Movie Review, Spider-Man: No Way Home


Story by Alex Paulino, Staff Writer

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has flaunted an impressive line-up of ambitious films, such as the genre-mixing of Doctor Strange, the culturally significant Black Panther, and the cascade of crossover films that bring together multiple heroes and villains into one singular movie. Films such as Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame have garnered much praise for their grand scale and collection of recognizable heroes. Spider-Man has appeared in all three of these films, serving as a comic relief in the face of emerging danger.

“I like the coming of age stories [of Spider-Man],” said sophomore Michael Whitaker. “I think the best character to do it in a franchise like this is Spider-Man because of his roots as the first teenage solo superhero.”

With that being said, it’s surprising to see Spider-Man finally gain a crossover of his own grand scale. The MCU’s Peter Parker has rested easy with his core movies being relaxing blockbusters that combine elements of the classic Spider-Man mythos with the undying Marvel formula that most audiences are familiar with. Spider-Man: Homecoming, for example, was a refreshing character study and served as a brillant intro to future stories such as it’s sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home.

These films are undoubtedly lighthearted. They showcase the best parts of Peter Parker’s character and yet; it still feels as if something was missing. In previous Spider-Man films (e.g. the Raimi and Webb directed films), there was a huge emphasis on Peter’s suffering. The MCU films highlighted these moments, but not on the same level as Spider-Man’s previous offerings. It felt as if the MCU’s Peter Parker had it much easier than the other Parkers. Spider-Man: No Way Home is able to defy this and deliver a story that is able to make Peter Parker suffer.

“You can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, if there’s no neighborhood.” -Peter Parker, Avengers: Infinity War
“You can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, if there’s no neighborhood.” -Peter Parker, Avengers: Infinity War

Taking place moments after the events of Far From Home, Spider-Man’s secret identity has been revealed to the world by the nefarious Mysterio. The whole world is now against him, including the very people that Spider-Man had once saved. Peter enlists the help of Stephen Strange, also known as his alias Doctor Strange, to cast a spell that will wipe any memory of Spider-Man’s secret identity being revealed from the entire world. Unfortunately, Peter tries to tamper with the spell in order to make certain people remember his secret identity, which results in other-worldly beings who knew Spider-Man’s identity to start leaking in from other universes. Strange insists that they put them back to their respective universes to die, but Peter takes it upon himself to cure them alongside the help of MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy Hogan. 

No Way Home is able to take this bizarre concept and surprisingly run with it. Classic villains return from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb movies,  Such as Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin from the first Spider-Man (2002), or Jamie Foxx as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Fans of these films will be thrilled to hear that these villains are faithfully adapted. Norman Osborn still retains his frail tendencies, which are contrasted with Green Goblin’s grotesque and eerie personality, and characters like Sandman from Spider-Man 3, played by Thomas Haden Church, feel as if their stories continue directly after the conclusion of their respective movies. Overall, it felt like these characters were written by their original creators.

Alfred Molina returns as Otto Octavious from 2004’s Spider-Man 2.
Alfred Molina returns as Otto Octavious from 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

It’s gratifying to see these characters adapted the way they were. Alfred Molina, as Doctor Octopus, stands out as he feels as if he’s given an entire character arc in this film. After sacrificing himself in the climax of Spider-Man 2 (2004), Octavius still finds himself controlled by the very robotic intelligence that he created. He essentially undergoes the same plot beats as Spider-Man 2 but at a much smaller scale. His inevitable redemption is still as enjoyable as it was in the 2004 film. That’s something No Way Home attempts to do, juggling multiple stories at once. The film moves at an inconsistent pace because of this, there are certainly moments that drag on more than others, but overall it feels good to have a movie where there’s always something interesting happening in every scene.

With the return of several classic villains, No Way Home takes an opportunity to improve on some of them. A standout is Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Electro. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jamie Foxx did the best he could with the unorganized plot of that movie, but as a whole, it felt as if his character suffered as a result. In No Way Home, his character was given a refreshing personality-rework that is leagues above his previous iteration in 2014. Every scene with him is an absolute delight, and you can tell that he’s having fun with the role considering how much of an improvement it is compared to previous films. 

However, no villain stands out quite like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Dafoe is shockingly giving it his all in his reiteration of the classic character. Even in scenes where he’s playing Norman Osborn, Dafoe is able to expertly differentiate the two personalities in an extremely interesting way. He challenges Peter’s ideals by making him believe he is wrong. Throughout the film, Peter is desperate to redeem these villains; he believes that leaving them to their eventual fate would be cruel, but Goblin proves time and time again that this mindset is naive. Dafoe and Tom Holland contrast just as well as Dafoe did with Tobey Maguire nearly 20 years ago.

SPOILER WARNING! (There will be spoilers to the storyline of Spider Man: No Way Home within the rest of the story)

Unfortunately, not every actor could reprise their roles as their respective villains. Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans could only contribute voice roles to Sandman and Curt Connors/The Lizard respectively. Even in the climax, these characters are only represented with edited outtakes from their previous movies (i.e. Spider-Man 3, and The Amazing Spider-Man). This isn’t a tremendous problem, The Lizard was mostly CGI anyway, but it can certainly be distracting when placed with the rest of the villains of the film.

Regarding the plot, it’s surprising to see other characters make exciting re-arrivals as well, most notably Doctor Strange and Matt Murdock. Regarding the latter, it’s intriguing to see Charlie Cox reprise his role of Daredevil from the Netflix TV series.  It was also nice to see Doctor Strange be a critical character in the story, as he contrasts Peter’s morality with, funnily enough, responsibility. Though it feels a bit disjointed for Strange to suddenly exit the plot in the half-way point, it’s nice to see his character be done with justice.

At the end of the day, the most exciting aspect of No Way Home isn’t just the villains or Doctor Strange, it’s the return of Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as their respective portrayals of Spider-Man. These characters are done with an extreme amount of respect, with their traits and mannerisms feeling ripped straight from their original films. Garfield especially was improved greatly from his previous Amazing Spider-Man outings. He feels at home with his role and his personality shines when placed with the other Peter Parkers. In comparison, Maguire doesn’t achieve nearly as much, but that’s only because his films are already respected and therefore he has nothing to prove about his performance. Maguire has been placed in a mentor role of the three Parkers considering he is the oldest of the performers. Both Garfield and Maguire have their own individual moments to showcase how much the characters have grown since their last films. Garfield is able to redeem himself by saving MJ after failing to save Gwen, and Maguire is able to save Norman from his own glider after “failing” to do so in the first Spider-Man. Seeing these three iterations interact with each other is a dream come true for a multitude of fans, and it’s great to see them be done with such accuracy to the films.

Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire return in their iconic roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire return in their iconic roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

It’s interesting to see these actors return, but I’d be lying if I said that the excitement of these characters didn’t rely solely on the actors returning. If these two Spider-Men were simply played by other actors, I am sure the reception to them wouldn’t be nearly as positive. For example, it is gratifying to see Maguire’s Spider-Man save Green Goblin from being impaled by Holland’s iteration, but the excitement really lies on the fact that it’s Tobey Maguire doing it and not just another actor. It would make more sense, in a narrative standpoint, for Holland’s Peter to stop himself from killing the Goblin instead of Maguire swooping in and saving the day. This moment is fantastic, but it does rob Tom Holland’s Peter Parker of some potential development. 

It’s also important to note that No Way Home does get a little too comfortable with it’s fan-service, sometimes feeling forced in for the sake of a reaction. For example, Osborn recites his line from Spider-Man, where he says “I’m something of a scientist myself,” which is a cute moment, but does feel a bit forced. Otto Octavius also says “The power of the sun in the palm of my hand” from Spider-Man 2, but it feels a bit oddly placed, considering that the context of the line is a lot weaker, which makes it feel even more forced. 

However, No Way Home is bogged down by some pacing issues that fail to move the story along consistently. For example, as stated previously, there is a lot going on, and it does feel as if the film doesn’t know how to keep up with it’s own story. Some characters simply don’t have an opportunity to do enough, which is a shame considering Peter’s previous outing in Far From Home, which was good at giving each character their individual moments of spotlight. 

Overall, it is hard to hit No Way Home with too much scrutiny, as it is a love letter to Spider-Man not just as a character, but as a symbol. It does a fantastic job at bringing the MCU Peter back to basics, with it’s knockout ending and amazing integration of the Spider-Man mythos. No Way Home manages to do a lot as the bitter-sweet yet spectacular conclusion to the MCU Spider-Man trilogy.


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