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Movie review: ‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’: Fun, fast-paced, tween-friendly sequel has some dizzying violence

Parents need to know that "Spider-Man: Far from Home" is the first post-"Avengers: Endgame" movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it works as both an epilogue to that saga and as a bridge to future films. Starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the tween-friendly sequel to "Spider-Man: Homecoming" – which takes place on a high-school trip to Europe – deals with the aftermath of the Big Snap and other major losses, but it's also fun and comical. Expect a bit more action violence than in "Homecoming," even accounting for eventual twists and turns that reveal that not everything (including the violence) is what it seems. And some of the video game-like battle scenes are literally dizzying. Characters are injured and shot at, there's massive destruction (much caused by super-strong water/fire/air monsters), and Spider-Man is wounded and requires medical attention. Occasional strong language includes "d--kwad," bulls--t," "bitch," and one cut-off "what the f--k." There's a jokey reference to a pay-per-view adult movie that many kids will miss, and Peter is shirtless and changes in a few scenes. Romance includes flirting, lots of discussion about liking someone/dating, and some hand-holding and a few brief kisses. The cast is realistically diverse for a New York City high school and includes characters of various backgrounds and sizes. As with all superhero movies, the themes focus on power and responsibility, leadership, courage, confidence, perseverance, and rising up to face your destiny.

WHAT'S THE STORY?

"Spider-Man: Far from Home" takes place after the events of "Avengers: Endgame." Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns to his magnet New York high school with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), crush MJ (Zendaya), and other students in the post-"Blip" (i.e. Thanos' Big Snap) world. As Peter and his pals prepare for a school trip to Europe, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and what's left of SHIELD investigate a bizarre "storm with a face" that's fought by Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a mysterious human from a parallel universe who's later dubbed Mysterio. Before Peter's European trip, Happy (Jon Favreau) gives him a special inheritance from the late Tony Stark: command of EDITH, billion-dollar-tech embedded in a pair of sunglasses. While in Venice, Fury tracks Peter down and commands him to help Mysterio fight the Elementals (sentient natural-disaster villains). All Peter really wants is to confess his love to MJ and to try to move forward as a "friendly neighborhood" superhero after all of the "Endgame" drama – so he relinquishes control of EDITH and ends up in bigger trouble than he ever imagined.

IS IT ANY GOOD?

Simultaneously humorous and heartfelt, entertaining and angsty, this action-packed sequel is an exploration of Peter Parker's grief and moving on in a post-"Endgame" world. The movie focuses on 16-year-old Peter's ongoing struggle to figure out his place as either the "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" or the next Iron Man – i.e. a superhero on a global scale. Holland is arguably the most comics-faithful version of Spidey, an awkward Queens teen who's often unsure of himself. Still coming to grips with the death of Tony Stark, the dissolution of the Avengers, and the new normal in which some of his former peers are five years older while he's still the same age, Peter craves normalcy and is more concerned with his growing feelings for MJ than answering a phone call from the intimidating Fury. Director Jon Watts, working from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, creates a teen school-trip comedy (with veteran comedians J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr playing the teens' science teacher chaperones) as the framing story for a much higher-concept superhero tale. Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as Beck/Mysterio, a kind but enigmatic visitor from a parallel universe who seemingly instantly fills a much-needed mentor role in Peter's life.

Some of the battle scenes may be too dizzying and video game-like for some viewers, although that could appeal to younger audiences. The fight sequences are exciting, but what works best in this installment are the characterizations, the teen flick aspects, and the chemistry between Holland and Zendaya. There's a little too much of Favreau's Happy here; really, it's Peter and the other teens – especially Ned and MJ – who make this series lovable. Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, and Remy Hii all stand out in their supporting roles (as Peter's frenemy, Ned's girlfriend, and Peter's rival for MJ's attention, respectively). Let's hope the next film moves completely on from referencing Stark and the original Avengers and allows Spider-Man to take the real lead with those in the know about his identity.

RATING AND CONTENT

Recommended for ages 11 and older

Quality: 4 out of 5

Positive messages: 4 out of 5

Positive role models: 3 out of 5

Violence: 4 out of 5

Sex: 2 out of 5

Language: 3 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 2 out of 5

Consumerism: 3 out of 5

MOVIE DETAILS

In theaters: July 2, 2019

Director: Jon Watts

Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing

Genre: Action/Adventure

Run time: 129 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.

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