Finally, after numerous delays and pushbacks (because of the global pandemic) the most anticipated Marvel movie since Avengers: Endgame has been released for the world to take in and consume. And after so much speculation surrounding theories of where this film will go, who will be in it, and how it fits into phase 4 with all the shows on Disney Plus and 3 prior films, fans will either be extremely satisfied or disappointed on how Spider-Man: No Way Home plays out. Judging by the overwhelming reactions on social media the consensus falls on the satisfied side of the spectrum. And the majority rules – Spider-Man: No Way Home is the best live action Spider-Man movie ever made.
Leading the way is director Jon Watts who has delivered on all the promises and potential this film held. His Spider-Man trilogy is and should be in the same conversation as Nolan’s Dark Knight and the Captain America trilogy. Homecoming introduced the third Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in 15 years with a completely different tone than the previous two. Holland has thus gone on to portray the best version of Peter and Spider-Man balancing the genius nerdy introverted extrovert with the sarcastic, witty Spider-Man when the spandex is on. For as well that Holland has become the quintessential Peter Parker, the MCU version has relied a little too heavily on more established heroes in the universe – Iron Man and now Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
But even with Stephen Strange all over the marketing and promotional materials (a bit misleading), the character is in the movie no more than 10 minutes of the long 148-minute runtime. It’s still Holland’s movie – he’s front and center giving the best performance as Parker. Certainly, it’s the most emotional portrayal of the web slinger to date with the responsibly he holds within his power – making decisions based on the well-being of his friends rather than being selfish.
Following the events of Far From Home, Parker is outed as Spider-Man to the entire world by Quentin Beck. When the whole world knows your Spider-Man – say goodbye to all privacy. Why hide behind a mask when everyone knows? And while everyone knows, its those around Peter that are also getting attacked and exposed by the media namely J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) and The Daily Bugle. Peter feels responsible for bringing his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his girlfriend Michelle Jones Watson (Zendaya) into this secretive world of his. Because of their involvement their futures are at risk just for knowing him making the theme of responsibility the most impactful with Watts’s trilogy.
Up to this point, the main theme has delt with expectation and living up to someone else’s vison and version of you. It’s worked for the most part with this version of Spider-Man being dubbed “Iron Man Jr.” but Peter never wanted to be Iron Man, he always wanted to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but the expectation placed on his shoulders kept him from achieving that. Holland’s Parker is also extremely naïve in believing there’s good in others but ultimately getting taken advantage of.
So much expectation for one film with so many of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood history; either you believe the rumors or you don’t, there is no in between. With that, Jon Watts delivers. He stuck the landing with his trilogy proving the shared commitment between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios was worth it. Much of the film is credited to fan service – that much is true, but it banks on nostalgia to get people to truly return to theaters after almost a two-year period of uncertainty. If you were one of the lucky ones to witness this movie on opening night, the hype, the anticipation was worth the wait.
Dr. Strange’s failed spell to rid the universe of the knowledge that Peter Parker is Spider-Man fails leading previous villains Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) to spill into a different universe that they don’t belong to. It’s up to Peter, MJ, Ned and Strange to track, capture, and return the villains back to their own universe where their fate is to die or lose to a Spider-Man.
All the returning rogue’s gallery of villains are phenomenal in their return to their character’s. Like they never left or had a long-extended break. But the true standout is Dafoe – balancing both Norman and Goblin with a precision that’s unrivaled in any comic book film. He may be the best villain in comic book history and that’s including Heath Ledger’s Joker and Josh Brolin’s Thanos. Returning writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers don’t waste any of the villains – they all serve a purpose to the story and are given significant upgrades and definitive conclusions, especially Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon (thank God the smurf look is gone).
I’m in awe of what this film accomplishes in 2 and a half hours. Michael Giacchino’s score is beefed up to give this Peter Parker a definitive sound, Mauro Fiore’s cinematography is the best of the trilogy – capturing this character in a way that hasn’t been done since Bill Pope. Pacing to the film is steady moving with Watt’s letting the emotion drive the film, staying with scenes long enough to make the impact they were hoping to.
As I said previously, this film is Tom Hollands best performance in his time as Peter Parker. He shares so many emotional beats with every character – some of it fan service with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) but their relationship with one another is solidified by some of the strongest character writing in the MCU.
Now that one trilogy is over, the worst thing imaginable for us fans to do is wait. What direction will Marvel and Sony take this character? Where will he pop up next. The final moments prove both studios are just getting started with Peter with a lot of stories to explore in Spider-Man’s history. Let the speculation begin.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is everything I could have hoped for and then some. Emotionally, mentally, and physically I was not prepared for what happens in this film. Jon Watts delivers on the most ambitious MCU film since Infinity War & Endgame. Despite a little too much fan service at times, a plot hole and some questionable character choices, No Way Home is a fun time to return to the movies and worth the wait led by a brilliant lead performance and ensemble supporting cast. This film is worth multiple viewings because its just that good. Easily top 5 MCU and best of the live action films.
Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon and Tony Revolori have the same energizing chemistry together with Tom and Zendaya bring their love story to a new height in the trilogy. In short, they’re perfect together – maybe even better than Andrew and Emma.
I’m struggling with putting this over Into the Spider-Verse. Maybe a 1A and 1B type of ranking.
Written By: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed By: Jon Watts
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Benedict Wong, Marisa Tomei, Tony Revolori
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 28 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
My Score: 4.5 out of 5
Based On: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko