Spider-Man has long been the outcast superhero for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Spidey’s integration into the MCU has been a teeter-toter journey that left the current Spider-Man, Tom Holland, without a contract for nearly 3 months, with the future of the franchise in much uncertainty, due to long handed dispute between Sony and Disney. However, fans got their first foray of Spider-Man in the MCU in 2016’s blockbuster, “Captain America: Civil War”, and the subsequent “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: End Game”, as well as two standalone Spider-Man films, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home”. All this to say, that given the successes of Spider-Man’s integration into the MCU, it is still odd and at many times stressful as a fan, to see the off screen drama unfold between the major studios. It has been almost like watching a game of chicken play between Sony and Disney to see who would blink first. However, with the latest installment in the Spider-Man franchise “Spider-Man: No Way Home” fans may finally be able to sleep at night, as it appears that the web-slinging superhero has cemented a home in the MCU, despite its rocky offscreen beginnings.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the latest installment of the Spider-Man franchise in the MCU and further advances the larger MCU path into the multiverse. Through stellar action sequences, the perfect pinch of Gen Z humor, and flavorful nostalgia, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” exceeds all expectations and brings audiences together, as only Marvel can. We see our web slinging hero face his darkest hour, as his identify is revealed to the world. We then see the brilliant action drama unfold as this plot line occurs in the broader context of Peter Parker’s Senior year at Midtown Science High, and his navigation of the college application process (Go Engineers!). But even more, we see a solid character arch develop as Peter’s friendships with Ned and MJ grow deeper, more emotional, and add a much needed dynamic to Peter in the current iteration of the Spider-Man franchise. Finally, we see Doctor Strange solidify himself as the de facto leader of the MCU as it heads into its next chapter post-Thanos: the multiverse. Watching this film, twice now, it is clear that Marvel Studios has a resilient plan for the next phase of the MCU, that is starting to cement itself with audiences, as the divergence between the MCU films and Disney+ titles starts to take form in a more cohesive way than in the past (e.g., Agents of Shield). In all, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is without a doubt, Marvel’s best film since the start of the pandemic. It is on par with “Avenger’s: End Game” as one of the greatest films in the MCU and will strengthen an aging fan-base, while still continuing to appeal to younger audiences.
To this point, no spoilers have been included in our review. This is a warning that spoilers are ahead and if you have not seen the film, please stop reading now and head to your nearest Cinema to watch. Spoilers are below – continue at your own risk!
Perhaps the greatest strength in this film, comes from a widely successful integration of the prior two Spider-Man franchises: Spider-Man (2001 – 2007) and the Amazing Spider-Man (2012 – 2014). When the first superhero movie of the new millennium debuted to wide fan-fare in 2001, Marvel was just beginning a journey into the next evolution of superheroes on the big screen. DC had already had incredible success with Batman, and it was only fitting that Stan Lee’s web-slinger be the major first Marvel character to appear on film. Tobey Maguire captivated audiences for 6 years with 3 largely successful box-office hits that set the stage for the future of superheroes on film. The series was then rebooted in 2012, with seasoned and acclaimed actor Andrew Garfield putting on the mask to take audiences on a dramatic and truly breath-taking cinematic experience as he flung from skyscraper to skyscraper in NYC. Garfield’s Spider-Man was very deep and emotional riveting, but everyone knew, it was not a good fit for the MCU. The MCU has a very stringent formula that despite all of its criticism, functions very well. No one goes to match a Marvel film expecting to see an Oscar worthy film. But rarely do audiences leave Marvel films at the opening credit-crawl either. Fans are addicted to Marvel’s formula and even the lowest rated MCU film, is sure to bring audiences to theatres, itching to get the latest update on where the MCU is going next. When “Spider-Man: Homecoming” hit theatres in 2017, the MCU formula was finally adapted for the Spider-Man franchise. Or perhaps a more accurate statement is Spider-Man was adapted for the MCU. Tom Holland brought the best balance between being a comical Spider-Man and an impassioned Peter Parker.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” brings the villains from the prior two franchises into the current universe which is sure to get a roar of applause from older audiences. Everyone loves Doc Oct, the Green Goblin, and Electro. Better still, is the reprieve of J.K. Simmons as the famed tabloid journalist, J. Jonah Jameson, and his signature allure for the all powerful literary alliteration. It was no secret that we were going to see old villains brought into the newest Spider-Man. What was a secret, was how well this would be executed. Fans set very low expectations going into the film that we may get a few moments of screen time of the historic villains at best. As MJ remarks in the film, “expect disappointment and you will never be disappointed”. Marvel did a fantastic job at keeping the true breadth of this integration under wraps for years – kudos to whoever was able to keep the notorious Holland in the dark on his own film. Yet this film, excelled in a very rocky area that could have easily fractured the fan base and doomed Holland’s future in the MCU. The MCU did fans a favor, and brought closure to many areas that were abandoned in the offscreen battle between Sony and Disney. We see Spider-Man and Peter Parker merge together excellently to bring depth to the character, that was very much needed. In working to cure the villains of their misfortunes, we see a side that was missing from the first two franchises, that arguably made them so incompatible with the MCU – the resolution of a villainous plot. The MCU gives fans a reason to see the best and the worst in their superheroes. But it also gives fans a reason to find validity in most of its supervillains. It is hard to find a villain in the MCU with a tale that one can’t relate to or at least understand their [the villain’s] perspective. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was excellent in giving us this closure to the villains of the first two franchises, and it really does feel like wounds were sutured for fans.
Tom Holland excelled as Spider-Man. While the film was staged such that this could be the last of Holland, his performance will undoubtedly leave fans begging for more, and Holland has every incentive to provide. As a young, up and coming actor, who actually enjoys these films, Holland could excel at making another 3 films should he desire, and hopefully he does. Seeing Holland alongside Maguire and Garfield, felt like an experience unlike any other. It was nostalgic, it was heartening, and it was flat out phenomenal. It has been a long time, since I have seen theatres this packed. It has been a long time, since I have seen audiences clamor together in a theater to root on and applaud superheroes. This film was the perfect antidote for the nearly 18 month drought in stale cinematic releases. We have continued to benchmark films as to how they stack up against one another in the pandemic. It has been dreary as opening weekends were flat and it seemed like the golden age of $100 million opening weekend grosses were long gone. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” provides hope that this drought may be over, or at least manageable for the future. We may never return to weekend after weekend of sold out auditoriums. But “Spider-Man: No Way Home” likely brought many fans to theatres for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and made them realize an experience that you can’t obtain at home. No amount of home surround sound, big screen televisions, or reclining chairs in your home theater setup can come close to the experience of gathering with strangers and rooting for Spider-Man as he chases down villains in lower Manhattan on a giant, silver screen. Hopefully, those fans that have been on the sidelines for the pandemic, are recharged and ready to come back to theaters to experience the best of what movies have to offer. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” surely will not disappoint them.
My rating: 5 reels out of 5 (our rarest)