You can’t dislike a movie that starts with Whitney Houston and ends with the Go Gos. That’s “Spider Man: Far from Home,” the second movie in the latest Spider Man trilogy starring Tom Holland as a teen Peter Parker. Whitney warbles “I Will Always Love You” over the opening as it’s revealed that students at Peter’s high school are mourning the fallen Avengers from “Endgame” on a closed circuit In Memoriam section a la the Oscars. They’re explaining the very important “blip” in time– a five year jump– from when people disappeared at Thanos’s whim in “Endgame” and returned when the Avengers re-set the clock. (Don’t think about this too hard.)
Now it’s five years since all that happened. Or not, depending on whether you were in the “blip.” This time Peter and his high school pals go on a field trip to Venice and Prague, where of course mayhem is soon to follow. The mayhem in this installment– the 7th Spider Man movie in our contemporary lives — is caused by Jake Gyllenhaal, who starts out looking like a good guy but is really the Marvel villain Mysterio. Gyllenhaal’s leading man looks and total commitment to this silliness (good silliness) are perfect for when he must make the personality switcheroo. Frankly, he should be the next Superman in that series.
Spider Man is now far from home and far from being Spider Man. He’s now entrenched in the Marvel Universe, which means he’s part of the Avengers, directed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who brings along Coby Smulders as Agent Hill. Iron Man’s Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) but his trusty aide Happy Hogan is his emissary (Jon Favreau), plus Marisa Tomei literally glimmers as Peter’s hot Aunt May.
There are loads of Easter eggs, plenty of references to the 23 other Marvel movies, lots of name dropping of past and present Avengers, and so on. The visual effects are very good, the music– by Michael Giacchino– is often too brassy and fan-fare-ish and sounds more like the old “Superman” TV show from the 50s.
Holland is a standout, full of energy and youthful optimism. Someone has got to write “The Mickey Rooney Story” for him now to capture the Mickey who jumped from Judge Hardy movies to bedding every beauty in Hollywood. (And stop there, please.) Zendaya as MJ, Peter’s love interest, jumps off the screen. Even bigger things are coming for her. The rest of the supporting cast, starting with Jacob Batalon, always make for an appealing Greek chorus.
This is the first Marvel movie to not have a cameo by Stan Lee. Maybe that’s what it’s missing. “Far from Home” is a travelogue, and fine middle chapter in a trilogy. I’m in awe of producer Amy Pascal, who left Sony, took Spider Man, and reinvented him. So Part 3 had better be off the charts wrapping up this era. All the elements are there to send this mini-generation’s Peter Parker out with a bang.
PS Yes, there’s a nice surprise at the end, after the credits. It’s a call back to the first “Spider Man” Movies, and in the press screening it was met with happy applause.