Jay Maidment

There are two truly fantastic Spider-Man movies: 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and 2018’s animated gem Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (For those of you screaming, “What about the incredible 1978 Japanese Spider-Man in which Spidey battles monsters from inside a giant robot?” Please SHUT UP. Though you’re correct that this was one of the greatest artistic accomplishments of our lifetime, that was a series, not a movie. Now stop interrupting.)

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Both of those wholly excellent films spotlighted the attribute that separates Spider-Man from all other less interesting heroes: his hormonal humanity. As in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original comic series, the two films leaned heavily on what it’s like to be a teenager who’s suddenly imbued with otherworldly abilities and responsibilities that most adults couldn’t handle. Spidey has “radioactive blood” coursing through his veins alongside equally horrifying teenage hormones, and the plots of both Homecoming and Spider-Verse celebrated this inherent tension, focusing on character over heroics.

Spidey has “radioactive blood” coursing through his veins alongside equally horrifying teenage hormones, and his best movies celebrate this inherent tension, focusing on character over heroics.

This brings us to the latest entry in the cinematic spider-verse: Spider-Man: Far from Home. The plot picks up after the bizarre and convoluted events in Avengers: Endgame, which are hilariously and cleverly recapped in the first five minutes of Far from Home by the adorably inept AV team at Peter Parker’s high school (this alone is worth the price of admission). Peter (Tom Holland, always great, in spite of his weird eyebrow) and his science club pals—best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and awkward love interest MJ (Zendaya)—are off on a class trip to Europe, where the webslinger hopes to take a much-needed break from all his superheroics. Unfortunately, he’s pulled back into the action by super spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a new hero, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), to battle a team of inter-dimensional monsters, the Elementals. Naturally—especially for those familiar with Spidey’s history—things are not always what they seem.

For those who have been salivating for a sequel to Homecoming—and more Spider-Man than we got in the last two Avengers movies—you can relax. Spider-Man: Far from Home is pretty freaking good! It has almost everything you loved from Homecoming, plus better action sequences. That said, while Homecoming crackled with originality, Far from Home is far from what made its predecessor so great. Sure, it’s got snappy jokes, terrific characters, top-notch action, and loads of delicious teenage awkwardness. But it lacks the one thing Homecoming had in abundance: a laser-sharp focus on the emotional horror of being a teen.

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Homecoming was a brilliant homage to the ’80s films of John Hughes, and Peter’s relationships with his fellow teens made the movie work so much better than almost any other superhero blockbuster. Far from Home still has some of that interplay, but it comes off as perfunctory—as if the filmmakers are saying, “This worked great in the last one, let’s do it again!” but without any additional nuance.

And yet? I still loved it. It’s better and more emotionally resonant than the vast majority of superhero flicks, and even when Nick Fury is being portrayed as kind of a joke (weird choice, guys), Far from Home is an excellent sequel that will occasionally illicit ear-to-ear grins. I’m already excited for the next one, in which I hope they’ll bring the series back to its emotional home.

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