I love my Spider-Son. Yes, I am talking about Tom Holland’s take on web-slinger Peter Parker, a high schooler who tries to save the world as Spider-Man in between homework and pining for his crush, Michele “M.J.” Jones (Zendaya, Queen of Summer 2019). Hypothetically, Spider-Man: Far From Home, premiering, July 2, could have been two hours of Peter Parker saying “Aw, shucks,” to the camera, and I would have applauded at the end. Our Spider-Boy just tries so hard, you know?
But, that’s not at all what you’ll find in Far From Home, featuring Jake Gyllehaal's entrance into the superhero universe. Instead, director Jon Watts, who also helmed predecessor Spider-Man: Homecoming, takes audiences on a globetrotting adventure through Europe that mixes coming-of-age comedy and high-flying superhero caper. It’s enough to give you the Peter Tingle.
Right now, the Peter Tingle sounds like the kind of phrase that would get you kicked off of New Tumblr. But, it’s actually the new Spider-Man franchise’s working title for “Spidey Sense,” Peter’s well-known power of super strong intuition. Spider-Man’s ability to feel what’s coming next is a huge pillar of his mythology… and the Sense is completely on the fritz when Far From Home opens. At the beginning of this story, his infamously awesome ability deserves an underwhelming and fairly awkward name.
But, Peter’s gawky vibes don’t just end with his powers — they’re the bedrock of Far From Home. At surface level it’s sensible that Peter, a science nerd randomly imbued with superhuman strengths, is still coming into his own. Then there is his far more emotional place in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe as a wide-eyed 16-year-old kid. Following the onslaught of tragedies in megamovie Avengers: Endgame, including the death of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), young Peter Parker is facing far more responsibility than he ever expected.
For the greater public, its leading defender is gone, leaving a massive vacuum in his place. For Peter, he’s facing mounting expectations without his personal hero and mentor to guide him. It’s the universal dilemma of growing up, blown up to blockbuster scale.
So, what’s a teen crimefighter to do when he’s now Earth’s most visible superhero? Especially when all he wanted to do was be Queens’ friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? Run away to Europe on a science trip with his friends, of course. Because, despite its multimillion dollar trappings, Far From Home is really about a boy dealing with his grief while trying to figure out who he is today and wants to be tomorrow. That means many hijinks, love triangles, and a fantastic running bit about Europe's best superhero, The Night Monkey (no one should ruin the Night Monkey jokes).
The movie is at its best when it’s reveling in watching Peter attempt to keep up his superhero side hustle with his full-time gig as a genuinely funny teen on a very extensive school trip. It’s difficult not to wish Far From Home — and Peter himself — didn’t have to contend with the fate of the world when such light-hearted fun is staring you right in the face.
Nevertheless, this is a summer blockbuster in 2019, and thus annihilation must be on the movie menu. At least all of this tension gives two performers besides Holland the chance to shine: Zendaya and Jake Gyllehaal. Zendaya’s M.J. may be obsessed with serial killers, internet conspiracy theories, and macabre fun facts, but her deadpan charm isn’t hiding the oceans of pain that are drowning the actress' Euphoria character, Rue. Instead, M.J. is hopeful, inquisitive, and just a little bit afraid of getting hurt. When Peter goes through almost unspeakable lengths to get M.J. to like him (as in like like him), you understand why.
Then, there is Gyllenhaal, who apparently has the best groomer in Hollywood — or Venice, or Prague, or London. Speaking about Gyllenhaal’s fishbowl-wearing, green Illuminati symbol throwing Mysterio (real name Quentin Beck) at length would break every spoiler protocol in the book so we won’t. Instead, let's focus on the perfection of the actor’s beard in this film and the fact that he is having more fun than everyone else combined. When Gyllenhaal screams from atop a bar or yells on the Tower Bridge (or is it the London Bridge?) you believe him. You’re happy for him.
And you’re happy for yourself, because you’re the one who gets to watch this entire journey unfold. Iron Man may be gone, but we're officially in good (if web-sticky) hands.