Coming in after Avengers: Endgame, one of the biggest and most successful films ever made, Spider-Man: Far from Home has a lot riding on it. It has to serve as an appropriate closing chapter for Marvel's Phase Three and opening one for Phase Four. It has to effectively present the world post the traumatic events of Endgame whilst being a good Spider-Man film in its own right. Does it succeed or fail to stick the landing? This review will be spoiler-free, which will be difficult as a lot of what I did and didn't enjoy feature major spoilers, but I'll do my best. I'm also going to start bullet-pointing the main points at the end of each review in case you just want the main details.
The film follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) on a school trip to Europe. However, he can't enjoy his vacation for long as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pairs him up with the enigmatic Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to take down a bunch of elemental threats. Immediately, this film's basic concept is both a blessing and a curse. Taking Spidey out of New York City and placing him in various locations around the world is an inspired touch and one I'm surprised the films previous haven't done until now. It's great seeing Spidey engage in an environment that is much different to the concrete caverns of New York. However, one of Spider-Man: Homecoming's biggest strengths was it's smaller scale. It was a simple yet effective story that fit the character of Peter perfectly. That scale is amplified ten-fold in Far from Home, therefore losing some of the charm the previous film had going for it. However, the larger scale does allow for some great action setpieces; the action in this film is much better than in Homecoming. I never felt the action in the first film was all that memorable, creative, or immersive, but in Far from Home, there is a lot more to work with and the action is utilized much more creatively. When Spidey is swinging or gets hit, you really do feel it, thanks to the tighter cinematography and Spidey's physical potential being presented much better.
The cast are of course fantastic. Holland has really settled into the role nicely and there is definite growth in his performance and character. I even enjoyed the romance subplot with MJ (Zendaya) a lot more than I thought I would. It was sweet, yet not overly-sentimentalized and felt very much like a real romance between two teenagers, unfiltered and not glamorised. MJ has become an interesting character in her own right, and not just someone for Peter to kiss at the end of the film. Gyllenhaal is also great as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. Mysterio is a character I've wanted to see on the big-screen for as long as I can remember due to his cinematic potential, and that potential is mostly realized here. You'd think the idea of Mysterio, a guy dressed in green who wears a fishbowl on his head, would be silly, but the film actually pulls it off and utilizes the character very well. Being an illusionist, some truly unique and interesting visuals come from his character and his powers, and are an absolute joy to watch. However, I'd be lying if I said that Mysterio as a character hasn't been done a thousand times in other films, and done better. There was one element of his backstory in particular that really frustrated me as it felt very predictable, rushed, and cliche. However, as I've said, this is a spoiler-free review, so all I can say is that he's a good character with some questionable motives that stop him from being a truly great character. I did enjoy the general themes his character brought to the film though, and he serves as a sly commentary on our pop culture and news culture.
Something the MCU gets criticized a lot for is its comedy. It can be very hit and miss for some people, and that comedy is very present in Far from Home. Most of it lands fine and I did chuckle a few times, but there was indeed the occasional dud that came off as more grating than funny. However, I've kinda come to expect this now from MCU films, so the comedy wasn't a huge issue for me. In terms of how accurate this film is to the comics and in capturing the general essence of the wallcrawler, this is probably the most un-Spidey Spidey film yet, and that can be a positive or a negative based on your viewpoint and opinion. Things are done and steps are taken with the character in this film that will either excite or enrage fans. Tony Stark's passing casts a heavy shadow over the events of this film, and it seems like they're building up Spidey to be the next equivalent to Iron Man, or at least the next flagship character of the MCU. This will definitely enrage some fans. I personally am glad that they're taking the character in a newer direction, but even I must admit that they do make some questionable, even downright outrageous, decisions. However, I have faith in Marvel to do right by the character so we'll just have to wait and see.
Overall, Spider-Man: Far from Home is a fun, bold adventure that goes where no Spidey film has gone before, both literally and figuratively. I still think I prefer Homecoming for it's refreshingly smaller-scale and charm (there's also no equal scene to the Vulture twist which means Far from Home really lacks that extra push in its storytelling and wow-factor). However, this is still a fun, thought-provoking film that is definitely in the upper-end of Spidey's best cinematic adventures. It's flawed and cliche at times, but is oozing with heart despite its heightened scale, making this a worthy entry to the beginning of the new phase of the MCU.