SPOILER ALERT: The following review may contain spoilers.
Long before the movie was even released, Spider-Man: No Way Home had a lot of things going on for it. And that might be an understatement. There were rumors of at least five villains, the returning and uniting of Spider-Men, and the concept of the multiverse opening all up, No Way Home pulled in and crammed in a lot of specific plot devices and storylines in order to become the next Avengers: Endgame and for the most part, everything works. Nothing feels forced and the payoff is amazing. Pun intended.
Despite a tangled web of characters, backstories, and plot, No Way Home manages to achieve the unthinkable, keeping the focus of the story as narrow as possible so that things don’t get too convoluted, learning from the past mistakes of another “Spider-Man 3” film, we understand where each character comes from and their motivations.
The nostalgia is heavy in this film for obvious reasons which is why, if you haven’t, you must watch Spider-Man’s back-catalog so that you can be hip as to why the people around you in your theater are clapping and cheering at any given moment.
The film would still be enjoyable even if you weren’t familiar with the past 20 years of Spider-Man films because doing as Marvel does, No Way Home is a very entertaining movie and stands out on its own.
This is basically the Tom Holland Spider-Man movie that feels the most like the comics. Without spoiling the film, but generally speaking, in the comics and the storylines within, they get reset every so often so that the main characters can stay the same age for example or to bring back characters that were killed, back into the fold. With the Sony/Marvel partnership always at the forefront of all things involving Spider-Man, as you watch it becomes inevitable as to which way the shift of power and control was going. It doesn’t affect the story but it’s just something that I picked up early on and had guessed beforehand would happen.
Director Jon Watts gives us a darker tone and sets the stage for real consequences to affect Peter Parker’s journey into ultimately becoming the best version of himself that he wants to become one day.
The film takes place immediately after Spider-Man: Far From Home and Peter Parker is dealing with the fallout of those events when his secret identity was made public, along with the lie of him murdering Mysterio. Now, the media is after him, led by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), and he’s become literally the most famous person in the world overnight. And now Peter and his friends must adjust their lives considerably with them now being in the uncomfortable spotlight of the public eye.
Now, this sounds bad, but one could argue that it doesn’t sound that bad enough of a reason for Peter to then do what he does next, and that is going to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and requesting the sorcerer to cast a spell that reverses everything back to normal.
The idea starts off innocently enough and full of the typical high school teen flick with fun and hijinks, in keeping with the same themes of Holland’s first two films. But then things take a much different path and goes down a darker path that hasn’t been seen up to this point.
As previously mentioned, Marvel had long advertised the inclusion of returning villains Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). I believe that this was done so that if you weren’t familiar with them, you can learn up on their backstories since there’s very little here that explains why each villain reacts the way they do after being plucked from their universe and plunged into the MCU.
I initially thought there might be a “sinister” sixth villain that they were trying to surprise us with and unless you count the next big bad for Spidey that they’re trying to set up in the after-credits scene, that number stands at five.
And although there’s little there that explains these villains’ motivation, it really doesn’t matter. We get it. That’s how beautifully crafted this flick is in regards to staying focused on Holland’s Spider-Man’s journey and not letting all of this extra fanfare and nostalgia cloud that journey for us.
The standouts are Green Goblin and Doc Ock. Willem Dafoe still has it. So does Molina. And they really bring it! And thanks to Marvel’s de-aging tech, they mostly look like they did almost 20 years ago which is crazy! And their mannerisms and voice inflections for their respective characters seamlessly flowed into this pic from yesteryear’s movies.
By now it is well known that Foxx’s Electro has undergone a makeover and there’s some hilarious dialog there between him and Lizard that somewhat acknowledges this change although it’s not explained.
The Spider-Men’s reveal brought the loudest applause and some of the best moments, in general. Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men gave us a taste for the first time of how a live-action Into the Spider-Verse could work.
The banter between the three Spider-Men was classic and there’s some self-awareness and self-depreciation there coming from Andrew’s Spider-Man in particular with Toby giving him a pep talk and uplifting his “amazing” brother.
There’s a nice payoff and some redemption there for Andrew’s Spidey as well in this film. It is clear that he is the star as he stole the show in every scene he was in.
The visual effects are awesome and are to be expected at this point coming from a Marvel film. There’s a sequence with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man that is pretty trippy which even shows us just how smart Peter Parker is in the MCU, which has somewhat been avoided when compared to his Sony counterparts and his character in the comics. It was nice to see the brainiac side of Peter for a chance.
The action scenes are grittier than ever before. Much bloodier. And a first-person perspective straps us in for a dizzying ride as Spidey swings around the city. Aunt May gives us a classic line that we have yet to hear in the MCU and in doing so may or may not have confirmed that all of those hints at there being an Uncle Ben in this universe were red herrings and that he never existed. I guess we’ll have to wait and see the Disney+ series Spider-Man: Freshman Year confirm this for us.
Spider-Man No Way Home Review
The MCU takes what could have been a very convoluted affair and somehow keeps its focus, to give us a very satisfying adventure.
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