This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
MichaelEternity’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"SM2: The Deadly Art of Illusion" is pure candy - even while addressing the tragic events of "Endgame" and exploring more of Peter's growing pains and introducing a homicidal maniac willing to slaughter children and his own team to get what he wants, it bounces every step of the way with borderline excessive humor, frivolity and a minimal conviction for its kinda stale set of conflicts (too timid and awkward to make it happen with MJ, a disgruntled revenge-seeking bad guy terrorizing people with fancy new tech, getting scolded again by higher-ups in the Avengers who are skeptical of his maturity).
It begins with Whitney's "I Will Always Love You" and ends with The Go-Go's' "Vacation" - it feels like the need to engineer big crowd-pleasing reactions from every second of this movie was its highest priority, hence the inconsequential sensation you're left with as it ends. Plenty of the comedy works and Tom Holland is still an enormously endearing junior superhero, still the best on-screen Peter Parker, but other than how easily it all goes down, other than the breezy novelty of sending a Marvel character abroad on summer vacation for an entire movie (props for the picturesque European tour), this comes across as one of the least inspired MCU movies to date...though even as it occupies the same level of the parking garage as both "Ant-Man"s, I'd prefer it to those. Jon Watts and his team cram both "Spider-Man" movies with so much detail and such a wide ensemble that even if this sequel is lazier in the big picture, it still provides you with more entertainment per square inch than others of its kind.
Then again, some of these jokes get pretty tiresome, some of the cutesy-funny traits assigned to the characters become annoying after a while (Ned, Betty, Flash, Happy, Martin Starr, and let's not even mention poor thankless J.B. Smoove).
Then again, Jake Gyllenhaal, bravo. He's a throwaway adversary ultimately (and a rip-off of much older templates like Jim Carrey's Edward Nigma from "Batman Forever"?), yet he embodies Quentin Beck and Mysterio with such panache that it seemed sadly wasteful at the end to kill him off instead of finding a way to imprison him for additional use in future films. As both a noble, empathetic hero and a slimy, cackling bastard, Gyllenhaal is the best thing about the whole movie, to the degree that the shameless exposition marathon in the middle of everything works thanks to his wild performance of it. He should play more over-the-top roles (*yes I know he did so controversially in "Okja" but I thought he was awesome in that too).
Mysterio's illusion attacks get the silver medal here - they're exhilarating and disorienting, reminiscent of the trippier moments from "Doctor Strange" only scarier because with 360-degree holographic images and simulated motion they completely displace Peter from any sense of physical reality, like being in one of those rare IMAX theaters where the screen wraps beyond your peripheral vision. These meta fx showcases leave you wanting more (in a good way).
And lastly, Zendaya - the depiction of her character as a contrarian who's into dark weird stuff seems try-hard, but her actual aloof, bemused performance is refreshingly unique for a love interest, or even a female character in general. Good stuff.
Post-credits comments: cool to see J.K. Simmons again, apparently the only irreplaceable thing from Raimi's versions. Framing Spider-Man and revealing his identity to the world are kind of old tricks whose ramifications I'm not too worried about or interested in, however. Superhero cinema (namely the Batman franchise) have covered this territory enough already. For me the highlight of the credits tags was Ben Mendehlson, who with about 60 seconds of screen time almost steals the show.
Theories: so if Mysterio's dying words are a needless repetition of what he said earlier about how "people will believe anything", is that supposed to imply the next long-term MCU threat? There were rumors about them adapting the comic storyline where Skrulls secretly replace important characters, if I recall. But then like so many other transitions from comics to film that the MCU has chosen to re-define (like making Mysterio a former Stark employee, turning Tony himself into Peter's de-facto Uncle Ben, etc.etc.), "Captain Marvel" made the Skrulls into sympathetic victims of the Kree rather than antagonists in their own right, so maybe the line is hinting at other developments (a Trump-like villain to come? I don't know).