Spider-Man: Far from Home

Spider-Man: Far from Home ★★★½

"Even Dead I'm The Hero." ~ E.D.I.T.H. (Dawn Michelle King)

Director Jon Watts listens to me. Okay, not really, but after I dissed his first effort at making a Marvel movie, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017), he actually used several of my suggestions in making this sequel, namely:

1. I said, "Tom Holland's version is so NOT Spider-Man to me. At best he is Spider-Boy, not a character mature enough to play in the same sandbox with Thor or Captain America or the other Avengers." After two years of growing up, Holland is still an awkward teenage Spidey, but he really has matured. Looks like he has been working on upper body strength, too. Keep at it, kid.

2. I said, "Marisa Tomei as Parker's Aunt May (is) a major improvement over Rosemary Harris and Sally Field." So this time Watts gives her a lot more screen time, and *DAMN* she is one hot auntie here. I mean every scene she's in, I was drooling. Plus (minor spoiler) she starts hooking up with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who has badly needed a love fix through all six of his MCU appearances.

3. I said, "In this brave new MCU, there is no childhood love interest" for Peter Parker (Holland). I also said I liked "Zendaya as the alienated student Michelle aka M.J.... her character is one of the few with any grit." Sure enough, Watts added a little romance to the PP+MJ equation, including a rival for the girl's affections -- fellow student Brad Davis (Remy Hii) -- plus there's a sweetie named Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) for Peter's sidekick Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). Love is in the air! And BTW, Batalon is funnier this time without trying so hard.

4. I said I didn't like "Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes aka Vulture... one of the most conflicted and opaque Jekyll-Hyde characters ever." To play the evil villain this time, Watts gives us Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck aka Mysterio. A huge improvement!

5. I complained about "all of the clueless teachers, coaches, parents and other adults." Well, the bumbling teachers remain in the guise of Europe-trip chaperones Mr. Harrington (Martin Star) and Mr. Dell (J.B. Smoove), but we get a couple of *REAL* adults in the room this time, in the form of SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). A big thank you to Watts for that.

Other aspects of this sequel that I quite enjoyed include: stationary CGI battles replacing the chase scenes of the previous installment; all of the very cool European locations (yep, they really did shoot in Germany, Holland, Italy, England and the Czech Republic, with Spain standing in for Mexico); and the nifty tie-ins to the preceding "Avengers" movies, especially the explanation of "blips" -- all the living things obliterated in "Infinity War" (2018) and then restored in "Endgame" (2019). I also liked the way the legacy of Tony Stark/Iron Man was woven into the fabric of the story, too.

As anyone who has ever seen an MCU movie knows all too well, there's at least one and often two additional segments buried in the end credits. I advise you to stay until the theater lights come up or you will miss a surprising cameo by J.K. Simmons and some extra Nick Fury footage, with a clever scene linking this film nicely to "Captain Marvel" (2019). For MCU fans, this is a must-see, and for those like me who still miss Tobey Maguire as the webslinger, it's a huge step in the right direction.

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