Spider-Man No Way Home Review: Hugely Satisfying Marvel Action


In Spider-Man: No Way Home fans likely to follow daily movie news feel like they got it all. And to a certain extent they are right. The trailers made it very clear that after the Shocking End of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes to ask Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell to make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man. Then things go wrong and villains from the previous Spider-Man movies show up. That’s all true.

What you don’t know, though, is why that happens, how it’s resolved, and what all that has to do with making Peter Parker a better Spider-Man. And in those goals, director Jon Watts and his team have found a way to make this Spidey story more heartbreaking, more character-oriented, and even more fun than you can imagine. It can get wrapped up a little too far into the story at times, but overall Spider-Man: No Way Home is an absolute blast. It will make you laugh, cry and smile from ear to ear.

[Note: This article will do its very best not to spoil anything but if you want to go in not knowing anything, it’s best to go away now. Vague implications about the events of No Way Home are necessary to explain what we did, and didn’t, like about the film. So, just in case…]

No Way Home is recording right where Far From Home left off, with J. Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) playing news footage showing Spider-Man to be Peter Parker. In an instant, Peter’s world is turned upside down. Suddenly he is the most famous person in the world and the film shows this from different perspectives and points of view, from Peter’s teachers and classmates to friends, family, strangers and even heroes. Seeing how so many different people change their perception of Peter is one of No Way Home’s first and most welcome surprises. It challenges you to put yourself in Peter’s shoes and grapple with the trauma he has to endure on a daily basis.

Doc Ock has more going on than you might expect. Image: Sony Pictures

Peter’s trauma continues after he sees Dr. Strange has asked for help and things go horribly wrong. And yet, again, it’s not handled as easily as you might expect from the trailers. Don’t forget that many of the characters Peter encounters in No Way Home, such as Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius/Doc Ock, are incredibly smart. They’re not going to show up in an alternate universe and just be an asshole. When they first get out of their universe, they naturally want to kill Spider-Man, but soon after, those motivations shift and change, in fun and terrifying ways. Not only is there a conflict between Peter and his newfound acquaintances, yet not enemies, leading to moments when, for what feels like the first time in his tenure as Spider-Man, Holland’s Parker gets to act and make important decisions of his own making. rather than in the service of a mentor figure.

This in turn means we see Peter spending more time with his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Each has a hugely expanded role here, as Peter has his own plan for the villains and needs friendly support. But none of them are just along for the ride. In their own unique way, they help Peter move the plot forward with some unexpected twists that range from fun and exciting to downright depressing. And so you have Peter, Ned, MJ and Aunt May, who, as you can see in the trailers, have to do with Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (previously played by Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (previously played by Rhys Ifans) with Doctor Strange and others also in the mix.

It’s about this point in No Way Home that the story itself begins to catch up with the characters. With multiple villains to contend with, and Peter with his family and friends next to him for the fight, there just isn’t much time, at least in act two, for Peter to stop and really struggle with what he’s facing. He’s just doing and doing and doing. For a moment, No Way Home feels like it’s straying off course, and in turn it’s a little less impactful or clever than the franchise has been in the past. It’s starting to rely way too much on the novelty of seeing all these villains on screen again, doing things similar to what we saw them doing in their original movies.

Ned, Peter and MJ venture into a basement.Image: Sony Pictures

Thankfully, as the film enters its climax, No Way Home rights itself, and really starts to fly. The final hour of No Way Home may end alongside the Avengers movies in terms of exciting and satisfying Marvel Cinematic moments. There are moments of not only much laughter and greater excitement, but opportunities for characters to redeem themselves and pass on important lessons to our hero. It’s not just a few scenes in a bigger grand finale, either – it’s a long, thick section of the film filled with winks, nods, payoffs and touching reverence. The third act of No Way Home made me cry happy tears, cry sad tears and literally cheer in the theater, and if you’ve ever loved a version of Peter Parker on film over the years, you probably will.

In another exciting twist, all that third-act pomp and circumstance doesn’t end up being the real treat of Spider-Man No Way Home. Oh sure, it’s excellent for fans to feel like they’re getting a party from the movie history of the character of the past twenty years, but this remains the third film in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy, and really it all comes down to what kind of Spider-Man this story makes of him. In those answering those questions, No Way Home knocks it out of the park again, with choices made that are sure to be controversial, but they deal an emotional blow leading to both a strong ending and something that feels like a brand new beginning for this version of the character. None of them would work if not for Tom Holland’s performance. No Way Home is by far his most dynamic work in this character, and Holland crushes it. And it’s not just him who seizes the opportunity – familiar enemies and friends get some great performances, most notably Dafoe acting as a luminary among the bad guys, relishing his return to Norman Osborn.

Holland stars in No Way Home. Image: Sony Pictures

The MCU’s take on Peter Parker has taken quite a journey in recent years. He defeated the Vulture, Mysterio, fought Thanos, got a blunder and saved the world, all while trying to finish high school with grades good enough to go to college. Spider-Man: No Way Home brings that wild ride all together in a wildly ambitious film, even one that’s almost too big for its own good as it fights to balance its wide cast of characters and its larger-than-life story. Thankfully, No Way Home eventually brings it home, using its full-scale adventure on Peter Parker’s hero picks to justify some of that fantastic indulgence, and it’s hard not to love it.

Spider-Man: No Way Home opens next Friday, December 17.


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