The best way to describe “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is as a love letter to everything Spider-Man.
The film takes a step back and allows the narrative to tell a story about the character and journey of Peter Parker. From the second the film begins, we can see that Peter’s life is officially spiraling out of control due to the events of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” However, the script allows the audience to grow with this version of the character.
“No Way Home” succeeds by diving underneath the surface and bravado of comic book paint to tell a tale of identity while staying true to the heart of what makes Marvel Studios special. It pays homage to the source material in the presence of scattered easter eggs or direct callbacks to the days of childhood euphoria.
Director Jon Watts isn’t afraid to present Peter with adversity and make him feel uncomfortable, almost claustrophobic, at times. One note of praise was seeing Tom Holland channel a level of uncertainty while trying to stay calm because of Spidey’s confidence in him. He isn’t a billionaire like Tony Stark was, but his presence can be felt by Peters’ motive to help and change the world, not only for himself, but for others as well. Steve Rodgers’ humanity and justification for change reside in Peter just as well. Of course, the character of Spidey represents moral innocence due to Peter’s strong and emotional connection to Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).
Now I know fans questioned the film’s first act, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it felt reminiscent of past films from this trilogy, from the witty banter and comedic tone trying to make light of a dark turn of events. If honest, positioning the story around Peter trying to have everything he wants while showcasing he doesn’t care about severe ramifications and their attached weight is excellent.
The story reminds us through brief periods of exposition that Peter still hasn’t found a way out of the predicament at hand. The media slandering him as a terrorist or being disbarred from a future he envisioned, reminds the viewer of the pressure our hero is facing. The ones closest to him are facing hardships are leading to moments of relatability from our central trio.
MJ (Zendaya) is grappling with the fact her relationship and personal life with Peter is now being torn to pieces. Still, the adversity she once held is starting to fade, and confidence is beginning to manifest. Ned (Jacob Batalon) is still as lovable and goofy as ever, but his evident maturity is also beginning to reflect his arc. Both are the main foundations of what keeps Peter whole, but being Spider-Man comes with risk and despair.
No longer did any of the side characters feel supplemental to the story of Peter. Instead, each had a path they were destined to travel. I enjoyed how this film positions everyone going forward and makes you empathize with each cog of this story to the point that this isn’t a comic-book film. Instead, it’s a real-life experience of seeing others go through pain and hardship.
The story takes a breather and transitions to a straightforward MacGuffin plot in the presence of Doctor Strange, which reminds us this tale is still part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Now I will say that Strange, played with finesse and ease from Benedict Cumberbatch, came off feeling like an extended cameo. As the film progresses, Strange does become an obstacle in the plot, leading to excellent visuals and mature writing while allowing the narrative to let Peter question what it means to be a hero and what could occur if he continued to go public.
A decision that the story utilizes, which allows Peter to grow and step into the light by making tough choices and understanding the iconic saying, which came from a heartwarming source this go round.
I mean, we all have waited for it to be uttered in the MCU since Spidey’s introduction in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), where the saying was lightly referenced. However, it didn’t feel tangible until this film.
To be honest, “No Way Home” takes several key inspirations from the “Insomniac Spider-Man” games by paying respect to that franchise while showing why Peter has a heart and is destined to be the greatest hero in Marvel lore.
Walking away from a second viewing, I concluded that this latest installment, or closing chapter of the “Homecoming saga,” was a culmination of what “with great power comes great responsibility” truly stands for.
Transitioning to the returning characters or villains was just a spectacle to see and witness. Jaime Foxx as Electro felt different from when he last saw him in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014). He’s no longer clumsy and looking reminiscent of a villain long past. Instead, Foxx channels charisma while shedding fear and letting the audience allow sympathy to reflect the audience.
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock from the Raimi films is still vibrant and as comic accurate as ever. Molina comes off cold and calculating, but underneath the surface and penance of hubris, you see a man lost in his machinations.
Then, of course, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is back and just utterly perfect. To describe any scene with him would be treading into spoiler territory. The easiest way to define Dafoe is that he was a scene-stealer and elevates his performance from the first Raimi film back in 2002.
I loved seeing scenes built around the emotion and heart between these villains and, dare I say, victims. Each wanted to change the world and/or be relevant, shed the fear holding them back, but the human flaw of hubris of achieving perfection was the Achilles’ heel of each. Until a boy who has lost everything, now grown into a man because of the wisdom from others, is willing to lend a helping hand while saying “you are not broken, just misguided.”
To me, that’s the character and legacy of what Spider-Man truly symbolizes — a second chance to do better.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” may come off bloated with fanservice for many, but it works so well. At the core, it’s full of heart and morality while reflecting on what makes Spider-Man perfect. He’s just a guy trying to do the right thing and fight for his friends and, in turn, neighborhood. The pacing is incredible and it never felt like a two and half hour film. In my opinion, the movie came off as a living comic book with brilliant writing, enigmatic characters and console gaming visuals. What more could you want?
With the future being so bright, and the foundation planted by the power of choice, I’m honestly excited for more. I know Marvel Studios will deliver, just like they did with this conclusion for our favorite wall-crawler and web-head.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” gets a 10/10 for just being surreal and unforgettable.
As the late great Stan Lee always said “Marvel has always been, and will be, a reflection of the world outside your window. That world may change and evolve.”
Thank you, Stan