Look, this is your warning. I’ll be talking in very general terms but there are spoilers below because Spider-Man: No Way Home is basically just two-plus hours of spoilers. It would be impossible to discuss this film in terms that didn’t reveal anything and so I will try to stay as far away from revealing things as I can. Honestly, that just isn’t going to work. There’s just too much.
Too much of what, you may ask. Too much of awesome. Too much of plotlines and story twists. Too much of nostalgia. Too much of everything you wanted. Too much of everything and all in the best way possible. Spider-Man: No Way Home is an incredible achievement of plotting, action, story, and fan service that may even top Avengers: Endgame in every way except spectacle. Unlike any other Phase 4 Marvel film, it is a return to form (not that they got that far away from it) and a total triumph.
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Spider-Man: No Way Home
Director: Jon Watts
Release Date: December 17, 2021 (Theatrical)
Now Way Home picks up right where the post-credit sequence of Spider-Man: Far From Home left off. Jay Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), recast as an Alex Jones-type Internet blowhard, has just outed Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as Spider-Man and turned him into public enemy number one. Peter’s life falls apart, but even worse for him is that the lives of MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) are effectively ruined. So he does what any teenager would do and tries to find a way out by asking Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that would make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man.
Things, however, don’t go as planned and the spell, instead, rips open the multiverse and starts pulling in anyone who knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man from other universes. Those universes, of course, are the previous live-action Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire. And so — deep breathe — we get a movie that features Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx as Electro, Rhys Ifans as the Lizard, and Thomas Haden Church as Sandman.
It is a cavalcade of characters that appear on the screen and yet, somehow, Spider-Man: Now Way Home never feels crowded or overstuffed as past multi-villain Spider-Man movies have. Part of this fact is that all the characters already had movies to introduce themselves so we’re not hampered by villain origin stories. Even so, the film feels like it fleshes out its returning villains in ways we haven’t seen since the first two Spidey films despite the crowded slate. You’re never sitting there wishing that someone got more screen time and the film actually takes some of the more underdeveloped flaws of the original films and plays with them. This isn’t The Amazing Spider-Man 2, folks.
What is even more impressive is the fact that the film also functions as an emotionally charged and satisfying conclusion to Holland’s Spidey trilogy. There’s still space for him and the rest of the ongoing cast to develop as characters, open up, and hit some truly devastating emotional moments. Despite being crammed full of characters and a storyline that involves magical wizards, the entire thing is grounded in the character of Spider-Man/Peter Parker and it is simply fantastic to behold. There is far more to discuss in this realm of characters and story but any more would lead to massive spoilers.
What isn’t a spoiler is just how good Holland is in the role of Spider-Man. As the only actor who has actually felt like a teenager in the series, watching him in this third film is triumphant. He handles the pathos and the humor wonderfully while being fantastically supported by a cast that very obviously enjoys being together. Even better, the A-list villain actors are giving it their all. Dafoe is allowed to Dafoe all over the screen, reprising his role with gusto and Molina shows us why he’s still one of the greatest comic book movie villains of all time as he treads the line between psychosis and empathy.
What might be most striking about No Way Home, however, is how well it handles the Marvel formula. The comedy here feels natural, possibly benefitting from Spider-Man’s history of quipping, and the “bigger picture” stuff in terms of the MCU narrative doesn’t feel shoved in. A lot of that comes from the fact that the film’s story is the bigger picture on the whole. This is the next Captain America: Civil War, setting up the future narratives of the MCU.
Yet, unlike Civil War, which wasn’t truly a Captain America movie, it also is a Spider-Man movie through and through. The film concludes a spectacular trilogy of films, carrying Holland’s Spider-Man from an awe-struck teenager trying too hard to the hero we know. There’s actual character growth here, not to mention a wonderful bit of heroes fighting each other as the idealism of Peter Parker clashes with the pragmatism of the Sorcerer Supreme.
It is also just plain fun. There is something joyous about the movie that spills off the screen and into the theater. One of those times when nostalgia actually feels sincere instead of a cash grab and the cast actually believes what they’re doing. Director Jon Watts, who has helmed the trilogy, delivers a movie that he is clearly connected to, even if his action direction is still a bit lacking.
It is movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home that will keep the MCU strong for years and years to come. Yes, most MCU movies are enjoyable and well made and good, but every so often they’re more than that. They’re modern myths, writ large on a big screen, delivering morality, adventure, and insight. Superhero movies may dominate the box office but their continued success is because sometimes, just sometimes, they become more. Spider-Man: No Way Home is more.