This Spider-Man will not disappoint!
The 27th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: No Way Home, picks up almost immediately after the events of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home when Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), in his dying words, reveals Peter Parker’s secret identity to the public. This turns Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) life upside down, as people not only know that he is Spider-Man, but believe he is responsible for the incident that happened in London. Due to his newfound infamy, Peter is not able to walk down the street without being mobbed by protesters or paparazzi. In addition, because of this controversy infamy, all colleges he applied to have rejected his applications. Fed up with this new life, and seeing how negatively it affects those closest to him, Peter finally decides to take his chances and enlists the help of fellow Avenger, Doctor Strange, who reluctantly agrees to cast a spell where the world will forget that Peter is Spider-Man. When a nervous Peter accidentally tampers with the spell, he unwittingly opens the “multi-verse,” in which several nemeses of Spider-Men in other universes, including Doc Oc, Green Goblin, Electro, Lizard, and Sandman, are released into this one. Now it is up to Peter to find these villains and send them back, with some help along the way.
From an outsider’s standpoint, No Way Home has a big order to fill. Not only must it follow the huge cliffhanger ending of Far From Home, but it must also introduce the concept of the Multiverse, provide a live-action “Spider-verse,” and set up future MCU entries. Already, this seems like too much for one Spider-Man film to bear while trying to tell its own story. In addition, it seemed like it would have the same fate as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider Man-2, in that it would be both overstuffed, unfocused, and disappointing. One will then be surprised to find that this film not only manages to tackle all these tasks, but also deliver possibly one of the best Spider-Man films to date.
It seems that Sony Pictures finally learned the failures of their previous efforts with Spider-Man and delivered a solid trilogy in conjunction with Marvel Studios. The filmmakers appear to have taken one of the best elements of Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Peter struggling to maintain his life of being Spider-Man, and upped the ante enough to make the story even more compelling. Having Peter Parker’s identity revealed to the public eye is a new direction to take the character, and the film does a great job conveying how stressful of a situation it is, especially compared to Peter’s life when it was secret. This can be felt within the first few minutes of the film, which feature a long take of Peter at home trying to tell his Aunt May of his secret identity before the news does. It is a scene that is both intense and anxiety inducing, and does a great job at setting the viewer up for the stressful, yet entertaining ride that is to come.
The film’s story also has a surprising amount of emotional weight and significant stakes. Of course, it has some of the comic relief that the MCU films are known for (and thankfully, it fits much better in the Spider-Man films), but some scenes are more dramatic and character driven, thanks to both the writing and the acting. Tom Holland has proven with his 5 previous MCU appearances to be a both a great Peter Parker and Spider-Man. With this entry, however, the story gives him opportunities to really show Peter’s emotional growth, and this may be some of Holland’s best acting work to date. Some of the situations that Peter finds himself in are both stressful and overwhelming, and some scenes with him are truly devastating to watch. While Tobey Maguire did a great job conveying Peter’s stressful Spider-Man 2, Holland’s performance brings a whole new layer to this character that takes him places that should be seen in sequels.
What one might find interesting is how much better No Way Home looks and sounds compared to the previous two Spider-Man films. While the latter films were competently made, they suffer from the same problem that most MCU films face in that they look too bland and similar to each other, lacking any true sense of directorial style. However, while No Way Home retains some of that sameness, it also looks much more vibrant and colorful, has plenty of effectively suspenseful scenes with proper shadows and lighting, and features several interesting camera angles. The filmmakers seem to have gone the extra mile with making this film feel grander and more cinematic. This could be due to advances in technology and software, or the filmmakers having the extra time to fine-tune the film due to the delays caused by the ongoing global pandemic. No matter the case, this look compliments the momentous feel of the film’s story.
Because this movie deals with the Spider-verse, there are, of course, plenty of references, callbacks, and cameos from both the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield-era of Spider-Man films. As seen in the marketing, most of the villains from said films return in this film, all played by their original actors. It is welcoming to see them back, as some of their characterizations, visual aesthetics, and performances have been slightly improved from the original films, particularly with Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Although Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius is a treat to watch as always, the real standout is Willem Dafoe’s reprisal as Norman Osbourne/Green Goblin, and he not lost one ounce of his hypnotizing charisma. Dafoe’s performance is so fun and entrancing, that it is practically impossible to imagine anyone else as this torn character, and his role in the story is more important than one might be led to believe.
There are also other important appearances from certain characters, but these are not ones worth spoiling in writing. One of the truly special aspects of going to the cinema is the real-time experience of the audience members, something that they can experience together as a group. The social media-driven climate of the world today poses as a threat to that experience, as movie as spoilers are nearly impossible to keep under wraps anymore. Even though one can practically guess who these appearances belong to, the way in which they are introduced and their actions in the story are the real heart of what makes them so effective. Their scenes are funny, heartfelt, devastating, and quite possibly some of the most rewarding moments any Spider-Man fan could have watching a movie.
This trait also brings up another reason why Spider-Man: No Way Home is a triumph. This film is one of the rare cases of movie nostalgia done right. Although watching the previous Spider-Man films is helpful to feel the impact of certain scenes, it is not required. The film is so well written, directed, and acted, that the characters feel relatable and likable, thus, audience members can easily get invested first-hand. Then, when the nostalgia fueled moments do take place, they feel more like a bonus treat that compliments the themes of the story and the arc of the main character. That being said, those who has seen the previous films will be pleasantly rewarded, as some moments rectify errors in previous Spider-Men films. Even those who are not familiar with previous Spider-Man films will walk away from this film feeling butterflies in their stomachs, which is supposedly better than feeling spiders.
Spider-Man: No Way Home may not only be one of the best live-action Spider-Man films, but also one of the best films in the MCU. With its improved cinematography, intricate action scenes, fully realized characters, and emotional weight, the film takes the titular character, as well as the audience, on an intense, yet fun, roller coaster ride that is rewarding in every sense of the word. This film feels like the type of event film people would flock to the cinemas during the holiday season, and leave feeling every emotion including joy, shock, pain, and most importantly, hope! As a character in the film says, “Expect disappointment and you won’t be disappointed.” Let it be known that there is no disappointment to be found here.