de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

As the first entry in the MCU post “Avengers: Endgame”, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” understandably has much to live up to. Having to pick up the pieces and continue on the franchise after such a massive epic like that is certainly not an easy task. Although “Far From Home” doesn’t reach the heights of the first two San Raimi films or the more recent, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” it’s a decent enough diversion in a rather lackluster summer for Blockbusters, but this should be more than just that.

Peter (Tom Holland) is on summer break from school and plans to hang up his Spidey suit for the summer so he can go on his class trip to Europe and hang out with his friends, while also attempting to muster up the courage to tell MJ (Zendaya) how he truly feels about her. Simple enough teen problems, right? That is until Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) follows Peter on his trip in attempt to recruit him on a mission to save the world. After Thanos caused “The Snap” or as Peter’s classmates call it, “The Blip”, to occur, Thanos seemingly opened a portal to another dimension causing Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), later known as “Mysterio”, to land on our planet and instead of his own, and aids Fury and Peter in getting back to his planet, whilst destroying a new threat.

After the refreshingly small scale adventure in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Far From Home” ups the ante in practically every aspect, and that’s not always a good thing.

One of the biggest highlights this time around comes from the consistently clever humor. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers infuse plenty of snappy dialogue without detracting from the more serious moments.

The action is much better directed this time around thanks to some inventive, trippy visuals and tense set pieces. The duality of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is still front-and-center and “Far From Home”explores some new and interesting angles with that idea. This is also a funnier film than “Homecoming”. Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend, Ned, scores some hearty laughs and some of the situations Peter and his friends get involved in are downright hysterical. “Far From Home” retains the characters boyish charm and the continued John Hughes-esque tone is still refreshing.  The film takes a few risks involving character, but slavishly follows the Marvel formula to the point where style and originality are all but drained. The plotting here is aggressively routine.

Understandably, “Homecoming” tried to steer clear of the origin story having just been treated to the trite “Amazing Spider-Man” films, but “Far From Home” almost seems like it’s embarrassed of it’s origins. Gone are the mentions of Uncle Ben or “With great power comes great responsibility” which, albeit familiar, are necessary to the character. 

Coming fresh off the heels of “Endgame”, Peter is dealing with loss and grief, but “Home” doesn’t explore those themes as well as it should. These films have plenty of humor and it works for the most part, but when previous entries such as “Spider-Verse”, Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” and hell, even “Amazing Spider-Man 2”, explored the rich pathos of the character, it puzzling that “Home” rarely even tries.

The relationships between the characters are given a nice boost. Peter and Happy have a fun, humorous rapport with one another. Peter is still coping with the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark, and feels lost without him. Happy, (Jon Favreau), Tony’s former bodyguard, is keeping on eye on Peter, but he too feels the loss of Tony which gives way to some dramatic moments. Peter and Quentin also have an interesting connection that “Far From Home” explores to nice effect.

Tom Holland is once again commanding in the titular role. As arguably the best on-screen representation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Holland has a lot of emotions to display throughout the film and he’s always a compelling presence.

The rich chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya carries much of the films latter half. Their relationship is genuinely sweet and warm-hearted and adds a nice spin on the Spider-Man romance we’ve come to expect.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is inspired casting and Gyllenhaal couldn’t give a bad performance to save his life, however, given the material Gyllenhaal is working with, it’s disappointing he didn’t get a meatier role. There are a number of scenes where his performance truly excels the material, but with an actor of Gyllenhaal’s caliber, the role should’ve had more weight.

Maybe my biggest issue with “Far From Home” — and I’m willing to admit I may be jaded due to my ferocious love for the original Raimi films — is the lack of style or memorable presentation. Watts, who is a solid director, treats the material with a rather generic vision. Gone is the vast sense of wonder or legitimate dramatic heft the character is known to bring in feature film outings. “Far From Home” does retain the characters’s warm heart and many traits that’ll make this a $1 billion hit, but the workmanlike craft on display just bothers me more than it probably should. 

The film admittedly bests itself with its mid-credits scene. The mid-credits scene is better than the actual film and will sure to have fans leave the theater with their minds blown . The post-credits scene also adds an interesting layer to what we’ve seen previously. Make sure you stay for both.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” is an entertaining blockbuster. It has solid character, performances that make lasting impressions and sets up a potentially unique and jaw-dropping next installment, but to a die-hard Spidey fan like myself, I was left wanting more.