Spider-Man: No Way Home is a film I was excited about seeing for certain. A lot, really.
In-fact, in-order to appreciate how much I was looking forward to this film, I would have to recount a small memory for you – a six-year-old in the theater seeing Green Goblin on the big-screen, duking it out with the 30-year-old Tobey Maguire, portraying a high schooler. I loved the film, and, all the years later, that affection hasn’t went away at all. The original 2002 Spider-Man film was instantly iconic, filled to the brim with memorable moments and thoughtful cinematography and storytelling, setting a standard for Marvel fare that still holds when I revisit the film.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a hodgepodge film, so to speak. First and foremost, a sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home and carries on from the aftermath of that film – of Spider-Man’s secret identity being made public, along with him being framed for the murder of Mysterio. However, this is a very, very busy film. This is a … legacy(?) sequel, a phrase I’ve never used prior and I’m not even sure is the best way to describe it. Not only is it a sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home, but it brings plot threads (or webs) over from The Amazing Spider-Man (and its sequel), as well as the aforementioned Sam Raimi Trilogy. As trailers have shown, moviegoers can expect Willem Dafoe’s return as Green Goblin, and other villains such as Doc Ock, Electro, and the Lizard.
In the Jon Watt directed sequel, Peter Parker seeks out the assistance of Doctor Strange, asking him to perform a spell that will erase the world’s memory of ever learning he, Peter Parker, was Spider-Man. However, the vagueness of the request evokes a misunderstanding and disrupts the spell, resulting in unforeseen consequences – i.e. supervillains from the multiverse are spilling out into his world.
This is a film I think could’ve went either way, and I am happy to say the result felt like a best case scenario for such a grandiose, unprecedented concept. When we look back at the best of the Spider-Man filmography, or, more specifically, the detriments of the filmography’s worst, it is often when the film’s overstuff themselves that they start to burst at the seams. This is the exact definition of an overstuffed Spider-Man film, and yet, I feel it was very careful and thoughtful with how it handled its many subplots and surplus of characters. Like, Avengers: Endgame, and, of course, prior Avengers films, I’ve noticed the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in spite any faults we may have about formulaic storytelling, etc., is very skillful at taking a lot of characters and not overcomplicating it.
This film concerns itself, obviously, as a sequel and culmination to the Home trilogy, and doesn’t underserve in that department whatsoever. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man feels more fleshed out and more his own than he ever felt in the prior installments. An endorsement I made myself, and heard many others make in the theater is that it felt like the film went through, checking off boxes, for the criticisms many fans had of the character and his portrayal. One such criticism was in-regards to Spider-Man’s own identity, with criticisms directed as his repeated connections to Iron Man, be it with his suit or the supervillains he is pitted against. This film, although featuring Doctor Strange, is largely Spider-Man’s film, with familiar faces feeling welcome, but not overtaking of the main central conflict. This film sees the web-crawler tackle morality in ways unlike any we’d seen prior in the MCU’s interpretation. Likewise, the supervillains feel squarely footed in Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery, with motivations centered on Spider-Man himself, albeit, not necessary this Spider-Man’s.
The villains deliver very well. This is a very fan-service-y film, by all means, and any Spider-Man fan will absolutely love this film. Something I was fearful of, or, at least, thinking, however, was that the film would coast off nostalgia and cameos as opposed to them actually doing anything. Green Goblin delivers, with Willam Dafoe nailing it and leaving me wanting more, and Doc Ock offers an unexpected, but great contrast off of him. The other villains are largely supplementary, offering fun, dizzying mayhem.
If there is one thing I’ve always disliked about Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, and, in fact, most MCU films, it is a lack of interesting, unique cinematography, or a noteworthy musical score. This film doesn’t reinvent the wheel visually, per se, but it does offer a lot more of what I wish would be the standard of Marvel fare. Likewise, I appreciated the way they incorporated scores from prior iterations to make each villain feel more distinct.
With a runtime of 148 minutes, Spider-Man: No Way Home is the longest film of the Spider-Man series, and yet, aside maybe the sheer watchability of the first couple Raimi films, a Spider-Man film has never flown by faster. It has more emotional depth than either of the prior films, and, honestly, I found it actually made me appreciate the earlier installments more after watching it (which, by the way, it is not like I disliked either Homecoming or Far From Home). It made it feel full-circle as though Tom Holland had fully come into his own as Spider-Man, seizing the one real piece to the puzzle that had been alluding him.
I liked Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home overall. I felt they were solid entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, abiding a similar formula as a lot of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films. All that in mind, from the moment I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, even though I knew deep down it was better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for instance, simply because the decisions The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made, I couldn’t help but feel like something had been lost. The excitement of Spider-Man in the MCU, to me, was always that it would elevate the MCU, because he is the richest character they’ve got, if only because so many people’s emotional attachment to him and the many writers that have went toward shaping him. This film made me feel like whatever was missing had been found and it made me excited for what would come next moving forward. This was the first time in over a decade and a half that I’ve really been excited about what’s next for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a great superhero film and a very good film, in my book. It is a crowd-pleasing film, for certain, and I think you will have naysayers who may use that as an argument to stifle what I feel are genuine merits of the film itself, like its storytelling, balance, and overall execution. They have their right to an opinion. For me though, this hit the spot.