The (mind-blowing) nostalgia, the chaotic, fun nature of the entire feature, and the further insights of a despondent, dark mindset for the titular teenage superhero make Spider-Man: No Way Home an easy ‘A.’
Somehow, someway, Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios pulled this off. It’s fascinating to interrogate the collective past of Spider-Man films yet somehow pave a new future for Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character. Even when messing (a little too much, dare I say) with the fabric of time and space itself, the display here manages to keep a robust set of emotions within the heart of this ambitious feature. And when looking at the overall picture, it’s the very reason why Holland’s Spider-Man can remain close to home (even when he’s nowhere near it, as the title of the film states).
The movie picks up seconds after the shocking ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home, where Peter Parker’s (Holland) identity becomes exposed to the entire world (thanks to online muckraker J. Jonah Jameson). He also becomes framed for the damages caused in Europe and Mysterio’s death. Parker’s whole life implodes, now with the federal government, helicopters, and populations monitoring his every movement. He, his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), and best friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), are screwed, as no college wants to accept them because they remain highly polarizing in the public’s eye.
It’s the main selling point of No Way Home because no other Spidey film has attempted this storyline, and it brings a cacophony of consequences for Parker and his close ones. It serves as an intriguing but weird springboard for Peter to seek out Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), hoping that Strange can perform some magic to erase the memory of his identity to the world. However, since he wants his close ones to remember him, it jeopardizes Strange’s spell process and brings some “visitors.” I mean, it’s something that could happen when tampering with the laws of the multiverse. So come on, Pete, we thought you’re some genius kid who can recognize this possibility!
Anyways, those visitors turn out to be past Spider-Man villains such as Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, William Dafoe’s Green Goblin, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro. We also get Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman and Rhys Ifans’s Lizard, all who know Spider-Man’s identity and all who wish to finish him off (before them impending deaths/endings in their previous films). It turns out there isn’t a sixth to make it the iconic “Sinister Six” here, but the post-credits scene (no spoilers) might have a different say for some folk.
After several outings in the MCU, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker finally comprehends the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” attitude. He endures the hardships of his identity becoming revealed, the bearings of stopping the villains differently, and a sacrifice that stands on par with other cinematic manifestations of his character (and other onscreen heroes). Director Jon Watts commits to giving the character pathos, and it shines throughout the trilogy capper. Teenagers may still not be mature enough to recognize the consequences of their actions, but they still will have to learn the hard way. Holland, Zendaya, and Batalon are a superb trio at the forefront, even when bombarded by the returns of many familiar faces.
Everything from the performances to action to comedy to villains to crowd-pleasing moments delivers here in numerous ways, similarly in the manner of which Avengers: Endgame accomplished over two years ago. However, there are several problems that (slightly) wound No Way Home’s competence. First, the CGI still gets in the way a bit, and the climactic battle transpires in a murky and faintly underachieving manner that doesn’t pull a strong connection with the audience (like how Endgame did).
Perhaps the main issue with Holland’s third solo outing is that the film drops the nostalgic characters (and beats) for the first half but cannot sustain the momentum by the time it wraps up. It ran out of tricks by the final battle, which cost its temerity. Had the feature shaved off 10-20 minutes and saved some more remembrances for the end, it would’ve worked perfectly. Remember, Endgame built slowly towards its crescendo, rewarding audiences along the way for their commitment to the gargantuan MCU film universe with solid storytelling, some surprising callbacks, and stunning performances. Once the third act came around, it was lightning in a bottle from there on out. No Way Home’s circumstances are a bit too contrived and fuzzy about the whole “multiverse” situation.
Still, this trilogy capper is terrific and will undoubtedly make crowds red-hot. The performances, nostalgia, and action will “web” folks together for an unforgettable viewing experience in the best superhero film of the year. Sony and Disney may want to consider banding up more in the future, even if the former has the ultimate power in the web slinger’s universe. We’ll see if one day Miles Morales steps up to the big screen.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is almost perfect but stands as a strong contender for the best Spidey film out there alongside 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.