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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)::rating::3.5::rating::3.5

[su_dropcap size=”5″]W[/su_dropcap]ith Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel has the unenviable task of following the smoldering, soot-stained cataclysm of Avengers: Endgame with a return to the giddy, geeky optimism of its flagship character.  Here, the filmmakers must recognize all the cosmic melee that came before, while also embracing a world of field trips and long-standing crushes.  Thankfully, Peter Parker’s immersion into Marvel’s cinematic canon seamlessly continues with a well-acted, richly-textured sequel that somehow manages to be dramatically compelling and consistently fun from start to finish.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m gonna assume you’ve run every mile of the Marvel marathon up ’til now.  Stragglers will need to do some serious streaming, and catch Endgame while it’s still bulldozing through box office records.  There, now that the uninitiated have been warned:  Far From Home picks up right after Thanos’ snip-snap, and billions of people find themselves acclimating to a world that had long left them for ashes.  Peter Parker (Tom Holland), wracked with guilt and grief over the death of Iron Man, links up with his high school Scooby crew for a field trip to Europe.

Peter’s brush with oblivion has forced him to confront his feelings for MJ (Zendaya), and his apprehension about occupying a more substantial role in a post-Infinity world.  Both issues get forced when powerful elemental creatures start popping up all over Europe.  Superspy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) steps in as Peter’s grouchy new mentor, and urges the boy to embrace his new life as a global protector.  Meanwhile, a suave, supremely-talented magician named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) inserts himself into the conflict, with his own concealed motives in tow.

Much of what follows will deliver about what you’d expect:  Peter continues his perpetual struggle between an epic obligation to save millions of lives and a simple desire to be a normal, gangly teenager.  This internal battle plays out in the form of light-hearted, John Hughes-style shenanigans that keep things humorous, while also rendering the main characters into relatable human beings.  After several films with apocalyptic implications, the Marvel franchise successfully regains its soft touch.

Those expecting big, burly action scenes will also not be disappointed.  The film finishes with the usual orgy of CGI creatures and explosions.  Even with all the expected sound and Fury, Far From Home’s strongest moments are also its quietest:  Holland has great interplay with Jackson, Zendaya, and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Iron Man’s bodyguard.  The script also supplies some great lines for Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s steadfast sidekick.  All this comfort and chemistry help every dramatic scene connect on an emotional level.

If this Spidey sequel has a flaw, it’s one of excess.  The story needlessly sprawls to almost 130 minutes, and would’ve benefited from a little more tightening.  But even that’s not a major nit to pick.  Fans who have enjoyed the MCU thus far will walk away from this film feeling more than satisfied.  Far From Home proves that Spider-Man is also far from done.

129 min.  PG-13.

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