You could be right if you think this will be the biggest Spider-Man film ever. Spider-Man: No Way Home plays just about every trump card it has to win the title of next Avengers: Endgame, with at least five villains, whispers of returning Spider-Men, a record-breaking trailer, and the concept of the multiverse opening it all up.
Everything works for the most part. Just make sure you’ve seen all of Spider-prior Man’s films. Despite the inevitable tangle of characters, backstories, and goals, No Way Home manages to have a fairly neat plot if you understand where each character is coming from. You’ll know why the fans in the back of the cinema are cheering at any given point if you see Spider-back-catalog. Man’s
And what if you haven’t seen any of the past two decades’ worth of Spider-Man movies? You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a well-made and enjoyable Marvel (and Sony) film. You may not realize the scope of what is effectively the live-action version of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, aka the finest (or second-best) Spider-Man film ever. However, you’ll be treated to appealing heroes with relatable character development; sleek, dynamic action scenes; strange, quirky humor; high stakes; tremendous emotional punches; and, of course, at least one amazing one-liner delivered by Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) of all people.
Essentially, this is the Tom Holland Spider-Man film that most closely resembles the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Director Jon Watts tackles serious issues, a darker tone in general, and a well-known New York locale (with a few Marvel Cinematic Universe touches). In other words, the third Holland film more than makes up for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which was a dud.
The primary premise is that Peter Parker must deal with the consequences of events that occurred near the end of Far From Home. The public is aware of his hidden identity, as well as the minor (false) detail that he murdered Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). With a ruthless media on his tail, led by the glorious (but underused) J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), Peter must acclimate to a harsh life in the public eye.
You could argue that knowing this story aspect from the record-breaking trailer isn’t enough to justify Peter’s next move: coming to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and demanding the sorcerer cast a spell that restores normalcy. This concept starts out as charming shenanigans, similar to Holland’s previous two films, which were influenced by John Hughes and focused on high school fun and games. What follows, though, is a surreal, expectation-defying extravaganza with a deeper conceptual resonance.
Returning villains such as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), and The Lizard (Thomas Hayden Church) were announced by Marvel (Rhys Ifans). Perhaps this was meant to serve as a warning to read up on their backstories. Only one or two lines are offered to explain why each villain behaves the way they do in response to a plot that transports them to another universe.
The Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus are two characters who stand out. Dafoe and Molina mostly look like they did nearly two decades ago when they first appeared in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, thanks to Marvel’s digital de-aging technology — mostly, because it sometimes looks like an Instagram beauty filter has been strategically placed over certain parts of the screen.
We don’t have to dig through the effects-heavy muck of Far From Home since the visual effects have been parceled out and tapered down. Hand-to-hand combat situations feel more practical and visceral in the action moments. Grittier, sweatier, and more bloody. You’ll be strapped in for a dizzying adventure with Spider-Man swinging from A to B thanks to a first-person perspective. Small details, such as Peter grabbing things about Aunt May’s flat with his webs, provide a lot of charm and color. This time, Peter uses his Spidey senses as well, transforming the often-mocked “Peter tingling” into a real asset that we can finally feel thanks to sound effects and a close-up on Holland’s face.
Not only is a scene with Doctor Strange dizzying and eye-popping, but it also allows Peter to employ his other superpower: his thinking. Despite the fact that Holland’s version is younger than the previous two, it rarely has the chance to use this less-flashy item. In the comics, Holland was a scientific prodigy, but in the film, he was portrayed as a painfully ignorant and gullible athlete. But this time, he does considerably better (though, except from one moment with Doc Ock, Spidey’s characteristic quips are still sadly lacking).
Holland gets to show off more than just his easy likability; he also gets to show off his dramatic acting abilities. Holland is pushed to boiling, emotional places by the darker, PG-rated stuff. Peter’s challenging moral dilemmas cause his eyes to flutter. Zendaya and Jacob Batalon (Peter’s best buddy, Ned) deserve special recognition. Despite playing Peter’s girlfriend and presumably falling from a tall structure in the third act, MJ has a lot more to do this time around. MJ is also given a thread of character development. However, be aware that such presents might be taken away at any time (sigh).
The camera work is smoother, the language is snappier, and our hero’s inner turmoil churns along well. The impact of the Russo Brothers can practically be felt as Holland’s third Spider-Man adventure enters new, more serious territory. This is the technique to etch a few more wounds into a more fascinating hero’s exterior if the character is to become the next Tony Stark.
In other words, if you come to see the year’s biggest film, you’ll be more than satisfied.