" Our shenanigans are cheeky and fun. Farva’s are cruel and tragic "
— Jay Chandrasekhar, Super Troopers

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Operation Condor

Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

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The lightheartedness of Far from Home stands in stark contrast to Endgame (pardon the pun).

Turn Off the Dark

Hanging around in Europe
Hanging around in Europe

Hello, True Believers!

We’ve entered a new era. It’s post-Endgame and it’s a different world. Before proceeding, let’s observe a moment of silence in honor of those stolen from us during the events surrounding the Blip: Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff and Vision. Of course, Steve Rogers has passed his shield on to the next generation. And we won’t have any more cameos from Stan Lee.

Even with that memoriam, this chapter runs with a much-needed breeziness, helping to alleviate some of the trauma from Endgame’s conclusion. It’s an amateur-hour high school news video which helps reset the tone. What was heart-rending drama is now the subject of some good-natured humor, with the “Blip” being the shorthand name for what transpired by way of Thanos’ nefarious deeds.

Time heals all wounds and humor helps the process. To that end, there are stories of a younger brother becoming the older brother as he aged while his previously older, Blipped-out sibling didn’t age a bit during the 5-year duration of the Blip event. And there’s a story of a woman who pretended to “Blip out” as cover for having an affair.

Yes. Things are making their way back to normal. People are talking smack. Life goes on. All’s well. Sorta.

What’s the new topic of conversation in the hallways of Midtown High? Finding out if there’s a plan and who has it. Take that in two ways, movie fans. The first is literal: Peter Parker and some of his science classmates are getting ready for a big class trip to Europe. So, what’s the plan? The second is subtext: With the two highest-profile heroes (Iron Man and Captain America) now no longer on the scene, audiences worldwide are wondering what’s next for the MCU. So, what’s the plan?

Take it easy. There’s plenty more to come. We already know a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in the works (or will that be Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1?). Black Panther will return. There’s also the forthcoming introduction of Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. And there are plenty of Avengers still serving the universe, but they’re all tied up with other pressing matters. (Please, don’t invoke the name of Captain Marvel right now. That’s a request directly from Nick Fury.) Now it’s up to lovesick 16-year-old Peter Parker to handle a new Earth-endangering evil all by himself.

Is he up to it? Can he possibly be the next Iron Man?

Heart of Iron

That new threat involves the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Giant elemental beasts are wreaking havoc, leveling entire cities. Thank heavens Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Zodiac), crossing over from an alternate reality, has been single-handedly mashing down these destructive forces. For those efforts, he’s in contention to become a new Avenger.

But he needs help. And he’s got the attention of Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Kong: Skull Island). Fury, in turn, has been calling Peter Parker (Tom Holland, In the Heart of the Sea). But Peter has the nerve to actually ghost Fury. You do not ghost Nicholas J. Fury! Even if you’re getting ready for a school trip. Even if your heart is aflutter with the affliction known as “first love.”

With that as the setup, a briskly-paced adventure unfolds, heavy on the humor and front-loaded with a bunch of heart for the characters. Peter’s still grieving over the loss of Tony Stark, but Stark’s presence is still felt by way of giant Iron Man murals painted on cityscapes around the world. And Tony gifted Peter with a billion-dollar pair of high-tech glasses called EDITH. In an oh-so-Tony moment, EDITH is revealed as an acronym for “Even Dead I’m The Hero.”

As for the school trip, it gets derailed by Fury’s machinations. The world needs saving and science class — led by a couple goober-grade teachers — can wait. So it is this globetrotting adventure takes Peter and his friends from their home turf of greater metropolitan New York City to glamorous spots like Venice, Prague, Berlin, London and Broek op Langedijk.

Broek op Langedijk? Yep. It’s in the Netherlands. And it’s the scene of some of the movie’s goofiest humor, highlighting the good-natured aspects of Dutch character.

While Homecoming had a distinct vibe that channeled John Hughes and his string of classic high school movies, returning director Jon Watts shakes it up a smidge. This time maybe it’s a little more of a National Lampoon vibe, of the Clark Griswold variety.

The Amazing Night Monkey

MJ (Zendaya) with Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
MJ (Zendaya) with Spider-Man (Peter Parker)

Okay. We’re bouncing around like Spidey zipping around the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

What’s the danger? It’s a cool, timely idea.

Take the surging concern over the real-world problem of deepfakes — videos and photos doctored to fabricate a new reality — and escalate it by an exponential order of magnitude. As Quentin (dubbed “Mysterio” by the forces of pop culture) and Peter take on the threat, a sinister plot is revealed.

A massive army of cloaked drones and a populace that’s willing to believe anything collide in a tale that unfolds with increasing visual complexity. Maybe it’s not in the near future, but the technological ideas driving the action are certainly a conceivable threat to contend with down the road.

Those visuals become mighty stunning. Far from Home is always — at the very least — easy on the eyes as those European cultural, political and economic capitals get their screen time.

And through it all, Peter has to balance the needs of the many with his personal needs to take a break from Avengers action and pursue his dream girl, MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman). “MJ” Is short for Michelle Jones. Don’t confuse this MJ with Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson.

While MJ seems a little tough and distant at first, it’s really just a front. She might be every bit as goofy as that web-slinging kid who has zero game when it comes to the ladies. Saving the world comes naturally; getting a date is a little more challenging for a kid Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, Chef) rates as “awkward.”

The Peter Tingle

It’s rather astonishing to step back for a hot second and think about this: It’s taken 57 years to get to the 25th “official” James Bond adventure, which is currently filming. In contrast, Spider-Man: Far from Home is the 23rd tale in the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe, a movie juggernaut that’s been around for a mere 11 years.

The franchise-crossing storytelling has reached an ever-higher level of sophistication with this version of the webslinger. In Homecoming, Tony Stark served as a mentor and guardian for young Peter Parker while Captain America made a few cameos in PSAs geared at school kids. Civil War and Homecoming finally ushered Spider-Man into the Avengers era. In Homecoming, that oft-quoted pearl of wisdom from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility,” was sorta replaced by Tony’s message of tough love: “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”

But there is a little bit of a sleight of hand that has a whiff of Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It’s not nearly as egregiously disconcerting as the manipulation of Uncle Ben’s murder, but it is a bit of a cheat that involves a couple flashbacks, one to the first Iron Man and one to Civil War. They’re deepfakes in their own right, ironically enough, as the stage is set for the action in Far from Home. The storylines aren’t altered, though, so don’t write into the Bullpen with complaints.

As it stands, Far from Home is a terrific bridge from Endgame to what lies ahead. And, given the pure likability of this cast, every indication is what lies ahead will be a lot of fun.