‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ swings for lighthearted, good-for-all-timezones teen drama 

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

What “Spider-Man: Far From Home” needs to accomplish isn’t enviable. Besides grappling with the fallout of the gargantuan “Avengers: Endgame,” it also has to lay the groundwork for the next chapter of the most expensive television series in the world — all while delivering another dose of the John Hughesian lightheartedness that has defined this iteration of Spider-Man.

Aside from a beginning temporarily unraveled by questionable editing choices, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is able to spin twisty webs of teen romance and superhero drama. Ultimately, these are durable enough to allow the film to successfully swing past the disparate targets that have been set for it. 

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” follows a Peter Parker (Tom Holland) desperate to escape from the seat at the big kids’ table that he so woefully pined for in 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” At this point, most of the O.G. Avengers are either no more or retired. Spidey must take the baton that has been passed down and lead the way forward. 

The enormity of those expectations, coupled with residual grief resulting from the demise of a father figure, take a toll on Parker. It’s a burden that he, understandably, tries to ignore while jetting away on a European vacation with his classmates. When new foes, danger and deception come a-knockin’, however, Parker must once again find the will to suit up and save the day.

Before “Far From Home” reveals the twists building behind the curtain of its conventional premise, it spends the majority of its run time being a coming-of-age dramedy that just happens to be peppered with random bursts of assembly-line superhero violence.

Thankfully, the cast is capable enough to make a meal out of the long-established beats of confused teen angst that epitomize this Hughesian tone. Holland, in particular, packs in an impressively layered performance. He successfully sells Parker’s comedic and occasionally Sisyphean romance with MJ (played by an equally charming Zendaya). Every glimpse of Holland’s puppy-dog eyes is seemingly enough to justify the string of ill-advised global-level screw-ups Parker makes.

Beefing up the roles of Parker’s classmates also works in the film’s favor, with Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) sharing an easy chemistry with each other and with their awkward professors. 

The film’s use of smaller stakes rather than world-ending calamities is admirable, but the emphasis it places on slapstick comedy instead of actual emotional depth robs “Far From Home” of the dramatic impact it is trying to achieve. 

More than a few minutes of the run time were needed for both Parker and the audience to fully process the finality of a beloved character’s death in “Avengers: Endgame.” Yet so far, every installment in this reboot of the wall crawler’s saga, including “Far From Home,” has abstained from exploring the real struggles with grief Parker traditionally experiences in the original comics.

The superheroic hijinks, too, are standard-issue Marvel Cinematic Universe fare until a majestic final act that comes dangerously close to “too little too late.” Jake Gyllenhaal undeniably brings all of his Jake Gyllenhaal-ness into the weird and somewhat campy Mysterio. But the film features far too many action sequences dominated by the same CGI action we have seen in countless other MCU epics to set up his telegraphed heel turn.

It’s only once this heel turn happens that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” finally gets to its point. Dazzling kaleidoscopic battles abound, fan-favorite soundtracks come back, and Spidey gets to use his trademark intellect after half a decade. 

The final act and the post-credits scenes that come after the movie itself are so outrageously on point that one almost forgets the tediously customary superhero fare and the lack of emotional buoyancy that came before them. Almost.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” rewards audiences that are content enough to watch its charming coming-of-age beats, all the while secretly hoping that it will eventually launch a web to escape from a fatal splatter onto the bedrock of decent-enough mediocrity. Fortunately for them, that web does come, and it couldn’t have come soon enough.

Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected]. Tweet him at @arjun_sarup.