Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

New Spider-Man adventure is a fun summer movie treat

Everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawling, Web-Slinging superhero is back for an amazing eighth time on the big screen in Marvel’s latest sure-to-be-blockbuster “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Unlike the extremely emotional and epic “Avengers: Endgame,” this new cinematic version of Spidey is light-hearted, fun, and full of teenage angst and romance as Peter Parker, MJ and a quirky group of science students travel to exotic international locations like Italy and Prague for a high school field trip. But the trip quickly takes unexpected twists and turns as a giant “Hydro-Monster” wreaks havoc in Venice. Who can stop this titanic water threat other than Spidey of course? Soon a mysterious costumed stranger nicknamed Mysterio (played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal), who claims to be a hero from a parallel Earth, arrives on the scene to help battle the menace. This “Master of Illusion” proves to be a powerful ally and someone who soon earns Spidey’s trust. But what’s going on here? In comic book history, Mysterio is a classic villain, not a hero. Are appearances deceiving? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

Meanwhile, the gigantic “Elemental” threats of unearthly creatures continues around the globe. Peter is reluctant to join in the fight as he just wants to be a normal teenager fooling around with friends on a European trip. He also wants time alone with potential love interest MJ (Disney star Zendaya), who despite her good looks turns out to be somewhat of a recluse, misfit, and mystery. Yes, the ever-awkward and socially shy Peter Parker can certainly relate, which is why he feels a strong connection beyond the obvious attraction with MJ. For sure the chemistry is strong between Peter and MJ (perfectly played by Tom Holland and Zendaya).

But duty always seems to call, and in Spider-Man: Far From Home,” Peter is relentlessly pursued and recruited to join allied armed forces by none other than S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson.). Once again, Jackson gives another standout performance and is ideal in the role of the no-nonsense and assertive leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. There are many comedic moments between the fiery Nick Fury and ever-elusive and often timid Peter Parker.

And once again, there’s plenty of humorous banter between Peter and best buddy Ned Leeds (again, played to comedic hilt by the naturally-hilarious Jacob Batalion). Other “lighter” moments are highlighted by the appearance of Happy Hogan, jovial assistant to techno-genius Tony (Iron Man) Stark, who as everyone knows tragically died during the tear-jerking finale of “Avengers: Endgame.” But there’s no time for tears in this latest Spider-Man adventure, with an emphasis on fun and super-spy adventure. As for gadgets, this time Peter gets to wear some neat new oversized blue-tinted glasses, a gift from the late, great Tony Stark. Not only do the glasses give Peter a cool “retro” look that in a bizarre way honors his geeky comic book origins, but also cleverly gives him access to a computer command center called E.D.I.T.H. (“Even Dead, I’m the Hero” — the message left behind by Stark).

Overall, there’s enough action as Spidey once again swings through cities trying to save the day, although much of the story is centered on a group of teenagers’ unforgettable odyssey in Europe. Director Jon Watts is back at the helm following the successful relaunch of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in 2017. Watts seems to have a way of getting the best from his main group of actors, and there’s always enough action to keep superhero fans satisfied.

The visual effects have certainly come a long way since Spider-Man first appeared on the silver screen in 2002. Over the years a few main actors have played Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but none more effectively than young Tom Holland. Slight of stature and not the typical “leading man” of Hollywood, Holland fills the role of the underdog hero extremely well. He brings a fresh-faced, wide-eyed, wonderful enthusiasm to the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Hopefully this won’t be Holland’s last time playing the Web-Slinger.

Zendaya has put a new spin on the character of MJ, but oddly enough it works out well in the new movies. Unlike Kirstin Dunst’s portrayal of popular red-headed beauty Mary Jane Watson, Zendaya wisely plays her MJ more reserved and more of an outsider, much like Peter Parker. The scenes between Tom Holland (Peter) and Zendaya (MJ) come across as very sincere and sweet, and fans are happy when they finally hook up.

As for “Far From Home’s” other main character, Mysterio, let’s just say this “Master of Illusion” won’t go down as one of the more interesting cinematic characters in the MCU. Now I’m sure that Marvel studio leaders and the main decision-makers were looking for an intriguing new hero/villain (?), but Mysterio and a somewhat flat performance by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal seemed to miss the mark in this one. Let’s face it, Mysterio just doesn’t rank as high as other memorable adversaries such as the Green Goblin, Venom, Vulture (with a great performance by Michael Keaton), or The Sandman, perhaps the most visually impressive villain of the Spidey movie series.

But it was nice to see J. Jonah Jameson make a long-awaited return to the big screen with a cameo in “Far from Home,” played with his usual gusto and gruff edge by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. However, I have to admit that some of the post-credit scenes are a bit confusing, and perhaps Marvel should have ended with more of a suspenseful cliffhanger instead of giving so much away.

Yet overall, fans should still enjoy “Spider-Man: Far From Home” if they are in the mood for fun summer “family-friendly” adventure.