Synopsis – With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
My Take – Like his fellow counterparts, Superman and Batman, Spider-Man is not just a superhero who transitioned from comic book pages to other forms of media, but instead over the years became a cultural icon recognizable to people of all sexes and ages. In fact it was filmmaker Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man (2002) starring Tobey Maguire, alongside filmmaker Bryan Singer‘s X-Men (2000), which revolutionized the formula of how comic book adaptions should be made for the big screen and cater to a larger audience.
While the Sam Raimi trilogy continues to hold a special place in everyone’s heart, and the unfairly washed Andrew Garfield led reboot duology also continues to remain in public memory, it wasn’t until Sony and Marvel Studios partnered up to bring the Tom Holland version of the web crawler into the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing a chance to play on a much larger canvas.
However, his latest, acting as the third installment of the Jon Watts directed trilogy, with the concept of multiverse thrown into the mix, is arguably Peter Parker’s biggest solo live action film yet. Thankfully, with an engaging story line, exciting action, hilarious moments, and dramatic consequences, the result delivered is an impressive culmination of the films that came before it.
While one might think that the idea of multiverse anomalies and different characters from different iterations of Spider-Man and his characters floating through one single film might be dizzying and altogether bloated, like Spider-Man 3 (2007), yet director Jon Watts, and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers makes all these elements hang together quite beautifully. Yes, it is obvious fan service in parts, but it still works because the whole thing is so well-executed that even when its stumbles in parts, it manages to pick up soar higher that before.
The vast majority of everything presented in this latest MCU installment works in such a way that you’ll leave the theater both thrilled and counting down the moments until we see Peter and his friends again. *Spoilers Follow*.
Set right after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), the story follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who finds his secret identity as Spider-Man exposed to the public by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), the host of TheDailyBugle.net, via a fabricated video posted by the now dead Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Finding himself, his sardonic girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his nerdy buddy Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and his aunt May Parker (Marisa Tomei) at the center of bad publicity and legal ramifications effecting their future lives, Parker ends up reaching out to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), requesting him to cast a spell that will erase his dual identity from the memories of everyone in the universe.
However, when Parker’s constant interference causes the spell to go wrong, Strange ends up accidentally summoning various Spider-Man enemies from other universes instead, namely Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), leading to drastic ramifications.
Filled with an abundance of action set pieces, well-known Marvel comedic beats, more throwbacks and nods to lore than almost any other Marvel film before it and fun character interactions, this one is definitely the biggest Spider-Man film ever. Here, director Jon Watts deals with real consequences, a darker tone in general and a recognizable New York setting (with a few Marvel Cinematic Universe touches). In other words, the third Holland entry truly makes up for the filler that was Spider-Man: Far From Home.
In true sense, the adventures of Spider-Man and his pals have always seemed most closely tethered to a recognizable, relatable reality, perhaps because they tell a story about high-school kids rather than demigods or aliens or obsessed billionaires. And even as Doctor Strange once again transforms Manhattan into an M.C. Escher landscape, this is ultimately a story about high-school seniors in love, wondering if they and their best buddy will get to go to college together.
The returning team of director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers give the trio of appealing young leads the ability to make their sweet and funny kid stuff the nucleus around which all the inter-dimensional travel and superhero standoffs rotate.
Also, the film isn’t afraid to step away from the visually spectacular action to develop emotional beats. This happens even during massive set pieces, and director Jon Watts uses them to focus on heavier or lighter themes in equal measure as the situation demands. Even if this comes at the cost of the film’s runtime, it works more often than not. Yes, the film references a lot to previous films and is reliant on the nostalgic loyalty of Spider-fans, but these elements also enrich the new film, increasing its emotional depth and range.
Though it’s fair to say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) dealt with the concept of alternate universes even more brilliantly, but it’s also true that if the most exciting part of this one is the return of people who were in other films, and there is no denying the thrill of seeing so many of the series’ most iconic characters together in one place. Most importantly, they even enhance the earlier films, retroactively, adding new facets to characters we thought we’d seen the last of, and giving them the momentous send-offs they might not have had the last time around.
As is always the case with such loaded Marvel outings, there are a few narrative conveniences that don’t hold up to much examination and a few half-explored ideas but too dwell on these moments would be a waste of one’s time when there’s so much joy, fun and even unexpected emotion to be found in director Watt‘s film.
If you have any love for the genre, then the film will put a silly grin on your face for 148 minutes, and might just put a few tears in your eyes. What is perhaps most surprising of all is the wealth of strong performances found within it from one of the most stacked casts the long running superhero brand has seen yet.
From the expected and unexpected cast additions, everyone here brings their A-game with Tom Holland fulling embracing his role, and a charming Zendaya as the loving couple getting great moments together and feeling well and truly like they’ve both become their respective characters in real life. From returning cast members, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batlon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, and J.K. Simmons deliver both emotional and comic punches.
Thanks to Marvel‘s digital de-aging technology, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina mostly look like they did nearly two decades ago when they appeared in Sam Raimi‘s original Spider-Man trilogy. And while Dafoe nails everything he does, Molina has the meatiest screen presence and gets his own delectable fight scene. Jamie Foxx also gets to redeem himself, while Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans are underused.
Yes! Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in the film and not just with short cameos, they actually have a satisfying story arc that takes many of the tropes from their own films. In fact, you could watch the first two Maguire films and the two Garfield films before this one and realize there’s a cohesive story between all five of those. On the whole, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home‘ is the biggest, grandest and arguably best Spider-Man outing yet, which wholeheartedly celebrates the friendly neighborhood Avenger.
Directed – Jon Watts
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 148 minutes