'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

Spider-Man: Homecoming felt like a joyful return to the webslinger adventures we all love. The scope was smaller; the fun was palpable. Even all the tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe were welcome; who doesn’t want more Iron Man?

But everything gets consumed by the Marvel machine eventually. Though Spider-Man: Far From Home is still occasionally delightful, it feels like an official proclamation that Spider-Man is now property of Marvel. It’s no longer a treat when he shows up – wasn’t Civil War the best? – and it’s not about his local trials and tribulations. The playing field has been widened, and that’s understandable but also a real shame.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland, terrific yet again) has returned from a brief stint of “being dead.” So has half the world; while readjusting to this new old world on an overseas field trip, Peter crushes on MJ (Zendaya), hangs with his buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) and reckons with the for-real death of Tony Stark. Along the way, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) bursts into Parker’s life with a request: Spider-Man must team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) to fight interdimensional monsters that will ultimately destroy the planet.

Of course, if you’ve seen any of the Far From Home promotional materials, you know Beck is also known as Mysterio. And you likely know that Mysterio is a villain, which means you’ll be waiting for Gyllenhaal’s smile to turn into a frown and for his secret plans to be revealed. The scene in which this happens might be the worst in the movie; it gives the Nightcrawler star a little scenery to chew but mostly leads to him spewing exposition. That said, Gyllenhaal looks and feels like a real threat, and the film handles Mysterio as well as it possibly could. A lengthy scene in which Spidey is mesmerized by his illusions could’ve been a mess but turns out to be captivating and well-done. It’s just too much to pack into one movie, and Gyllenhaal never gets a chance to truly shine.

This film also falls prey to the “ripped from the headlines” bullshit that comic book movies occasionally incorporate to make them feel like Cultural Touchstones instead of Moneymaking Machines. Saying that “Mysterio is a commentary on the fake news era” is like praising The Dark Knight Rises for being about Occupy Wall Street. Sure, Anne Hathaway does vaguely allude to the 1%, but it’s mostly about Batman. Far From Home doesn’t dissect modern veracity or the lack thereof; it’s just something for director Jon Watts and his writers to say in interviews that’ll make them feel less like cogs in the Marvel machine.

This is not to entirely besmirch the work Watts and company do here; Far From Home still has a lightness that many comic book movies sorely lack (and need). Holland is great, Zendaya is wonderful, and Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove do their best to recapture the comedic elements that made Homecoming so enjoyable. But at its core, this movie exists to wrap up the MCU’s Phase 3 and set the stage for Phase 4. This is the cinematic world we live in, and I am a willing participant who has given Marvel hundreds of dollars along the way. It’s just disingenuous to act like these do anything but make us smile and further the grander voyage. It’s been a worthwhile journey up to this point, but I’m starting to wonder when it’s time to get off.