Spider-Man: Far from Home

Spider-Man: Far from Home ★★★★½

How do you follow-up the biggest movie of all time? With five suit changes, a half-dozen European locations, a handful of angsty teens, a bunch of humor, one fascinating villain, and tons of gadgetry... all wrapped up in Marvel's trademark style.

The year is 2024. It's been eight months since The Avengers undid Thanos' "snap" - or what the MCU is now officially referring to as "The Blip." This is a society without Iron Man, and a film without Stan Lee. A world where science is literally indistinguishable from magic.

Everyone's favorite, friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man is globetrotting around Europe on a school vacation with his fellow blipped-classmates. Tom Holland returns for his fifth outing (and second solo film) as the superhero from Queens, and is as stellar as ever. But things get interesting when he's reluctantly recruited by ex-SHIELD operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson in his 11th appearance as the character) to stop an "elemental" danger.

The plot, which necessitates that Peter, his friends, and every evil threat are always at the same location at the same time, is heavily contrived... but somehow, reasonably logical. Like, the connective world-building needed to even make sense of the post-Endgame universe is as staggering as it is exhaustive. Casual fans will likely be turned off by the breathless exposition that threads through nearly every scene of the film. But more invested fans - those that have been with the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning - will undoubtedly love hearing answers to their burning questions, and seeing each little issue or potential plot-hole addressed with workmanlike diligence.

I, for one, count myself amongst the latter group, so I quite enjoyed all of the lampshade hanging dialogue and callbacks; including some interesting (if unnecessary) connections to much earlier films. The elephant in the room however is the absence of Peter's mentor, and perennial saver of humanity, Tony Stark. His presence (and tech) is all over this movie... even if Robert Downey Jr. is not.

The returning cast from "Homecoming" might be beginning to show their age, but even in their mid-20s, they're as impeccable at dodging drones as they are at delivering those awkward high school moments. Zendaya is especially effective as the quirky, introverted tom-boy and love interest. Her will they / won't they relationship with Holland is the emotional bedrock of an otherwise scattered and complicated script.

The other obvious highlight is Jake Gyllenhaal as "Mysterio" - a human from a parallel dimension who is, well, a bit mysterious. The revelations involving his character are unfortunately a tad predictable, but only because of the limitations of the classic three-act structure. Gyllenhaal nails the duality of this role with aplomb; making for a sympathetic and dynamic character.

Although it's sometimes overused - and often chaotic during the London-based climax - the CGI and visual effects here are well, effective. They're not the best we've seen from this franchise, but it sells the realism of a web-slinging hero about as well as can be expected. Meanwhile, returning composer Michael Giacchino turns in an absolutely raucous score - more triumphant and bombastic than his usual, lighter fare. Spidey's leitmotif is especially rousing, and implemented at all the right moments.

Not quite on par with the genre-defining "Endgame" (how could it be, though?), this is still an excellent and thrilling capstone for Marvel's so-called "Phase 3" of films. Plus, the incredibly shocking mid-credits scene (which had me squealing with delight over an unexpected cameo) ensures Kevin Fiege and the rest of the Disney team aren't anywhere close to done yet.

So, despite the lofty expectations and convoluted plotting, "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is an amusing, thrilling, and cathartic coda to an incredible chapter of big-budget filmmaking. Holland and Gyllenhaal help deliver a truly AWESOME movie.