Friday, January 14, 2022

Green Phoenix - Spider-Man: No Way Home Review

Spider-Man No Way Home poster.jpg

Welcome to 2022 everybody!

Let's start the new year reviews with a (comparatively) new release. Released December 17th and therefore in the very middle of my Holiday break, Spider-Man: No Way Home is the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the 3rd Tom Holland Spider-Man film after Spider-Man: Homecoming & Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the 8th Spider-Man film ever made.

This film was highly anticipated upon its release, not only because of its place as one of the earliest Phase Four films, but also due to rumors surrounding its cast, the inclusion of villains and characters from previous iterations of Spider-Man, and the rumors around this being the last Tom Holland Spider-Man film (the reality of this is, as of writing this, unknown to me).

I knew for a fact that I wanted to watch this film, however I initially believed I would be unable to see it due to work with TrotCon until much later in the month. Thankfully, due to the intervention of some friends, I was able to hitch a ride and enjoy what may very well be a historical film in the history of the superhero genre.

And with that introduction complete, let's take a look at Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Thankfully, I was dead wrong as I think Spider-Man: No Way Home might be the single greatest love-letter to the Spider-Man franchise ever made.Over the course of nearly 2 and a half hours, we see an emotional exploration of what it precisely means to be Spider-Man, a culmination of Tom Holland's story arc in fully actualizing himself as a superhero independent of the likes of Tony Stark, as well as managing to merge all previous iterations of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in such a brilliantly written way that ensured the preservation of their status as films to be independently watched whilst at the same time allowed a secondary place within the greater canon of the MCU; a model I genuinely hope the producers take into account when adapting the X-Men and the Fantastic Four when they come around to working on those films.

  • Directed by Jon Watts
  • Produced by Marvel Studios/Columbia Pictures
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 148 Minutes


Following the reveal of his secret identity due to Mysterio's trickery in Far From Home, Peter Parker and his friends' lives are now in shambles. Believed to be a murderer and publicly villainized by the likes of J. Jonah Jameson, Peter enlists the help of Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, to erase the memories of everyone who knows that he is Spider-Man in the hope of returning his life to some form of normalcy.
However, a mistake on Peter's part causes the spell to malfunction and bring in villains from across the multiverse and from previous Spider-Man films. Now Peter is on a race against time to capture these villains, return them to their original universes, and along the way learn what it really means to be Spider-Man; for all the good and bad that that role places upon Peter Parker's life.



To say that this film was highly anticipated both within my family and my circle of friends would be akin to stating that the universe is pretty big; that is to say a supreme study in understatement. We had discussed our hopes, excitements, and rumors for months after this film's announcement and the subsequent reveals of its connection to Dr.Strange and his upcoming film Multiverse of Madness. With all that in expectation, I had towards the end even begun to worry that perhaps I was building up the film too much and that it would never be able to deliver, as the last Spider-Man trilogy didn't exactly end on a great film (thanks Emo Peter).

The film is a, if you'll pardon the pun, marvel to watch and really drives home the emotional weight of Peter Parker's struggle. The challenges of being Spider-Man are fully addressed and the film uses not only the previous films that Tom Holland's Spider-Man has starred in, but the other multiversal iterations of Spider-Man, that being Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, to thematic explore the core of Parker's character. I haven't seen such a great examination of a single character since probably Into the Spiderverse, which was also a Spider-Man property as well. That seems to me as proof that the character of Spider-Man is a truly one-of-a-kind property, a thematic cornerstone of modern media, especially since the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is, in many ways, directly responsible for the advent of the modern superhero film genre that we now enjoy. Because of the connections between the Raimi trilogy and the MCU, Spider-Man: No Way Home might even be said to be a love-letter to the entire superhero genre. A culmination of a nearly 20 year history of Peter Parker.

Traditionally, the strength of a superhero lies in its villains, and No Way Home takes its approach to villains in a way that I've never really seen a superhero film do before, but in a way that feels completely in line with the spirit of who Spider-Man is and what that really means for the people in Parker's life. Unlike previous films, the villains of No Way Home are actually most, if not all, the villains in previous iterations of the Spider-Man franchise. That is to say, Normon Osborn, Dr. Octavius, and Sandman from the Sam Raimi trilogy; and Dr. Connors and Max Dillon (who is wonderfully recharacterized in this film from his abysmal performance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) from the Andrew Garfield films.

However, just because these characters are villains, doesn't necessarily make them antagonists like you would be accustomed to in other superhero films. Because No Way Home is interested in exploring what being Spider-Man is thematically, it also approaches the villains and rogue's gallery of the Spider from a place of reconciliation and fixing damaged people. Towards the halfway point in the film when Holland's Spider-Man learns of the fates of all of the other universe's villains, he opposes Dr. Strange (who has a sightly larger cameo appearance ostensibly to help sell his own Multiverse of Madness film and provide a magical element to forward the plot along) and begins aiding the villains in removing the dangerous elements of their own existence, the parts that make them villains, so that they can avoid the fate seemingly doomed to them.

Of course, because this is Peter Parker we are talking about, nothing ever goes write and Parker is always doomed to lose in order for Spider-Man to win, and the resulting tragedy of Parker's first attempt is perhaps the most heartbreaking moment in any Spider-Man film to date, since we have had three movies for the characters lost to truly grow on us and it hits all the harder for it. Although it is from that tragedy that the single coolest crossover in comic books happens.

I don't really think it is too much of a spoiler but Maguire and Garfield's Spider-Man's do make an appearance during the third act and they elevate this film from a great Spider-Man movie into a love-letter to the entire history of Spider-Man by actually allowing all three Spider-Men to resolve the underlying conflicts of their story arcs in ways which are fulfilling for those who are only vaguely familiar with them and deeply emotionally cathartic for those of us who grew up watching these films and tragedies play out. Garfield especially has some of the more emotional and humorous moments as he openly acknowledges to be something of an odd man out among the three Spiders.
That's actually something else I need to cover, while smartly written the dialog and comedy is. With a film as emotionally draining as this film could've been, the writers still took time to keep characters light and Spider-Man sarcastic. Holland's interactions with the villains also helps to highlight the underlying humanity at the heart of every Spider-Man villain. It also helps to keep Parker feeling like a real human being around so many extraordinary elements, which is also aided by the presence of Ned and MJ. These two characters are so important to grounding Peter to the stakes at play, especially regarding how he interacts with Dr. Strange. And it is this connection that leads to the heartbreaking ending that I both understand and am deeply frustrated by.

Because for all that I think this film is beautiful narratively, visually (being one of the best looking films in Spider-Man mythos), and audibly; the film also does that annoying thing that Peter Parker always does where he makes decisions for other people based on his own fears and inevitably leads to some future issue that will resolve itself either in him making a decision he should've made at the end of this film or some other tragedy that could've been avoided had he nutted up and done it here. Since Parker essentially makes the same damn mistake that Maguire's Spider-Man does at the end of the very first Spider-Man, though I do think there is something to be said for the lovely symmetry at play there; it is still frustrating as a moviegoer because I've seen this before and I know how future installments are likely to play out.

All in all Spider-Man: No Way Home was an ambitious exploration of the history of Spider-Man that perfectly sets up his place within the MCU going forward, helps integrate the rest of the Spider-Man films in Sony's lineup into the universe in such a way that it will likely be a model for future projects, and sets audiences up for Dr. Strange to take them fully onto the insanity that Multiverse of Madnessis set up to become.

I for one am deeply excited and, for possibly the very first time since Avengers: Endgame, I actually cannot wait for the next Marvel movie to come out. It's ironic that Spider-Man should once again help set up the next era of superhero films, and if this film is anything to go by; it's going to be wild.

  • 9/10
  • 9/10
  • 10/10
  • 9/10

 FINAL SCORE - 9.25/10

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