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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

[Editor's Note: It's really hard to talk about this film without giving away some pretty major spoilers for Avengers Endgame and Infinity War. So if you haven't seen those films and don't want to spoil it, beware! You have been warned!]

After the emotional rollercoaster that was the last two Avengers movies (with Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel sandwiched inbetween), who better to sooth our shaken souls than the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man? Only in Spider-Man: Far From Home, 16-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates are leaving New York to head for Europe for a little R & R. And if Peter has his way, a little romance with MJ (Zendaya). Only of course, things don't go exactly to plan- Peter's class gets caught up in a battle between Mysterio (a man claiming to come from a parallel Earth) and an Elemental. Before he knows it, Peter's trip is hijacked by Nick Fury, and he finds himself alongside Mysterio, fighting the Elemental threat across Europe.

After the epic world-changing events of Endgame, Far From Home has the difficult task of wrapping up the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and of working as a sequel to Homecoming and as a satisfying standalone story. That it's a success is (as with much of the MCU) quite an achievement.

It has so many balls to juggle- dealing with the Snap(s )and the loss of Tony, continuing the story begun in Homecoming and to introduce a whole new storyline and threat. Director John Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers managed to do just that and create a charming, funny, thrilling film.

It's a light and breezy affair for the most part, deftly answering many of the questions people had about the ramifications of Endgame's end in the opening few minutes. It's then able to concentrate on what made Homecoming such a delight- the John Hughes style teen movie in a world where Norse Gods, sentient killer robots and not-so-jolly green giants are just part of everyday life.

It's a testament to the writing (and the performances) that even if you took out the superhero elements, it would still be a great teen comedy. Holland is the best on-screen portrayal of Parker we've seen- he does the awkward, excitable teen thing better than any of his live-action predecessors. Zendaya is fantastic here too in a much bigger role that's a completely fresh take on the MJ we've seen in past iterations.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio) also has a lot of charisma in the role, stepping up as a sort of mentor figure to Parker.

The MCU's detractors often see the film's interconnectedness as a burden. But in fact, it's an advantage that few films have really had before, taking place in a richly detailed, lived-in world, that each film only builds on. Yet there's enough information here that if you've only seen Homecoming, or even if it is your first Marvel film, it can still be enjoyable. But if you are a fan- there's so much more to it.

The film's effects are shown off in a number of spectacular set-pieces in various European locations- Venice, Prague, London and more. The Elementals-  Hydron, Hellfire,  Magnum and Zephyr are spectacular creations that pose a convincing threat. Mysterio too, cuts quite the figure, sporting the iconic fish-bowl look from his comic version, cape and an impressive power set.

Later on, the film's most spectacular visuals come in the form of a pair of trippy, reality-bending sequences that could have come straight off the comic book page- or wandered in from a Doctor Strange movie. To give away too much would be to spoil the surprise but believe me, they are some of the most impressive scenes to grace the MCU.

The iconic shots of Spidey swinging across New York are rare this time (given that it takes place 90% out of NYC) but when they are used, they have the requisite "wow" factor. How much of the audience is even aware these shots are animation?

Even if you've seen all the trailers, the film still holds plenty of surprises- right up until the post-credits, in classic Marvel style. There's a big character twist that anyone even vaguely aware of the comics continuity knew was coming, but still somehow feels unexpected. Ultimately, it adds real emotional layers to the final showdown.

Taking Spider-Man out of New York was a gamble- we've never seen it for an entire movie before. But bringing his classmates along mean is still feels like a fitting sequel to Homecoming, even though it's played out on a much grander scale.

Far From Home is a satisfying end to the first three phases of the MCU. After the huge stakes of Avengers, this feels like a much smaller scale affair.  With this film, Watts, Holland, Kevin Feig and company cement their claim to have brought to life the best (live-action) incarnation of Spider-Man to ever swing onto screens.

FORMAT: Cinema  FROM: Sony RATING: PG-13[US] 12A [UK] RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes 

IN A NUTSHELL: A delicious, but not overstuffed desert after the three-course banquet that was Endgame.