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What parents need to know
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 so wounded that he looks battered 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. Note: This review is for the original theatrical version of the film; an extended cut is also available and may include additional content not covered here.
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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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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 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., 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Spider-Man: Far from Home. How does it compare to the violence in Spider-Man: Homecoming? What do you think of the video game-like aspects of it?
What did you think of the way the movie explained its place in post-Endgame society? Did it help explain the situation and how the movie fits in with the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films?
What would you want to see in another Spider-Man sequel? For those familiar with the previous Spider-Man installments: Which Spider-Man series is your favorite? How about which Spider-Man actor, and why?
Who are the role models in Spider-Man: Far from Home? In addition to courage, what other character strengths do they display? How about humility? What does Peter learn about himself and his role as a superhero?
What do you think the line "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" means? It's taken from Shakespeare's Henry IV. How are duty and responsibility ongoing themes in superhero movies -- but particularly Spider-Man stories?
- In theaters: July 2, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 2019
- Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal
- Director: Jon Watts
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character strengths: Courage, Humility, Perseverance
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: December 4, 2019
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