By @HolocronGeorge and @HolocronJosh
There is certainly a lot riding on the newest Spider-Man film. No Way Home is easily the most anticipated film of the pandemic era. A slew of unfortunate leaks and intense fan speculation have dominated headlines for the last year. Trailers packed with returning villains and massive action set pieces have been analyzed with every fine detail under examination. Amidst such anticipation, thankfully, Spider-Man: No Way Home more than lives up to its lofty expectations. The newest MCU film triumphs as a celebration of three generations of cinema that concludes the Homecoming trilogy with emotion and stakes, despite an, at times, shaky narrative.
Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up directly after the events of the jaw-dropping post-credits scene in Far from Home. Spider-Man has been unmasked and Peter Parker is under scrutiny from the public, the media, and law enforcement. When Peter attempts to fix the messy situation, he and his friends find their hands full with a multiverse of villains.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie of fantastic moments (which is a compliment). The film is perfectly described as the Avengers: Endgame of the Spider-Man franchise. Like the milestone MCU film, so many sequences in No Way Home will have fans clapping and cheering in the theater.
It’s not long after one truly iconic moment in comic book history occurs that another swings (yes, we said swings) right around the corner. The term ‘fan-service’ is erroneously thrown around, and often wrongly branded with a derogatory connotation. But, No Way Home excels in delivering genuine and thoughtful ‘fan-service.’
Interestingly, No Way Home feels, in many ways, like a response to criticisms of the previous MCU Spider-Man films. Although generally well received, Homecoming and Far From Home were viewed by some as too tied to the broader mythology of the MCU, with particular criticism directed toward Spider-Man and Iron Man’s connection. We wholeheartedly standby Tom Holland/Jon Watts’ iterations of Spider-Man as the Raimi and Webb films had so brilliantly covered the fundamental tenets of the web-slinger’s journey and, as such, the MCU justifiably sought to cover ground with the character that wasn’t previously fleshed out (i.e. balancing being a kid in high school with superhero responsibilities; collaborating with other super-powered heroes). No Way Home moves slightly away from this pattern, however, and feels the most isolated of the Homecoming trilogy. References to the Blip and Captain America’s legacy are sprinkled throughout, but this is a film that tries (and succeeds) to hone in closer on Peter Parker without as much attention to a bigger cinematic universe.
In service of a series of fantastic moments, No Way Home’s plot, while solid overall, gets a little messy at times. Much of the first act deals with the aftermath of Far From Home, but this intriguing plot suddenly takes a back seat in favor of the multiversal escapades we’re all looking forward to. And, while the inclusion of classic villains returning like Alfred Molina as Doc Ock and Jamie Foxx as Electro is amazing, explanations for their return and motivations for some of the characters’ actions leave a little to be desired. Many of the explanations that would flesh out the story further are omitted entirely and require a bit too much inference from the audience. However, if you can get over some aspects of the narrative not being abundantly clear, you’ll have a much better time with No Way Home.
Despite some plotting and exposition missteps, No Way Home superbly executes its emotional points. Peter and MJ’s relationship continues to blossom, and Tom Holland and Zendaya excellently portray the new couple as they adjust to truly world-changing circumstances. There are moments of this movie that will hit hard and evoke a lot of emotion, something the Homecoming trilogy overall has excelled at. So much of our empathy, interest, and understanding toward the characters in No Way Home comes down to the performances on display. The chemistry between Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon is palpable and anchors the film. Benedict Cumberbatch dons the cape of Doctor Strange again in a fun, yet unexpectedly brief, role. And the returning actors bring their iconic villains back to life like it was yesterday. Particular attention should go to Willem Dafoe, who is fantastic returning as Norman Osborn. Dafoe is firmly a scene stealer as he perfectly evokes the chilling performance he delivered in the 2002 film. The humor isn’t as sharp as some previous MCU films, including the previous Spider-Man films, but there are plenty of hilarious moments to be enjoyed, in particular a truly hysterical and poignant joke perfectly executed by Jamie Foxx.
No Way Home overcomes some gaps in its narrative to deliver one of the most ambitious and groundbreaking superhero movies to date. Anchored by characteristically excellent performances, the film navigates an interesting, multiversal plot that moves this iteration of Spider-Man somewhat away from its connections to the MCU and toward a Spider-Man more aligned with previous live action adaptations of the character. The action is superb, the emotional points hit hard, and there are moments of this film that will be rewatched for years to come. All in all, No Way Home is yet another success for Sony and Marvel Studios.
Images courtesy of Sony & Marvel Pictures