Spider-Man: Far From Home is losing the thread

It's hard enough to follow up one film, but two? This is one tangled web of a sequel, says Simon Brew

Spoilers, then. The most recent trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, the sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, was preceded by a warning from its star Tom Holland not to watch the promo if you hadn’t seen the most recent Avengers outing. He followed that with an appearance on The Graham Norton Show that gave the internet clickbait machine further fuel (like it needs it), when he promptly spilled said spoilers. The internet was not happy.

This is what I can safely say. This film has Spider-Man in it. Tom Holland plays Spider-Man and his alter-ego, Peter Parker. It picks up threads from both the previous Spider-Man film and the most recent Avengers film. It also has Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L Jackson and Jon Favreau in it. And, as the title suggests, the friendly neighbour Spider-Man leaves his native New York for the movie. That’s all the plot it’s safe to say.

One of the many joys of Spider-Man: Homecoming was that it absolutely worked whether you took it as a Marvel movie or not.

That in itself is a marked difference from the last film. One of the many joys of Spider-Man: Homecoming was that it absolutely worked whether you took it as a Marvel movie or not. In the hands of director Jon Watts, and with the charm of Holland, here was effectively a high school coming-of-age story, cloaked in superhero clothes. The young supporting cast – with Holland alongside Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice and Tony Revolori (all returning here) – were a delight to spend time with, and are again. But its geography was modest, the film was witty and fun, and whilst it had broader Marvel Cinematic Universe ties, it was a gentle stepping-on point.

The problem here is that Far From Home doesn’t just face the inevitable challenge of upping the ante from the last film (the rule of the sequel, one that it tries to play by), but it’s a follow-up to two films. There’s an inherent assumption that you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame here, as a chunk of the film deals with what following up on what happened in that. Competing with that for screen time is the actual Spider-Man sequel that they’ve sold you a ticket to.

In fairness, it’s a balance that’s handled really quite well too, but the Spidey side suffers just a little. It’s got a lot to pack in. The Peter Parker side of his alter-ego is still a nerdy high school kid, this time on a school trip around Europe. The superhero side finds himself in the company of Jake Gyllenhaal’s fun but not massively impactful Mysterio, and explaining is required. Added to the need to ramp everything up and it’s a crammed 135 minutes, that still feels rushed in some places.

A few factors ground the film, though. Watts comes from independent movie roots, and he’s excellent when the film boils down to human beings over special effects. There’s a bunch of strong comic performances too, while the heart of the last Spider-Man movie is still in there. And then there’s Holland, an absolute natural in the title role.

In a summer where many sequels have disappointed, the Marvel elixir still holds strong here.

The film itself is hurt a little by being much busier than the last, and perhaps a notch below Homecoming as it tries to get through all of its business. But in a summer where many sequels have disappointed, the Marvel elixir still holds strong here. It’s hard to leave too many people walking away – after staying for the obligatory credits scenes, obviously – feeling short-changed.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas from July 2

Simon Brew is editor of Film Stories.