‘Spider-Man’ sequel is far from boring

British actor Tom Holland is Spider-Man aka Peter Parker.

By Wendell Gaa

The late legendary storyteller Stan Lee of Marvel Comics had once commented on how Spider-Man is the one superhero character creation of his with whom he was most immediately associated with. 

Indeed, his image has often been the most frequently used on several Marvel-brand products, from graphic novels to toy merchandise.  The reason is unsurprising, simply because Spider-Man is the most relatable hero to fans and readers alike.  While he is honestly not my personal favorite superhero ever (that honor goes to Batman), I still have much respect and admiration for this iconic character who has been a beacon of inspiration to pop culture, transcending the comic superhero genre.  For unlike Superman, he does not have a messianic savior complex and at his core, he is an everyday human being named Peter Parker, a high school kid struggling to maintain balance in his life, academically and socially, exactly what many young boys in real life are going through. 

“With great power comes great responsibility” has been a recurring motto in Parker’s life, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) latest film installment “Spider-Man: Far From Home” brilliantly takes this aspect of the superhero’s lore to yet another level. 

A sequel to 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and the first follow-up movie to this year’s epic mega-blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame,” “Far From Home” is a worthy standalone superhero story which further explores Peter Parker’s physical and emotional growth into his role as a crime-fighting hero.   

FilAm Jacob Batalon portrays Parker’s best friend Ned Leeds. With Zendaya and Holland. Photo: ABC.com

The film takes place right after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” where Spider-Man, along with several other MCU superheroes, banded together to help defeat the intergalactic tyrant Thanos and his alien minions.  Parker is now at a point of near-uncertainty and some self-doubt as a superhero in the wake of the sacrifice and death of his friend and mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).  Stark’s assistant and close friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is on hand to help console Parker and to encourage him to continue to grow into the type of hero Stark inspired him to be.  Parker soon embarks on a high school class trip to Europe to take a break from crime-fighting and to give himself a much-needed vacation. 

But the demands of being a member of the Avengers team are never far away, and he is eventually tracked down by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), former director of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) and his ever-loyal ally Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), who request his assistance in aiding the enigmatic persona known as Mysterio. Peter is once again confronted with the dilemma of just how huge of a responsibility his role as a superhero truly is. All he wants to do is to enjoy the teenage life, like dating and traveling!      

Jake Gyllenhaal as the enigmatic Mysterio.

“Far From Home” succeeds as a sequel because  it doesn’t aspire to be an epic tale about heroism the way its predecessor “Endgame” was.  Rather, it is a modest and simplistic individual story focused on Spider-Man alone and his continuing evolvement into a bona fide superhero.  I absolutely adored the wit and humor here, and while the adolescent hilarity is present, it is not an overt distraction to the plot, unlike how it was most notoriously overused in 2007’s awfully juvenile “Spider-Man 3” with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. 

Tom Holland is wonderful in the titular role, as he perfectly captures the youthful angst, awkwardness, and confidence of Peter Parker.  One could almost be tempted to forget that he is actually British in real life!  There can be no mention of the supporting cast without acknowledging one of our own, FilAm Jacob Batalon, who portrays Parker’s best friend Ned Leeds. As it was when he made his first appearance in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” he is given much to do here as Spider-Man’s extremely likeable bosom buddy. 

Other notable standouts are Jake Gyllenhaal of “Brokeback Mountain” fame, who gives moral ambiguity to the Mysterio character; and Disney Channel actress/singer alumnus Zendaya, who plays Parker’s love interest MJ with an attractive no-nonsense flare, which in my view is a welcome breath of fresh air. I thought  her comic character’s image was defamed with Dunst’s outright annoying “drama queen/damsel in distress” portrayal in the early Spider-Man films. 

I must say that Spider-Man as a comic superhero is continuing to grow on me, thanks to “Far From Home,” which is now officially my favorite live-action film adaptation of this Marvel icon. 

© The FilAm 2019



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