Since Tom Holland first wore the Spidey Suit in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the superhero seems to have entered a new golden age. With four movies starring Holland’s Spider-Man, the popular PS4 game and the groundbreaking animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, every swing Spidey takes seems to take him higher and higher.
Spider-Man: Far From Home had the difficult job of not only following up the previous Spider-Man film but also had to carve a way forward after the earth-shattering events of the past two Avengers crossover movies. Spider-Man: Far From Home takes a step back from Avengers: Endgame’s universe-shaping consequences to tell a more personal, intimate story with a healthy dose of the action that avid fans have come to expect.
Avengers: Infinity War saw the seeming death of Spider-Man, along with half the universe, when supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers after obtaining the all-powerful Infinity Stones. Set five years later, Avengers: Endgame was a three-hour epic where the remaining half fought through space and time to bring that half of the universe back by whatever means necessary. They succeeded, only for Spidey’s mentor and father-figure Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), to sacrifice himself moments later.
Far From Home establishes the five-year gap in time as “The Blip,” leading to awkward scenarios where an older brother is now younger, since those brought back haven’t aged. Fortunately, most of Peter Parker’s high school friends blipped out with him, including his best friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and friend-turned-crush, MJ (Zendaya). The three, along with the rest of their class, go on a school trip across Europe, where Peter hopes to relax and potentially romance MJ.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of the Avengers, has other plans for Peter Parker, however. With most of the old team dead or missing in action, it falls on Spider-Man to deal with the new threat of the Elementals, beasts from another dimension that made their way to Spider-Man’s earth following the events of Endgame. Even with the help of the mysterious new hero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), Parker spends a good duration of the film hopping between his two identities, often to comedic effect.
For the first time, Spider-Man doesn’t necessarily want to deal with the responsibilities he’s faced with — he just wants to be a normal kid. While often played for laughs, there’s a deeper, more somber layer to his struggle, and Holland does an excellent job portraying the grief, confusion and angst Parker feels, especially concerning Stark’s death.
Just as Peter tries to balance his two lives, Far From Home swings back and forth between being a fun teen movie and a standard Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, and it finds its identity somewhere along the middle. Especially for the first half, the hijinks Parker and his friends get up to in Europe are hilarious, largely thanks to the effortless chemistry Holland, Batalon and Zendaya have together. Peter and Ned’s awkward banter never fails to be charming, with Ned’s enthusiasm and sage advice eliciting some of the best laughs and biggest smiles. Parker’s numerous failed attempts at flirting with MJ are as laughably disastrous as one could imagine, but their relationship evolves into one of the sweetest and most awkwardly real romances, not just of Spider-Man history but the history of the MCU.
While the superhero narrative seems somewhat standard at the beginning, a twist near the middle switches things up enough to stand out, with some especially striking fight scenes. The villain is somewhat predictable and never reaches the height of Homecoming’s Vulture (Michael Keaton), serving more to challenge Spider-Man’s character than having any distinct character of his own.
Despite being able to swing through the sky, Holland’s Spider-Man remains one of the most grounded and real superheroes in the MCU, bringing both humor and emotion to one of the most iconic superheroes in pop culture. Spider-Man: Far From Home is aware of the responsibility that comes with the power of the property’s past successes and leverages this added weight with grace, all while keeping Spider-Man’s high school setting a consistently integral part of its identity.