RELEASED: December 15th 2021
DISTRIBUTED BY: Disney
DIRECTED BY: Jon Watts
WRITTEN BY: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal
MUSIC BY: Michael Giacchino
STARRING: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, Thomas Hayden Church, Rhys Ifans & Benedict Cumberbatch
REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 was a bit of a mess. Amazing Spider-Man 3 was cancelled. But it seems the third (third) time’s a charm, as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man manages to close out his trilogy in style, this time with even more villains to deal with than his predecessors!
No Way Home catches up with Peter Parker after he has been framed for murder and his identity leaked to the world. Seeing the chaos that his dual lives are causing for those he loves, Peter enlists Doctor Strange to help restore his secret. But when their miscommunication leads to Strange’s spell going wrong, Peter must contend with a series of new threats, as Spider-Man villains from other universes (namely the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb’s Spider-Man films) are pulled into his world.
My favourite thing about Spider-Man: No Way Home is that it highlights, contrary to what some have argued after Homecoming and Far From Home, the people making these films do, without a doubt, get Spider-Man. Across its two and a half hour runtime, the film touches on all the hallmarks of a great Spider-Man story; responsibility, hardship, tragedy, humour, romance and the nature of heroism. Though the threat is now multiversal, it’s in the character beats and interactions that this movie truly shines, as it does a deep dive on what exactly makes Peter Parker Spider-Man.
In many ways, it tackles those aforementioned criticisms of Holland’s Spider-Man head-on. Some fans have bemoaned his overt connections to the wider MCU, as well as his seeming lack of having the whole ‘great power, great responsibility’ mantra down. But in the early comics (and even some newer ones), Peter does continuously have to relearn these lessons. He stumbles. He gives up. He makes mistakes. He has to get back into the action, fight through his hardships and take the mantra to heart all over again. The same is true of Holland’s Spider-Man. This whole trilogy has been about him learning to be Spider-Man, and at the end of this film, he’s definitively the Spider-Man we know and love from the comics – he’s just taken a little longer to get there than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men.
As for the inclusions from the wider Marvel Multiverse, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a welcome addition to the cast, as the film really plays up Spider-Man’s altruism by contrasting his take on heroics with that of Doctor Strange, as well as through the way he interacts with the villains themselves. While Strange wants to take the pragmatic approach of banishing them back their own universes/movies (and, thus, in some cases, their deaths), Spider-Man isn’t just trying to stop them, he’s trying to save them, something that really helps separate Spider-Man from your Iron Man’s and Captain America’s.
This makes the dynamic between Holland’s Spider-Man and these villains from other franchises even more entertaining, something that is helped tremendously by the solid performances from Dafoe, Molina and Foxx, who return as Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Electro, respectively. They really hammer down the villains threatening nature and present formidable adversaries for Parker. Dafoe in the particular is clearly having a ball, and his Goblin is just as threatening as he was nearly twenty years ago.
Meanwhile, Foxx’ new, suaver take on Electro elevates him into being a competent and menacing foe. Rhys Ifans and Thomas Hayden Church also give good turns as the Lizard and Sandman, but they ultimately take a back seat to the other three villains.
In fact, I often found myself enjoying the characters from the Amazing films far more in No Way Home than in their original outings. It was great to be able to see them get the writing and screen time they deserved to become fan favourites.
But good performances from actors like these is hardly a surprise, so it’s a blessing to see that on top of that, they all remain true to their depictions in the films they originally appeared in, never taking away from their original conclusions, and if anything adding to them.
The same can be said about Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau. As the Homecoming trilogy draws to a close, alongside, potentially, their time in the franchise, they all give their best performances yet. They help cement Peter Parker’s civilian life, despite the chaos that’s unfolding around it.
While the civilian characters arguably could have done with more fleshing out across the trilogy, they present great acting partners to Tom Holland, who really shines here. He displays such great range in this movie, capturing all the elements of Peter Parker’s personality with ease and demonstrating why he’s the perfect person for the role.
There are some elements to the film that rely on nostalgia more than they do solid writing or acting, with a couple of choice lines being included that seemed particularly egregious. Further, some of this film relies on your knowledge of the previous Spider-Man series, rather than spending screen time delving too deeply into the returning cast. Still, many will find enjoyment in their inclusion, as they help cement the idea that this film is a celebration of the character of Spider-Man, and I think the economic use of exposition will suffice for audiences who aren’t intimately familiar with the 8-film long series.
While No Way Home may not be flawless, it certainly is a damn good time. It’s visually exciting, heartfelt and surprisingly emotional. It’s a movie that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, especially among Spider-Man super-fans.
All-in-all, I give Spider-Man: No Way Home…
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