How do you solve a problem like Avengers: Endgame? Not that the adoration from critics and fans and record-breaking box office haul were a conundrum for Marvel, but the juggernaut of a superhero movie did introduce certain complications for any film that would follow -- perhaps none more so than Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The studio's first offering in a post-Endgame cinematic universe -- and so soon afterward -- had to legitimize a five-year time jump (henceforth known as "The Blip") and grapple with the death of Peter Parker's mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Far From Home tackles both head on, with delightful irreverence and a little Whitney Houston. (Regarding the former, yeah, it's awfully convenient that the handful of Peter's classmates we care about were all blipped up.)
So Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is un-blipped and attempting to establish some semblance of life as a normal high schooler, albeit one with spidey senses who's battled space aliens. Which is why Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes a-calling when four elemental monsters suddenly pop up and threaten mass annihilation. Unfortunately, the latest world-ending catastrophe happens to coincides with Peter's class trip to Europe.
Peter has a lot on his plate, and Holland sells it all. After From From Home, there is no doubt he is our generation's definitive Spider-Man. There's the sweet, quippy Peter we know, but if the character's woes in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming were of the teenage angst variety, now Holland imbues in him an ache that only comes from experiencing great loss. (Like how New York City gets fifth billing, Tony's ghost really is another character.) That ache is always there, just under the surface, even as Peter distracts himself with sight-seeing, a blossoming romance with M.J. (Zendaya, whose performance is all the more impressive seeing this in tandem with HBO's Euphoria) and fending off city-leveling attacks alongside a mysterious new ally from an alternate Earth, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), nicknamed Mysterio.
As Mysterio, a fan favorite from the comic books, Gyllenhaal is softer here than in anything else in recent years, affable and sincere in his scenes with Holland, before slipping into the more Jake Gyllenhaal-y Acting he's perfected over however many Dan Gilroy projects. (That latter sentiment I say with utmost praise.) Holland is great opposite Jackson, too; Peter's fumbling awkwardness proving a fun counterpoint to Fury's swaggering gravitas. It's a different flavor than Peter and Tony, than Fury and any of the other Avengers.
What ultimately makes the movie work as a whole is the balancing act of big stakes and idiosyncratic silliness, similar to why Holland's performance in it is so effective. Once again directed by Jon Watts from a screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Far From Home makes room for both: For laugh-out-loud comedy, courtesy of Peter and classmates Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) and Flash (Tony Revolori), and for deftly crafted set pieces, bigger and splashier than those in Peter's last solo outing and full of moments the wall crawler himself would find so cool. Oftentimes, for both at once.
I have quibbles, too, some issues with the second act that felt like they could derail this whole thing. (This is when the movie becomes difficult to discuss without giving away any twists.) But they're ultimately forgiven, as Far From Home has one of the strongest third acts in MCU canon, with one sequence in particular that will be remembered as an all-time best. Far From Home sticks the landing, and that might be the most important thing it needed to do after an utter behemoth like Endgame. The fallout from that movie feels effortlessly worked into the fabric of the universe by the time the end credits roll here, opening Marvel's saga up to a new beginning. And then the post-credits scenes change everything.