When Spider-Man: Homecoming released back in 2017, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic for yet another Spider-Man movie. It was the fifth Spider-Man movie in 15 years, Tom Holland the third actor to play Peter Parker, and as charming of a performance as he gave in Captain America: Civil War, it was hard to care about another Spider-Man movie. Then I watched Homecoming and felt like a right twit. It’s fantastic. Simply a perfect Spider-Man movie, surpassing both Raimi’s trilogy and the ill-timed Amazing Spider-Man films. With Homecoming, Holland cemented himself as the quintessential Peter Parker and would continue to do so in subsequent appearances in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Given that Homecoming was such a wonderful surprise, the hype for Spider-Man: Far From Home is very high. Following so closely after Endgame doesn’t help, either, because expectations for the next Marvel Cinematic Universe movie are even higher. But happily, I can report that Far From Home more than lives up to hype and high expectations. From beginning to end, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a total delight. It builds on what made Homecoming so enjoyable – the characters, set pieces, and genuine surprises – and has an impact on the MCU in a way that few solo films ever do.

Spider-Man: Far From Home catches up with Peter shortly after Endgame, now back in school following “the blip” – the new, catchy term coined for the five year disappearance of half the population. Still reeling from the death of Tony Stark, his mentor and fellow Avenger who sacrificed himself to save the universe, Peter’s hope is that a school trip to Europe will give him some time away from superheroes and world-ending threats. Not to mention, a chance to finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Of course, nothing about this European vacation goes how Peter plans. Almost as soon as he arrives, he’s suiting up to help Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and a new hero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) with the latest catastrophic threat, all the while, MJ appears to be getting closer with another of Peter’s classmates. What is a teenage superhero to do?

Holland was born to play Peter Parker and the performance he gives in Far From Home is his best yet. He still has that teenage awkwardness and quippy humor, but this Peter has been through some stuff (see: Infinity War and Endgame), and those trials have matured him. Holland expertly portrays this push and pull between Peter wanting to be a normal teen and feeling like he needs to fill Iron Man’s shoes. There are scenes in Far From Home which challenge Holland, both physically but even more so emotionally, and they make Peter a far more interesting character. The evolution of Spider-Man as a hero in this film is significant, never feeling rushed or halfhearted, and it leaves the character’s future in a most interesting place.

Along with Holland, Zendaya is at her best as MJ, playing her as a moody and darkly funny teen that was really only hinted at in Homecoming. This isn’t your father’s MJ, that’s for sure, but the character and the film are all the better for it. Ned (Jacob Batalon) is just as funny if not funnier this time around, and his summer fling with Betty (Angourie Rice) helps to keep Far From Home grounded as a film about teenagers even when they’re under attack from a two-story tall fire monster. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan, aiding Peter with his superheroing but also being there to listen when Peter doubts himself. Favreau and Holland have great chemistry, and considering both characters’ attachment to Stark, it feels right that these two would be there for each other. With Jackson and Smulders back in the saddle as Fury and Hill, SHIELD’s role in Far From Home continues that wider MCU connection, and in this case, the way its used is a stroke of genius. Lastly, Gyllenhaal as the new character, Mysterio, is just as much of a masterstroke and his performance here is deceivingly good. I wish I could say more, but the less you know about Mysterio, the better.

The Spider-Man action in Far From Home is unparalleled. The maneuvers Peter pulls off and the ways in which he uses his webs are truly a step above all the Spidey-action that’s come before (with perhaps the exception of Into the Spider-Verse, but then that isn’t live-action). Far From Home does all of that and then evolves it, eventually introducing a Spider-Man with a greater mastery of his abilities and again teasing an exciting future for the character. The film’s comedy is similarly exceptional, beginning on a hilarious beat and rarely letting go of it. Not that there aren’t more dramatic moments – there are and they’re fantastic – but they only work so well in contrast to how lighthearted much is in Far From Home.

As surely you’ve heard by now, Spider-Man: Far From Home does include not one but two credit scenes and yes, they are just as mind-blowing as they’ve been teased as being. I won’t spoil anything here, but they’re worth your time. Everyone will be talking about them. Wait around and watch them.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is one heck of an achievement. It is both the fun, hilarious, action-packed sequel to Homecoming that perfectly builds on what that previous film did so well, and it’s also the next foray into the MCU, establishing the post-Endgame status quo and then changing it some more in dramatic, unexpected ways. The expert way in which this movies balances those dual aspects is why Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t just the next, must-see Marvel movie – it’s the must-see Marvel movie that’s setting the bar for all the upcoming must-see Marvel movies.

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