Rather like the ice cream cones on offer at amusement parks, Spider-Man: Far From Home does well what the Marvel movies do best: it delivers a surge of brand-standard superhero uplift, served this time with the multicoloured swirls of European travel and teenage romance.
This next installment in the Spider-Man reboot that began with Homecoming follows Peter Parker as he sets off across the Old World on a high school summer science trip. Before setting out he resolves to leave the world-saving behind and take a holiday for a week or two, and of course this is ridiculous.
When you’re a superhero, disaster follows you everywhere – that’s just science. However far you might venture from home – be it London, the Netherlands, Venice, or Prague – the very existence of the place will inevitably be put into jeopardy at some point while you’re there.
So, Peter, go ahead and pull that poncho out of your suitcase, and while you’re at it, the little touristy waist pouch thingy that only the excitement of crossing an ocean can make seem like a good idea, and pack that Spidey suit.
Better safe than sorry.
This might be the only serious lesson learned in a movie that bounds as nimbly between banter and building-scaling acrobatics, as between several of the must-see sights on any serious backpacker’s Euroadventure. Amongst the handful of subplots, the weightiest probably consists in commemorating and assuming responsibility in the wake of self-sacrificing Avengers past. The bulk of the film’s upbeat plotting taps out the tempo of themes like avoiding superhero-ly identity detection, saving whole cities, and perhaps most importantly, trying to get the attention of that special girl on the school trip.
Some sprinkles on the cone include a generous dash of tongue-in-cheek self-referentiality. After a third or fourth stop on the high schoolers’ clearly contrived itinerary, for instance, one of the travellers asks, “You know what’s ridiculous?” and another quickly pipes up about how little actual science there is on their supposed science trip.
Another more insightful comment refers to how nobody these days seems to pay much attention to anything important unless there is somebody shooting lasers or flying around with a cape. Which naturally raises the question: is this film trying to say anything important?
For my part, I suspect that it probably is not. Or if it is, that it probably is not trying to say all that much.
The pivotal villainy, for example, involves a massive high-tech apparatus that creates disasters alongside misleading explanations of them. This may be an oblique caution about fake news, the ubiquitous influence of digital media, and the behind-the-scenes conglomerates capable of manipulating society through them.
But really, if this is meant to be a warning, it is pretty understated.
For the most part, the tone is as breezy as an oversized shirt in the summertime, and the film no doubt has been deliberately timed to hit cinemas just as audiences are starting to sport the same sort of gear.
So, if you’re looking for a treat and can afford the cinematic equivalent of a dose of unabashedly sugary seasonally flavoured calories, go ahead and make the Marvel stand the next stop on your way to some heartier, more substantial fare.
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