Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Holland, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Zendaya

If Imtiaz Ali ever made an MCU film, it would be Spider-Man: Far From Home. This is the seventh live-action Spider-Man movie. It’s the second Tom Holland-led installment, which is the second reboot of the franchise – it’s okay if you’re confused. Far From Home takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Tony Stark is dead. The world is recovering from The Blip, when half the population was wiped out and then restored. Understandably, Peter Parker is exhausted. He misses his mentor. His aunt May – played by the glorious Marisa Tomei – may or may not be in a romantic entanglement with Happy, which of course is mortifying for Peter. She also insists on calling his Spidey sense the ‘Peter tingle’.

Peter just wants a vacation. A class trip through Europe seems like the answer to his angst. Especially because MJ, the girl he’s crushing hard on, is also coming. The story moves through Venice, Prague, Berlin and London. It’s the classic Imtiaz-Ali-romance-meets-road-movie formula. But superhero lives and loves don’t run smooth. Invariably, bad guys show up, there is destruction and the world must be saved – yet again!

The most underwhelming part is the villains. They service the story but there isn’t enough juice here

What’s fun about Far From Home is that at its heart, it’s a teen comedy. So on the one hand, you have grave threats and on the other, Peter Parker’s hormones. He is, as he puts it, just a “16-year-old kid from Queens.” The kid defiantly ghosts Nick Fury, reluctantly chooses vanquishing villains over holding hands and makes big mistakes. There’s this lovely moment when he says with exasperation: I didn’t think I would have to save the world this summer. 

This high school drama is what makes Far From Home watchable. Tom Holland is 23 but he pinpoints the confusion, frustration and courage of Peter Parker.  Tom is charming, awkward and vulnerable, which makes you root for Spider-Man. MJ, played by Zendaya, is as likeable. She’s smart, sexy and funny – I was thinking: Why can’t girls in Hindi high school movies be more like this? Why are we saddled with low-IQ hotties? There’s also Peter’s best bud Ned, played wonderfully by Jacob Batalon. Ned is supportive even in the face of calamity. He’s also comically wise – especially when it comes to women. He reminded me of Manny in Modern Family.

Thankfully, the narrative doesn’t steer into full-blown grief. There is a buoyancy until the end

As long as director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers stay with the kids, the film hums along. But as soon as the plot pivots to the baddies and standard CGI destruction, the energy drops. Once again, cities are being reduced to rubble in a generic way. The most underwhelming part is the villains. This includes the Elementals – gigantic forces of water, fire etc. They service the story but there isn’t enough juice here. Post the tragic majesty of Thanos, it is a bit of a let down.

Samuel L. Jackson does the usual growl as Nick Fury and Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mysterio, a visitor from an alternate earth who has a fishbowl for a helmet.  Mysterio tries to fill the Tony Stark space in Peter’s life. Watts allows for Peter’s ache to be seen. Stark looms large over the film with characters repeatedly asking who will fill those gigantic shoes. But thankfully, the narrative doesn’t steer into full-blown grief. There is a buoyancy until the end.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is the shot of fun you need at this point in the long-running Avengers franchise. It’s not essential viewing but it’s an amiable diversion. And do stick around for the end credits.

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