I remember having a bit of a slightly-better-than-lukewarm reaction to “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Tom Holland is a brilliant Spider-Man, possibly better than Tobey Maguire. I hate picking favorites, so I can only say “possibly” rather than offering a definite. (Although, my 2017 Daily Times review did say he was a “perfect Peter Parker,” so I might have to say he’s my favorite.)
That same review ended this way: “’Spider-Man: Homecoming’ isn’t a perfect movie, but it is an entertaining one that gives us a spot-on treatment of its protagonist. I look forward to the next outing, and I sincerely hope that someone addresses this one’s flaws in the years between them.”
The flaws were minor. Holland and the film’s main villain, played by Michael Keaton, were downright awesome. It was the side characters that seemed to get lost in the mix. I’m happy to report that a lot of those issues have been solved in the sequel.
Holland’s latest outing as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man finds the web-swinger getting ready for a trip abroad with his classmates. The world is still dealing with the loss of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and other Avengers — if you haven’t seen “Avengers: Endgame,” I apologize for that spoiler, but it’s been nearly three months since the film came out, not to mention it’s in the trailer.
Peter just wants a fun trip with his friends, so he decides he’s not going to pack his suit or worry about anything as they travel to Europe. The arrival of Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) makes that a bit more difficult as Beck brings with him an alter ego named Mysterio and elemental threats that could destroy the planet.
Of course, Peter is joined by his old classmates. There’s Ned (Jacob Batlon), Peter’s best friend who manages to annoy the ever-living snot out of me. He’s earnest and loyal, yet he still manages to remind me of the old Looney Toons character, Chester, who played the yippy, yappy sidekick to Spike, a ginormous bulldog. You might know the reference, but the character is only there to say “Gosh golly gee” a lot. I will say Ned gets a girlfriend this go-around, but that doesn’t make him less annoying.
MJ (Zendaya) is back, too. She was one of my complaints in the first film. The character existed to be weird and throw everyone off balance. MJ has been toned down a bit, or maybe she’s just been given more to work with here. I thought she was a little creepy in the first film, and maybe it’s just my own dark humor, but MJ is absolutely delightful this go-around.
Even Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) has been given something to do, and I’m not just talking about Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Instead of her life simply revolving around Peter, May is given actual autonomy. She’s doing charity work, and we see her leading a fundraiser and at her office. She also has a pretty great one-liner when she realizes Peter’s spider-sense — which she calls the Peter Tingle — can detect bullets but struggles with bananas.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” manages to build on everything great about its predecessor. Peter may be incredibly powerful, but he’s still a kid. At this point, he’s actually an Avenger, but he’s still just a 16-year-old kid who has a crush on a girl and wants to spend time with his friends.
He also has to deal with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who only sees Spider-Man and not the kid who’s scared, heartbroken and just trying to figure out the next step after losing his mentor and surrogate father. Tony left something to remember him by, though, and has done his best to prepare Peter for the road ahead. He’s left Peter a pair of sunglasses that contain E.D.I.T.H., an artificial intelligence that offers him access to Stark Industries and all its tech. (Note: In another flash of Stark humor, the acronym stands for Even Dead I’m The Hero.)
Peter finds a semblance of hope in Beck, who is Peter’s biggest fan and supporter. While his character is full of secrets, he’s also a good sounding board for Peter. The pair has a good rapport that manages to be distinct from the one Peter shared with Tony.
Bottom line: “Spider-Man: Far from Home” builds upon what’s come before and improves those elements that needed some help. The finished product is something that is fun, funny and heartfelt. It feels like another perfect Spider-Man outing alongside “Into the Spider-Verse.”