Spider-Man: No Way Home
There have been a lot of Spider-Man movies over the last two decades. First, there was the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy. Then, Andrew Garfield starred in two Amazing Spider-Mans. Following a brief break, the MCU took control of the character and made Homecoming and Far from Home. That’s not even mentioning the animated Into the Spider-Verse or the other MCU movies Spidey has appeared in. That is a whole lot of the same story, told in slightly different ways. Some good (the MCU ones, Spider-Verse, Spider-Man 2), some not so good (pretty much all the rest). Somehow, the creators of the latest entry, Spider-Man: No Way Home, make them all feel like set-up for this. For those tired of the same old, same old in their Spider-Man stories, this is like nothing that’s come before it.
No Way Home picks up at the ending of Far from Home. Peter Parker’s identity has been revealed to the world and he is being accused of the murder of Mysterio. The fallout impacts not just Peter, but Aunt May, MJ, and Ned, too. Desperate to fix things for his loved ones, Peter asks Doctor Strange to perform magic to make everyone forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Unfortunately, the spell goes horribly awry, forcing Peter to deal with a threat the likes of which he’s never faced before.
This may very well be the highest the stakes have ever been, for both Peter and Spider-Man. As Peter, he is going out of his way to do anything he can to protect his loved ones. As Spider-Man, he has to defend the entire universe from the consequences of his decisions as Peter. The oft-repeated Spider-Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility” has never been more relevant than it is here.
Tom Holland does his best work as Peter Parker in this go-round. With his identity completely exposed, he is basically playing Peter for the full 134-minute running time (plus mid/post-credits scenes). There is no “Spider-Man A story that interferes with Peter Parker B story” this time. His life has crashed into itself. The goofy angst and awkward humor from his first two solo outings are almost totally absent (though there certainly are still quite a few laughs, as is Marvel’s style). This comes across like Peter’s coming of age. Holland has to bounce around a lot emotionally. He is definitely capable of showing joy, sadness, anger and love. His state of mind is surprisingly important to the plot. Holland is asked to do a lot and he really pulls it off.
No Way Home opens with the closing moments of Far from Home and doesn’t stop moving until the credits roll. Every scene is designed to propel the plot forward. It is exciting and, ultimately, kind of exhausting. Individually, the non-stop wild plot developments and big action scenes are generally fun and interesting (since they come from the story and characters, instead of only being there for the spectacle). Strung together, it can be overwhelming. The story takes a back seat to the action on a couple of occasions, plus Peter’s arc seems to drag out a little longer than necessary. It also relies too much on knowledge from the movies/Disney+ shows Marvel has released since Far from Home (that’s a general annoyance with the MCU, but it seems more pronounced here than in their previous two Spider-Mans).
Still, those feel like relatively minor complaints. For those who have been waiting eagerly to see this, their passion for Spider-Man stoked by the rumors and leaks, things like “too fast of a pace” or “too much at once” not only don’t matter, they sound contradictory. Perhaps they are. Perhaps this is the best Spider-Man yet (parts of it probably belong in that conversation) and repeat viewings will prove that everything here was necessary to tell this specific story. Or maybe the MCU issue of forcing each one of their movies to be stand-alone, sequel and lead-in to all the movies around all at once it is starting to affect even their stronger efforts.
Regardless, none of that changes that Spider-Man: No Way Home is an extremely satisfying conclusion to this piece of the Spidey saga, especially for people who have seen every Spider-Man big screen appearance beginning with 2002’s Spider-Man. Just try to see it soon, before those spoilers become unavoidable.
4 out of 5
Tom Holland as Peter Parker
Zendaya as MJ
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
Directed by Jon Watts
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers