The best thing I can say about Spider-Man No Way Home is that despite being the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s the first to actually feel like a Spider-Man film. Not saying that the previous two films were bad (I loved Mysterio in Far From Home) but they were definitely MCU movies first and foremost.
This film pushes Peter Parker, his allies, his enemies, and what it means to be Spider-Man to the absolute limit and it is all the better for it. If you’re a fan of the web crawler, this is the film you’ve been waiting for.
Villains From Another World
The film takes place directly after the events of the previous film. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been unmasked as Spider-Man. He and his friends are hounded by the media, including a magnificent JK Simmons returning as J. Jonah Jameson, they can’t get into college and they’re harassed in the streets. Peter has enough and goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to have the memory of him being Spider-Man erased from the public. But he messes up the spell. Now villains who have fought Spider-Man from different universes (ie the old film communities) have arrived and are wreaking havoc. Spider-Man has to track them down and send them home.
As I said in the intro, the greatest strength of this story, outside of the obvious fanservice is the high focus on Spider-Man. This is his story, his allies, and villains. The greater MCU is kept to an absolute minimum, even Doctor Strange is pretty much just a minor character. Unlike Ironman or Nick Fury in the past films, this movie is centered almost entirely around Spider-Man, and it’s refreshing. As the MCU has gone on, each individual hero’s story has felt less personal, and every movie has felt more like just another episode in the greater franchise.
Tonally, this film has more in common with the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films or the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon show and that is certainly not a bad thing.
This goes into the themes and development as well, bringing Spider-Man back to the character’s traditional roots. Instead of the genius protege of Tony Start, Peter Parker returns to the down on his luck everyman, caught between the strain of his two identities, much like what the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb versions of the character were.
This is Tom’s Holland’s best performance as Peter Parker. He feels older and wiser yet more vulnerable with everyone he cares about at risk. That old theme of power and reasonability truly shines throughout the movie, as Peter starts to truly question if he can keep up being Spider-Man when everything in his normal life is crashing down because of it. Does he truly have the obligation to help others just because he has the ability to do so? For the first time in the MCU, I truly think that age-old question is being put to the test.
Spider-Man’s Amazing Friends
The three main supporting characters here are Peter’s girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), all of whom have far more to do than in previous movies. Like Holland, these are easily their best performances as they are far more involved in the action, helping Spider-Man save the day and get their lives on track. They also serve as a great example of how the spider-Man identity affects other people besides Peter and how they deal with the exposure both for Peter and for themselves.
Benedict Cumberbatch is also great as Doctor Strange. I love his dry attitude towards Spider-Man, the kid is a pain in his side and he makes that known. A far cry from Tony Stark’s more guiding approach. If anything though, it shows Peter is growing up and others are treating him as such.
With all this praise, I’ll say the film still suffers a little from trying to use quips too much and in the wrong places. You have several dramatic scenes that they just needed to linger on a little longer only for an awkward joke to break the tension. It’s not as bad as some of Marvel’s other films but No Way Home could really have done without them.
Spider-Man’s Sinister Foes
The stars of the show here however are the five villains returning from previous films: Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Lizard, and Electro. Watching these five personalities interact and exchange snark and memories were highly entertaining. It definitely feels like they were given the conclusions that they never got in their original films. I’ll admit the lizard was a bit overshadowed but for a movie with 5 villains, the other four are well fleshed out, with distinct personalities and motives.
Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is a reformed villain who just wants to return to his own world and see his daughter. Electro (Jamie Foxx) is still an awkward outcast, wishing to use his powers to lash out at the world that rejected him. Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) is delightfully snarky as an extreme scientist who’ll go to any lengths to achieve his goals.
And then there’s Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborne aka the Green Goblin. He rivals Mysterio for best Spider-Man villain in the MCU. He wants Spider-Man dead. He’s sadistic, cruel, and his first scene with Peter is chilling. He doesn’t even seem to care that it’s not his worlds Peter, he just wants the young man to suffer. Much like in the original Spider-Man movie, the Goblin believes that those with power are gods who can do as they please, bringing him in direct conflict with Spider-Man’s beliefs about responsibility. Dafoe and Holland portray this rivalry perfectly, it really reminds you why these two are supposed to be arch-enemies.
The only problem is that I wish we saw more of him. He makes the most of his screen time but he still could have done with a little more to really iron in some of that deep-seated rivalry the two had.
In general, the film can definitely feel squashed at times with certain plot points and motives being brushed through a bit too quickly to the point that it feels a little jarring. This is one film where I’d really like to see an extended cut so they could iron a few scenes out but for the most part, they’re still really good.
The battles in Spider-Man No Way Home are great. Of course, being an MCU movie the high budget speaks for itself, however, the movie is good at making the fighting distinct. Each of the combatants uses their special powers to the best of their ability which makes its character feel unique and the fights more memorable. Much like the train scene in Spider-Man 2 could only be done with Spidey and Doc Ock, these fights could only be done with these characters. And without spoiling anything, the third act fight and everything that leads up to it is spectacular. Fan service at its best and most rewarding.
Spider-Man No Way Home is a fantastic Spider-Man movie that truly feels like it truly understands and appreciates the core of what makes Spider-Man such a beloved superhero. It does a brilliant job of replicating the feel of the character from the comics and previous movies and exemplifying their best features.
Spideys allies and villains are both on point, with the villains, in particular, having strong performances all around. The film is a love letter to Spider-Man as a character. His world, allies, villains, and overall history on the silver screen. If you’re a big Spider-Man fan, this is certainly one you want to swing into.
|The best characterization of MCU Spider-Man to date||Humour isn’t always used well|
|Well written villains and supporting cast||Pacing can be too quick at times|
|Well done action scenes|
For more information on Spider-Man, check out our explanation of the mid-credit scene in Spider-Man No Way Home and what it could mean for Spidey in the future.