Spider-Man: No Way Home
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, J.K. Simmons, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire
Runtime: 148 minutes
Some spoilers follow:
Spider-Man: Far From Home ended with the biggest shock in Spider-Man movie history when Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) exposed Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity and framed him for murder. So it’s no surprise that the following film, Spider-Man: No Way Home is larger in scale and ambition than its predecessors have been, but viewers will still have to see just how big it is, in every sense, in order to really believe it. No Way Home draws on the continuity of the entire live-action Spider-Man franchise and ideas presented in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to create a grand spectacle that celebrates the character’s history and moves him forward in exciting new ways.
Peter manages to avoid the legal trouble Mysterio’s video put him in (with help from precisely the returning Marvel character fans were hoping to see cameo) but his newfound fame continues to cause problems for him and his family and friends. He turns to superhero colleague Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help, hoping that he could use his mystical powers to erase the public’s memories of his identity. Although Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange’s fellow sorcerer, cautions them that the necessary spell is dangerous, Strange and Peter plow ahead anyway. When Peter makes modifications so that his loved ones still remember the truth the spell becomes warped, bringing enemies of Spider-Man from across the multiverse into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include the antagonists of past Spider-Man films, such as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), who appeared in Tobey McGuire’s trilogy and Max Dillon/Electro, from Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man series, among others. Peter’s effort to set everything right winds up being his most dramatic and devastating mission yet.
Holland’s previous solo movies, although cute and entertaining, were somewhat frivolous, focused as they were on cartoonish high school comedy. No Way Home immediately creates a very different tone. Although there are still plenty of gags, it’s also the darkest film in the franchise and Jon Watt’s direction effectively builds a tense atmosphere that makes the villains feel suitably menacing and creates high stakes for Peter and the world and people around him. The action, while elaborate and huge in scale is also more visceral and intense than usual, with Peter getting into some brutal brawls in which Holland and especially 66 year old Dafoe display impressive physicality. The script, by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers packs in a ton of fan service (that thing everyone’s been expecting to happen does indeed happen but that’s all I’ll say about it) but it all fits naturally in the story. That story is a moving one about Peter evolving into a version of himself more similar to the classic comic book iteration while the franchise returns to the key ideas about responsibility at the heart of all great Spider-Man tales, and this results in what is easily Holland’s strongest performance in the part. He can be as charming and funny as ever but also displays a wide emotional range as Peter is pushed to his limits.
The supporting cast is also put to great use. Zendaya and Marisa Tomei, in particular, are given their best material so far in their respective roles as MJ and Aunt May. The script emphasizes how important these characters, and other friends like Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, are to Peter both as emotional support and as active helpers in his crime-fighting. Real-life couple Zendaya and Holland have great chemistry and add a lot more depth to the relationship between MJ and Peter than there was in Far From Home and Tomei and Holland share some of the most crucial scenes in the film, which they play perfectly. The villains all deliver some good quips and are decently intimidating but the rest are outshone by Dafoe. The celebrated actor cements his Osborn as the definitive live-action Spider-Man villain with a performance that is nuanced, unnerving, and wonderfully hammy all at once.
No Way Home is an epic achievement, worthy of its place as one of the most successful films of all time. It’s the biggest love letter to Spider-Man fans possible and an example of how enthusiasm for the source material and sharp technique can make a comic book blockbuster an excellent film all around, despite the tired arguments to the contrary the genre’s detractors keep trying to make.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man: No Way Home pays tribute to its predecessors and develops Tom Holland's Peter Parker in memorable ways, resulting in one of the franchise's strongest films.