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Spider-Man Faces The Usual Villains, An Unusually Tricky Storyline In 'Far From Home'


It's been just two months since Marvel superheroes reunited to save the universe in "Avengers: Endgame." Already the world is threatened again. Thankfully, a teenage superhero is on hand in "Spider-Man: Far from Home." Our critic Bob Mondello says he is battling not just the usual villains but an unusually tricky storyline.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Right after the opening Marvel credit sequence, there's a superhero in memoriam montage that seems to be one thing and turns out to be another. And that, as it happens, is a perfect setup for this movie. Barely back from "Endgame," Spidey is discovering that even folks he thought he knew are weirdly not what he knew - his Aunt May, for instance, and Iron Man's old pal...


TOM HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) Happy...

JON FAVREAU: (As Happy Hogan) You look nice.

MARISA TOMEI: (As May Parker) Thank you - you, too.

FAVREAU: (As Happy Hogan) Thank you - new dress?

TOMEI: (As May Parker) Yes, it is. How did you know (laughter)?

HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) What just happened?

MONDELLO: Small wonder Spidey can't wait to get away on a school trip to European tourist spots that suggest the filmmakers really wanted to make a Spider-Bourne or a Spider-Bond movie. Peter doesn't want to take his spider suit.


HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) Europe doesn't really need a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

MONDELLO: But his Aunt May packs it for him, so at least it's in his hotel room when Venice's canals start behaving strangely.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) What is that?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I don't know.

MONDELLO: A 50-foot water monster that Spidey's web shooting abilities don't affect much - happily, a brand new superhero flies to the rescue - Jake Gyllenhaal as a guy the kids name Mysterio and who Nick Fury introduces as hailing...


SAMUEL L JACKSON: (As Nick Fury) From Earth, just not ours.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL: (As Mysterio) There are multiple realities, Peter. This is Earth dimension 616. I'm from Earth 833.

HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) I'm sorry. You're saying there's a multiverse - because I thought that was just theoretical. I mean...

MONDELLO: Peter geeks out, and exposition ensues about how on Earth 833, they've seen this stuff already - hugely destructive critters formed from water, fire, air.


GYLLENHAAL: (As Mysterio) The science division had a technical name. We just called them elementals.

COBIE SMULDERS: (As Maria Hill) Versions of them exist across our mythologies.

GYLLENHAAL: (As Mysterio) Turns out the myths are real.

HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) Like Thor. Thor was a myth, and now I study him in my physics class.

MONDELLO: I'll let you discover the rest for yourself, but know that director Jon Watts and his team are devoting pretty much the whole film to myths and their dangers. They reference fake news. They employ fake-outs, and they encourage you constantly to not believe your eyes - easy enough when so much of what's on screen is digital, though I suspect that's not what they have in mind.

What they do a lot of is set up the next stories and deal with the wreckage from the last one. I confess; I don't really spend much time thinking about Marvel movies when I'm not actually watching them. So among the many things that hadn't particularly occurred to me were the ramifications of what happened in the "Avengers" flicks - Thanos wiping out half the universe for five years in what NPR's Glen Weldon has dubbed the Snapture.


ZOE SALDANA: (As Gamora) He can do it with a snap of his fingers - just like that.

MONDELLO: This film calls it the Blip and notes that those who disappeared came back just as they'd left while the rest of the world had continued to age while they were away. I don't suppose it much matters that Thor is five years older now. But if Tom Holland's Peter Parker had not disappeared, he'd be 21 rather than 16. So it's helpful for the story that he got blipped and that his big crush, MJ, did, too, because otherwise she'd have graduated college rather than still being as innocent as he is.


HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) You look really pretty.

ZENDAYA: (As MJ) Therefore I have value.

HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) No, that's not what I meant at all. I was just...

ZENDAYA: (As MJ) I'm messing with you. Thank you.

HOLLAND: (As Peter Parker) You're welcome.

ZENDAYA: (As MJ) You look pretty, too.

MONDELLO: They're a cute couple, and whenever the film isn't engaging in its ever-more elaborate fake-outs, they're center-screen and central, I suppose, to recalibrating Marvel's superherodom. Things got pretty gargantuan during the more-than-20-film buildup to saving the entire universe in "Endgame." The stakes this time turn out to be considerably lower, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Teen is arguably just the guy to bring things down to Earth and reestablish a human scale. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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