DISCLAIMER: This review of Spider-Man: No Way Home contains full-on spoilers so if you have not seen the film yet and wish to not be spoiled, we advise you to come back after you have seen the movie. This is the first and final warning!
One of the most challenging things for any major film franchise is the sequels, especially the third chapter that has to wrap up a trilogy with a big bang. While Phase 4 started earlier this year, the MCU just hasn’t felt quite the same since the game-changing Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame finished off one of the most ambitious cinematic sagas of our generation. Even though it’s good that our current Phase has begun exploring new characters in fresh franchises, we’re definitely in a new era for the MCU that is still figuring itself out and I mean that with no ill will. However, as 2021 reaches its end, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has been under a microscope for over a year now by the whole world, has finally made its way to theaters.
For every rumor, leak, set photo, casting announcement, interview quotes, sneak preview, you name it; Spider-Man: No Way Home will likely go down as one of the most buzzed superhero films of all time. After the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker’s third outing had a lot riding on it. After our beloved web-crawler’s secret got outed to the world while also being framed for Mysterio’s murder, how would the creative team resolve this obstacle in a compelling, satisfying way? Sony and Marvel also had a lot riding on this threequel with the Multiverse aspect. And while it was perhaps the worst-kept secret of all time of who is (and isn’t) in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Jon Watts picture is a success on multiple levels that will forever be crucial to the MCU legacy.
No More Iron Man Jr.
One of the issues with the MCU’s iteration of Spider-Man is the looming shadow that was cast over Peter Parker the moment Tony Stark entered his life. While the “Iron Man Jr.” commentary has sometimes been a bit exaggerated, it has also been validated to a certain point since the MCU didn’t fully capture some of the iconic aspects that make Spider-Man the icon that he has been for several decades. The first two films basically neglected a lot of the everyday man aspects that come with Peter Parker as a character, no matter what medium. The late Stan Lee always talked about that anyone who was reading a Spider-Man comic should always be able to see themselves underneath that mask. While Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man films had their many ups and down, at least those franchises captured that essence. That is something that Tom Holland’s first two films simply didn’t, even after Iron Man’s passing.
However, in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the movie magically (and we don’t mean Doctor Strange magic!) takes care of this problem as Holland’s Peter gets grounded more than ever due to his secret identity being known to the world. Throughout the entire story, no matter how many suits or tech he uses, Peter’s life has been turned upside and down. Society is torn on whether he truly is a hero or menace, a problem that The Avengers couldn’t help him fight out of. Because of being associated with him, M.J. and Ned’s lives have forever changed and for once, Spider-Man can’t save them. That is one of the many reasons why Spider-Man: No Way Home feels truly like a Spider-Man storyline, with no ties to Tony or any other Avengers. This type of storytelling is something I would have preferred to see much sooner, but I’ll happily take it now rather than never.
Doctor Strange & The Sinister Five
Knowing that Doctor Strange was set to be in this story, I was nervous about how big of a role he would play throughout the movie. While it’s not a problem at all that Peter is in the MCU where he can rely on and engage with his fellow superheroes, Spider-Man: No Way Home needed to focus on our titular hero as much as possible without an Avenger sharing the spotlight. But surprisingly, Benedict Cumberbatch fills the role of a supporting player perfectly where he’s in it just enough without overshadowing it. Stephen’s primary role is to literally, whether he wanted to or not, open the gates of the Multiverse that brought multiple Spider-Man villains from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb universes into the MCU.
Being someone who was a kid when Raimi’s first Spider-Man film came out, seeing icons like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, and Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman, was breathtaking. It only got better by getting to see Jamie Foxx get another chance to truly play around with Electro in ways that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 didn’t take advantage of. While Rhys Ifans gave another fun performance, the CGI work on the Lizard was perhaps one of the few letdowns as the CGI was just too noticeable. The design in The Amazing Spider-Man was far more, well, amazing. Even though it didn’t fully become the Sinister Six story that many had expected, it didn’t take away any of the pleasure and excitement of seeing these talented actors back in these iconic comic book roles through the MCU lens. Who would have ever thought that these characters, played by those specific actors from past films, would ever get to share scenes together?
Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Fallen Hero
While other Spider-Man movies have dealt with the tragic death of Uncle Ben, Spider-Man: No Way Home decided to pull many heartstrings by doing something that has never been seen in live-action: the death of Aunt May. This will, without a doubt, be controversial to many, which is understandable. Given that Marisa Tomei’s iteration was so much younger, it was impossible to imagine that a Spider-Man franchise would be killing her off this soon. May’s death allowed Spider-Man: No Way Home to include some massive stakes, which is even more important for a trilogy’s final installment because this is where you go out with all the bangs. The idea of seeing Holland’s Peter go on without any family members is going to be both fascinating and extremely devastating. At the end of this film; Peter has made the world forget his real identity but at many painful costs, and he won’t have his beloved aunt there by his side anymore.
Into The Spider-Verse
Then we have the two elephants – or more specifically, spiders – in the room that, once again, was one of the worst-kept secrets in all of Hollywood: Maguire and Garfield’s glorious returns as their respective version of Spider-Man. May’s passing is soul-crushing, which is where Spider-Man: No Way Home perfectly inserts the two Spider-Men at Peter’s darkest hour. To make it clear; you could make a 3-hour long Spider-Men film with Maguire, Garfield, and Holland, and I wouldn’t complain. Having the trinity together for what felt like at least 20-30 minutes of the movie, is where Spider-Man: No Way Home stands out from many of the past MCU sequels. It’s a celebration and homage to all three franchises that Sony has produced over the last 20+ years, something that only existed as a dream. The MCU was able to honor Spider-Man as one of the few characters that have had multiple live-action incarnations. Jon Watts, along with screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers absolutely hit the sweet spot in bringing the two Spideys at the perfect time as Holland’s Peter is hitting rock bottom. The moment where they all bond over having lost loved ones (I.E., Uncle Ben, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy,) is one of the most beautiful superhero moments in all of cinema. These are three strangers that have been brought together under the most insane circumstances, with the two older ones being able to remind the youngest to not give in to the darkness, to remember what they all represent as Spider-Man.
Having Maguire and Garfield back felt like they never left the roles as they brought all of that charm, passion, wit, and heart that millions in the world fell in love with within their films. What could have been Spider-Men vs Sinister Five instead became the three web-slingers uniting in saving all of them. At first, I can see how some may feel that it undoes a lot of the stories in those original five movies. But does it though? It doesn’t erase the character development that Maguire and Garfield’s Peters went through because in the end. Harry and Gwen are still dead in their respective universes as they have still had to go on living their lives and protect the world as Spider-Man. Instead, those two franchises get extended lives by letting those villains get saved, something we know both Maguire and Garfield’s characters tried to, but couldn’t. It also allows Sony, if they so choose to, to do a Spider-Man 4 or The Amazing Spider-Man 3. Is it going to happen? Probably not, but then again, did we ever think we would get to see these two actors in the MCU as their Spider-Man? So at the end of the day, the ultimate climax for the Multiverse element is, by far, one of the most satisfying aspects of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Looking at their moments together, Spider-Man: No Way Home never missed a beat at all because we got everything: action, comedic, and emotional moments that will never be forgotten. We had scenes like Maguire reacting hilariously to the two other Peters having to use mechanical web-shooters. Then there are tear-worthy scenes like the two older Spideys talking about the challenges of living two lives. While the MCU usually do phenomenal action pieces, seeing three web-slingers working together will go down as one of the legendary ones. Whether or not we’ll ever see these three characters together is up to Sony and Marvel. Although given that Spider-Man: No Way Home will break box office records, I’ve a hard time seeing this film being the first and last time these actors get to work together in the MCU.
A Solid Ending To Spider-Man’s First MCU Trilogy
As far as the ending goes, it’s both an easy solution, but also one that does challenge Spider-Man’s path in the MCU going forward. It always felt inevitable that some sort of “everyone forgets”-storyline would have to happen in order to undo Mysterio’s action. However, Spider-Man: No Way Home doesn’t fail in making our hero both win and lose at the same time. Not only has Peter lost Aunt May but every friend and ally in his life has now forgotten who he is. The moment between Peter, M.J., and Ned is gut-wrenching because while you know they’ll be reunited one day; it still felt like the end of an era. Even when Peter could come clean to M.J. and Ned after Doctor Strange’s spell, he decided not to and that is what made the final minutes extremely powerful.
In conclusion: Spider-Man: No Way Home did the impossible by not only giving the MCU an Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame-type-of-finale, but it also served as a love letter to Maguire and Garfield’s respective Spider-Man franchises. Outside the Multiverse angle, it’s the type of Spider-Man story that made this truly feel like Peter’s journey ever since he got introduced in the MCU. From all the tear-jerking scenes, the well-placed comedic moments, to the spectacular action pieces with not one, but three Spider-Men, it’ll be exciting to see what the sequel trilogy will do to top this one.
Additional Thoughts and Observations:
- Daredevil is truly a winner this week as not only did the MCU re-introduce Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin through Hawkeye, but Charlie Cox’s long-waited return as Matt Murdock came to fruition in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Would it have been great to see him suit up as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen? No doubt, but given how much was already in this film at this point, that’s an adventure we can get in the future.
- Sony and Marvel couldn’t be more obvious about wanting to introduce Miles Morales in live-action sooner rather than later, following Electro’s hilarious remark how he thought that his Spider-Man was a Black man. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for long to see Miles finally get his live-action debut.
- The fact that Spider-Man: No Way Home included Maguire and Garfield’s respective Spider-Man scores is a reminder that we’ve never had any bad composing for the web-slinger in live-action.
- Tom Hardy’s Venom appearance in the post-credits scene is a mixed bag. While it manages to, in a very MCU fashion, incorporate the Symbiote in this franchise, it was a bummer that he had to get sent back to his own universe already. Although who is to say that Venom 3 couldn’t see him take on Holland’s Spider-Man somehow?
- If you pay very good attention to Holland, Garfield, and Maguire’s scenes together: there was some subtle commentary being made about the ridiculous battle that has been happening online for years about who is the best live-action Spider-Man.
- Despite all the massive and incredible fan-service that we got here; there better be a photo somewhere with the three Spider-Men where they reenact the infamous Spidey-pointing meme.
- After tons of people predicted this online from seeing the trailer, it was so satisfying to see that Garfield’s Spider-Man was indeed the one that got to save MJ from falling, especially as it resonated emotionally for him when he couldn’t save Gwen.
- To see Doctor Octopus be the one that turns on his fellow Sinister allies felt so organic, given how he had his turn around in Spider-Man 2.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now in theaters.
Spider-Men Fan-Art Credit: israel2099_