbly moments.
We first glimpsed Holland as Spidey when he was mixing it up with the Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War” (he also had a hand in “Infinity War,” and, briefly, “Endgame.”)
The running theme in those previous films was that Parker was being mentored by Tony Stark/Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. It was a funny and compelling on-screen relationship and, in true Marvel-cross-pollinating fashion, helped feed the next film’s story lines. Now with Stark gone, what is Spidey to do?
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” tips its cap, repeatedly, to Stark, the Avengers, and the bizarre “blip” that occurred: killing half the world’s population, then bringing folks back five years later.
As we reconnect with Parker, he is 16 and heading off with his high school pals for a class trip to Italy and France (at least that was the original plan). Parker hangs with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) while crushing hard on MJ (Zendaya). He’s trying to get up the guts to ask her out and kiss her, but he keeps getting pulled away by pesky entreaties from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
In addition to Fury, Marvel stalwart Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is along for the ride, as are Marisa Tomei, returning as Aunt May, and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Stark’s major-domo.
Stark’s legacy lives on in a pair of groovy glasses he bequethed to Parker. Dubbed EDITH (think Siri on steroids), the glasses control a vast and dangerous techno-weapons system.
Fury needs Parker to face down a new threat from the water and fire Elementals (giant monsters that may remind some fans of Sandman from “Spider-Man 3”). The Elementals are attacking cities such as Venice, which happens to be where Parker and his friends are sightseeing.
But Parker is not alone in this fight. Enter Quentin Beck, aka “Mysterio” (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Mysterio, we are told, is from another version of Earth. (There are several. Who knew!) Mysterio flies around, shoots some lame-looking green rays to battle the Elementals and wears an ancient breast plate and cape. His head is protected by what looks like a fishbowl with swirling electro-clouds of eternal universes inside.
Although the other recent Marvel films have traveled to other galaxies and messed with our minds through funky flashbacks and time warps, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is very 2019: There are drones, virtual-reality machinations, live-streaming and the need for “followers.”
As the students hop planes, buses and cavort around Venice, the film veers towards Disney Channel cheesy. But just when you think you’re watching “European Vacation: Teen Squad,” there is a clever twist (no spoilers here).
Directed by Jon Watts, who also helmed the previous Spidey film, and written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” lacks the layers and texture (and brutality) of some of the better Marvel movies.
But it is not intended to beat the drum of the Avengers’ world-ending existentialism. This is Marvel movie light. It’s meant as teen-friendly summer popcorn entertainment. And at that it succeeds.
Clint O’Connor can be reached at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.