Delightfully tangled web weaved by dorky superhero in latest outing
Film review - Spider-man: Far From Home (12A), 7.5/10
Set shortly after the devastation of Avengers: Endgame, director Jon Watts's web-slinging sequel is an effervescent coming-of-age comedy with a Marvel Comics superhero as its dorky protagonist.
London-born actor Tom Holland plays up the awkwardness of a hormone-addled Peter Parker, who is torn between saving the world as his spandex-clad alter ego and following his heart.
Scriptwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers drip-feed laughs into digital effects-heavy action sequences, which reduce Europe's most beautiful cities to rubble as composer Michael Giacchino's bombastic score roars like an approaching thunderstorm.
As well as comedy and calamity, Spider-Man: Far From Home addresses the changing face of heroism in an era of 24-hour social media and so-called fake news.
'People need to believe and nowadays they'll believe anything,' observes one character, who bears the weight of those words more heavily than we initially comprehend.
You won't need to cultivate your own spider sense or 'Peter-Tingle' to divine a key plot twist.
Correctly second-guessing the filmmakers' intentions doesn't greatly diminish enjoyment of Holland's quirky performance or Zendaya's portrayal of a spunky love interest, who doesn't intend to wait for a nervous boy to make the first move.
Spider-Man: Far From Home unfolds several months after 'the blip' - the sudden return of half of all living organisms on earth including Peter Parker (Holland) and fellow students from Midtown School of Science and Technology.
The plucky teenager refuses calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) to concentrate on a class trip led by teachers Mr Harrington (Martin Starr) and Mr Dell (JB Smoove).
'Europeans love Americans,' gushes Peter's best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), 'and half of them are women.'.
Peter only has eyes for MJ (Zendaya) but his clumsy attempts to woo her are thwarted by hunky rival Brad Davis (Remy Hii).
During the first leg of the class trip in Venice, Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) implore Peter to fight alongside otherworldly warrior Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to defeat four humanoids called the Elementals.
Peter politely refuses and the students' travel itinerary suddenly alters to include a stopover in Vienna where one Elemental is due to materialise.
'I think Nick Fury just hijacked our summer vacation,' Peter laments to Ned.
Spider-Man: Far From Home forgoes a knowing cameo from Stan Lee but Jon Watts's hugely enjoyable picture does incorporate other Marvel Comics staples including a couple of additional scenes buried in the end credits.
Parallel romantic subplots balance giggles and swoons, and Gyllenhaal lends gravitas to his complex role, including touching emotional scenes with a teary-eyed Holland.
The script acknowledges the multiple realities of Oscar-winning animation Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the inevitable special effects overload is reserved for a frenzied final 20 minutes in London, which tees up a cliffhanger.
What a delightfully tangled web the film weaves.