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Movie Review

It’s been a weird five years for Peter Parker—even though technically, he’s barely aged a day.

First, he joined the Avengers as Spider-Man. (Cool.) Then he had to fight the evil Titan, Thanos, who annihilated him (along with half of everyone else) in what’s being called “the Blip.” (Bummer.) Then he came back (yay!), fought Thanos again (argh!), watched his mentor die (spoiler warning!), saw the Avengers kinda-sorta disband (wha?) and, finally, tried to figure out how all this chaos affected his GPA.

Now, Peter is looking forward to a little normalcy. Instead of fretting about the end of the world, wouldn’t it be nice just to stress over finals? Instead of being a superhero, wouldn’t it be cool to just go to a superhero movie? Aquaman, maybe? With, I dunno, a girl?

He has a girl in mind, too: the cute, aloof, conspiratorial M.J. Sure, she’s a little weird. But he isn’t? Seems like a match made in heaven—or, at least, in high school physics class.

Nick Fury, though, has other ideas.

The Avengers’ eye-patched CEO just came back from the Blip himself and discovered that most of his superstars have either A) died, B) gone back in time, or C) are in space somewhere doing, y’know, space things. But Fury’s well aware that Thanos is not the only superhuman threat to the earth. In fact, new threats seem to be literally burbling out of the ground.

They’re called Elementals, according to a mysterious new character dubbed (appropriately) Mysterio: semi-sentient masses of earth or air, fire or water. He fought them once—in a parallel universe before they destroyed his version of Earth, that is. Now they’re here in our dimension, and Mysterio is willing to do battle yet again. But given how things ended last time he tangled with these creatures, the guy could use some help.

But Fury’s all-star lineup is just about empty. It’s time for a newish hero to get in the game—to knock the dirt out of his Spidey shoes and step up to the plate.

If only he’d return Fury’s calls …

Positive Elements

With great power comes great responsibility.

I don’t think we’ve heard that famous axiom since actor Tom Holland has donned his Spidey suit, but that truism nevertheless permeates this movie. This time, Peter Parker tries to square his desire to be normal with the sense of duty he feels to Nick Fury—and, by extension, the rest of the world.

You can’t really blame Peter for wanting to have a little vacation. And the one he’s taking is a doozy—a class trip across Europe, stopping at some of the Continent’s most historic, most beautiful locales. He has plans to confess his feelings to M.J., too. In fact, Peter’s so determined to pursue M.J., as well as a sense of normalcy, that he doesn’t bother to pack his Spider-Man suit.

And when he discovers that he’s been given access to some powerful, potentially world-changing whiz-bang technology—and an overwhelming level of new responsibility—it’s all too much. In fact, he actively seeks to give all this responsibility away.

But Peter eventually discovers that any superhero worth his or her salt doesn’t have the luxury of being “super” just when time permits. Or when he or she feels like it. These responsibilities can’t be shunted. He learns this lesson the hard way (as, honestly, most superheroes are wont to do), but he learns it well. And as Spider-Man, he gets plenty of help from allies both old and new.

Also, the Netherlands gets a gold star for the friendly hospitality its residents display here.

Spiritual Content

An Elemental wreaks havoc in Venice, damaging many buildings. Spider-Man desperately tries to keep a church tower (with a cross carved in it) erect, but only succeeds for a time. Later, when another Elemental looks to be too big to handle, Mysterio suggests that divine intervention is the only way out of the mess. “God help us, Fury,” he says. “God help us all.”

Peter's European field trip is ostensibly focused on science. But when Elementals keep showing up in every city the students visit, one of the chaperones says there’s only one scientific explanation for it: “Witches,” he says. (It’s a recurring theme for the man throughout the movie.)

Sexual Content

For whatever reason, Far From Home really wants audiences to see Peter Parker at least partly out of his clothes.

A female lackey of Fury’s meets Peter in Europe carrying a new costume for him. She demands that he try it on. He reluctantly begins to disrobe in front of her (dropping just his pants) when a schoolmate walks in, draws some natural conclusions and takes a picture—planning to use the compromising photo for his own nefarious purposes. Later, Peter’s forced to change clothes in front of M.J. He strips off his shirt before his would-be girlfriend turns the other way. But she still tries to steal a peak as he completes his change (off-camera).

We see teens kiss on occasion—sometimes on the cheeks, sometimes awkwardly on the lips and sometimes a bit more romantically. (They hold hands, too.) Ned, Peter’s best friend, tries to dissuade Peter from confessing his feelings to M.J., telling him that they’d be missing out on a great opportunity to be freewheeling bachelors in Europe. (Ned later gets into a relationship of his own.)

There’s a verbal reference to an on-demand adult movie that Peter allegedly watched while staying at a hotel. M.J. jokingly theorizes that Peter’s gone all the time because he’s a “male escort.” A class chaperone admits to Peter that his wife left him for a guy in her hiking group. Peter’s Aunt May and a guy named Happy Hogan (Tony Stark’s old right-hand assistant) appear to be in a flirty (and for Peter, awkward) relationship.

A couple of women wear tight, sometimes revealing clothing. At one hotel, all of the students have individual rooms. A girl calls her boyfriend over to her door around bedtime, though whether it’s to say goodnight (most likely) or to stay the night is not crystal clear.

Some in the entertainment press have been talking about the fact that Zach Barack is Marvel's "first openly transgender actor." Barack's character has a small role as a classmate of Peter Parker. That aspect of the character's identity is not addressed directly, though observant moviegoers may notice that the character's gender identity is perhaps ambiguous.

Violent Content

While we see plenty of action here, both violence and injury seem lighter than we've witnessed in many other Marvel movies.

Elementals wreak perhaps the most damage, but much of it is perpetrated on structures, not people. Admittedly, loads of folks flee from or are endangered by these smashed-up, sometimes falling buildings, but we don’t see anyone actually die. Mysterio blasts into the belly of one—apparently trying to kill it from the inside out.

Drones also wreak a great deal of havoc. One of them tries to gun down a classmate of Peter's before he puts a stop to it, and another traps some of Peter’s friends in a sturdy vault—ready to unleash a lethal barrage of bullets at them if given the opportunity. Others are threatened by these high-tech drones, and one man is shot and killed by them.

But frankly, Spider-Man seems to suffer most of the movie’s serious injuries. He whacks his head against a church bell a couple of times while trying to hold the bell’s tower up. He plummets from some pretty serious heights, sometimes bouncing off of structures on the way down. He’s hit by a train, too, which was intended to kill him.

And in a very strange, dreamlike sequence (likely pretty intense for younger viewers), Peter battles versions of himself, as well as his closest allies and even a skeletonized version of Iron Man. All this mayhem leaves the adolescent seriously beat up: We see his face bloodied and bruised. He limps around. In one scene, Peter winces as Happy tries to stitch up a wound (which we don't see) in his back.

A plane blows up. Bridges are torn apart. Columns are blasted to bits. A high schooler uses a mace. A shield is flung (in a very meek homage to Captain America). Ned plays a violent video game. Peter buys M.J. a necklace featuring the Black Dahlia, because M.J. is obsessed with the legendary murder victim.

Crude or Profane Language

Two s-words. We also hear a few uses each of “a--,” “b--ch,” “d--n,” “d--k” and “h---.” God’s name is misused about seven times. One high school student, during a taped message to the rest of the school, utters a bleeped-out profanity.

Drug and Alcohol Content

After a massive battle, Mysterio takes Spider-Man out to a bar for a drink, though Peter tells him he’s too young to imbibe. In the next scene, Mysterio (real name: Quentin Beck) sips on a beer as Peter slurps lemonade through a straw. We see plenty of other folks drink in that same bar, though, with offering toasts with glasses of wine or bottles of beer.

One of Peter’s classmates tries to accept a drink before someone informs the waitress that he’s underage. Other adults drink wine. There’s a reference to the prescription sleep aid Ambien.

Other Negative Elements

Those poor, poor chaperones. Not only do they somehow have to protect their charges from all those Elementals exploding everywhere they turn, they have to keep them from sneaking out at night by themselves. Or, at least, they’re supposed to.

When the class is given tickets to a performance of the Prague opera, a handful sneak out of the hall to party at the city’s spectacular city-wide carnival instead. (Naturally, they all almost die.) Peter and M.J. sneak out of their rooms, too, and are left to wander around Prague sans chaperone. Peter, naturally, mysteriously vanishes all the time—which makes one fellow student seriously confused and angry. He also breaks out of a jail cell: The other men in the cell with him politely close the door behind him, staying right where they are.

Peter and other characters lie and mislead others often. On the plane to Europe, Peter tries to leave the lavatory when he spots M.J. waiting for the same bathroom. He closes the door again and polishes the place (and himself) up—including performing a thorough cleaning job on the toilet seat—before exiting again.

Conclusion

Imagine, for a minute, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a party, and all of its various movies are attendees: There’s Thor: Ragnarok telling jokes in the kitchen. Captain America: The Winter Soldier glowers in the corner. Guardians of the Galaxy is jumping up and down on the sofa.

In such a scenario, Spider-Man: Far From Home would look a little like Peter Parker in a way—a little smaller, a little more awkward, standing by the punch bowl and looking for someone to talk to.

Most of this is because of the movie’s very nature. Even though they're now an official part of the MCU, the Spider-Man movies are still owned and released by Columbia Pictures (and its parent company, Sony), not Disney, which makes them a bit of an outlier. Then there’s the fact that Far From Home has the daunting task of being the first superhero flick to follow Avengers: Endgame. Hard to follow that epic mic-drop.

But there’s this, too. The Spider-Man movies, in paving their own path through the MCU, lean on Peter Parker’s youth and relationships: These aren’t just superhero movies. They’re light, teen-centric romcoms—owing almost as much to John Hughes as Stan Lee. In fact, Peter’s relationship with M.J. almost supersedes his battles with the Elementals and other nefarious do-badders. The world in peril? Been there, done that. What this movie’s really interested in is whether the boy gets the girl.

And that’s just fine, really. Sweet, even.

Because of this focus, the violence here seems set more to bubble more than boil. The action? It’s frenetic and intense and, at times, downright weird. But with a few exceptions, we don’t sense that our favorite characters are in any great danger.

But if the violence is a step down from some Marvel movies, the sensuality is a level up. It’s fine that romance is in the air, but a reference to porn? A visual joke involving a striking, blond adult woman and a pants-less 16-year-old boy? Those elements are less welcome.

Far From Home is a fine, fun, serviceable superhero flick. But like Peter Parker’s European vacation, it contains some unwelcome surprises, too.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is an idea that has permeated the Spider-Man series. As Christians, we have a responsibility that extends into eternity. Yet learning how to steward that responsibility the way God intends can be confusing at times. For some ideas on how to encourage your kids to be responsible, check out these Focus on the Family resources:

Helping Kids Learn Responsibility

Responsibility Training

Taking Responsibility for Your Life

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man; Zendaya as M.J.; Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan; Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio; Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury; Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill; Jacob Batalon as Ned; Angourie Rice as Betty; Marisa Tomei as May Parker; Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington; Numan Acar as Dimitri; Remy Hii as Brad Davis

Director

Jon Watts ( )

Distributor

Columbia Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

July 3, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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