[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead for this movie, Loki and Hawkeye, so take heed.]
At the time of this writing, Spider-Man: No Way Home has taken the world by storm, clocking in at a whopping 1.6 billion at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s already surpassed Black Panther to take 4th place in the top domestic earners of all time and 8th place worldwide. That’s crazy in the best sense of the word. I only wish that Stan the Man was still with us to see not one but three versions of his famous creation save the day on screen. Together.
Since we are going to be talking about different actors playing the same character, I’m designating them in order of chronological appearance, so:
- Peter-1 – OG Spider-Man/Tobey Maguire
- Peter-2 – Amazing Spider-Man/Andrew Garfield
- Peter-3 – MCU Spider-Man/Tom Holland
There was no way I wasn’t going to see this movie. I wasn’t super keen on heading to a packed theatre to see it, but I did so anyway. Tom Holland has proven himself an inspired casting choice for Spider-Man, and seeing him in the role would have been enough to motivate me. The studio leaks that said that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles as the titular character gave me a little pause. Not because they weren’t great, but I was somewhat worried that too many things would try to be smashed together into one movie. You don’t have to look any further than 2007’s Spider-Man 3 to see how a story can falter for having too many elements going on at once. That many characters on screen, even with a long run time, can be challenging to land just right.
All of my concerns proved unfounded, however. To say that this movie sticks the landing is the understatement among understatements.
What I LIKED:
DAREDEVIL! – I let out an excited yell in the theatre when Charlie Cox showed up as Matt Murdock. And this within days of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk showing up on Hawkeye. It still remains to be seen how much they are like their Netflix appearances, but to have them as an official part of the MCU after being consigned to legal limbo is incredible. Now that it’s been established, I hope we start seeing Charlie Cox show up in other Marvel projects and eventually headline his own series or movie again.
Peter-3’s Sense of Compassion – Peter didn’t take the easy way out. At any time he could have pushed the button and made the issue of the villains (literally) disappear. Even when they turned on him, his goal was to help them, a decision that ultimately costs him dearly. Yet, he still does it. At the battle at the Statue of Liberty, his goal wasn’t just to punch them, but to cure them. It all calls back to Peter’s innate humanity and compassion. Yeah, he got a little carried away with Green Goblin there for a moment, but it’s hard to blame him. And, wow, can Norman Osborn take a punch. That formula must’ve been really something.
Real Consequences – I’ve heard it said that nothing in the MCU feels like it has any real stakes since it can be undone or retconned easily enough. That’s less of a problem with Marvel movies and more an issue with comics in general, I think. But here, Peter’s choices have lasting consequences. From the looks of it, the aftermath of this movie doesn’t feel like it will be overturned.
Returning Heroes – If there’s a trope that’s my literary kryptonite, it’s the returning hero. Especially if the hero was thought lost or has been away for a long time. Seeing Peter-1 and 2 show up again is a warm hug straight to the heart. It’s great to see Tobey and Andrew step into these roles when we weren’t sure if we would ever see them wear the red and blue again. Love it.
Aunt May Says the Words – When Spider-Man showed up in Captain America: Civil War, I had assumed that this version of the character had witnessed Uncle Ben die as well. My guess was that after seeing that event happen twice on screen that the screenwriters (wisely) didn’t want to show us all that again. From how this played out, it looks like Aunt May might have been with Ben when he died instead. Spider-Man is, unfortunately, fated to lose someone he loves dearly. Yet, he always takes that loss and transforms it into something positive. We hear Marisa Tomei say the immortal words that Stan Lee left us with all those years ago, and it really hits home. Tom Holland brings such a wonderful vulnerability to the character, and his performance is so good in that scene that it feels like the loss we see on screen is really happening.
Spider-Man vs. Doctor Strange – I normally don’t like it when superheroes fight, but I felt this one was justified, even if I think Strange should have at least heard Peter-3 out. While it would seem that Strange should just be able to roll over Spidey without issue, that Peter was able to use math to find a way to beat Strange at his own game shows us just how smart our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man really is.
The Scooby Gang – Some of my favorite moments in the movie are when Peter-3, Ned, and MJ are together as friends and trying to determine what they’re going to do. The chemistry of those three actors is fantastic. Spider-Friends…go for it!
Six Five – Each of the villains had their moment to shine with stand-out performances by Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe as Doc Ock and Green Goblin, respectively. Seeing both of them step back into these roles is a real treat.
J. Jonah Jameson – If ever there was an actor who really nailed it in bringing a character from the comics to life, J.K. Simmons did that with the bombastic editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle in Peter-1’s continuity. Seeing him reprise his role in the MCU is a real bright spot. Any time we get hear him say, “He’s a menace!” I am there for it.
Happy Hogan – This one hurt. This really brought home the extent of what Peter had to sacrifice to win the day. We see the full extent of Strange’s spell in effect here. Jon Favreau helped start the wheels of the MCU turning with the original Iron Man. I’m always glad to see him as a recurring character. I hope he’s able to keep going with Happy for as long as he wants.
Venom – If I’m being frank, I haven’t been a big fan of either of the Venom movies that have come out. I didn’t hate them, but I wouldn’t say that I liked them. I was a bit concerned by the stinger in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I didn’t really want that version of the character in the MCU. Thankfully, we got the best of both worlds. Tom Hardy’s character was banished back to his own continuity, but we got a trace of the symbiote left behind that could be a catalyst for other stories. Since Secret Wars is in the production pipeline, maybe that’s where it will come into play.
What I DIDN’T Like:
Doctor Strange’s Initial Spell – As a long-time D&D player, I have a special appreciation for the wish spell. Specifically, how you should approach it carefully and go into it with clearly defined goals and intentions. If you’re asking a wizard to cast wish on your behalf, you should probably have a bit of a chat beforehand, yeah? Make sure that you’ve thought it through, worked through all the possible ramifications, and set the conditions that are important to you. I know this is a plot device showing itself here, but it’s odd that Strange would put such a major spell in motion without knowing all the caveats Peter wanted in place. Also, from the way it’s presented, Strange would have blanked his own memory if the spell would have gone off. He has that wonderful “So long, kid,” moment at the end of the movie, but here it looks like he’s ready to edit Peter out of his life without hesitation.
Doctor Strange’s Final Spell – I had a disconnect here, and I’m curious if anyone else had this as well. The first spell was designed to make everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, not to forget Peter entirely. My understanding of it was that everyone would still know that Spider-Man exists, but they would lose all knowledge that Peter Parker was the one behind the mask. So, those who knew Peter personally, like say Flash Thompson, wouldn’t forget that he exists. When the spell is finally unleashed at the climax of the movie, however, it makes everyone forget who Peter Parker is entirely. Ned and MJ don’t just lose the memories of Peter-3 being Spidey, they don’t know him at all. Yet, everyone still knows that Spider-Man exists. Anyone else feel that this didn’t exactly add up?
Doctor Strange’s Sudden Lack of Empathy – Okay, I know it sounds like I’m ragging on Strange a lot here. Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a great performance, as always. My issue with this portrayal of the character is that he’s willing to condemn the Sinister Five without much thought or contemplation on the matter. Where is his Hippocratic Oath in all this to do no harm? Even if it was their fate to die, clearly that can be changed as evidenced by the ending of the movie. He’s the one who said that simply killing people means that you lack imagination. If someone could find a way to defy fate, it’s the guy who literally messes around with the source code of reality. That he’s not willing to hear Peter out on the matter strikes me as weird and puts the characters into direct conflict with each other.
Some Connecting Scenes – Seeing the three Spider-Men fighting together around the Statue of Liberty was mind blowing. A few of the scenes of them interacting as Peter Parker, however, felt a little ad-libbed. Mainly, I’m talking about the lab scene and where Peter-2 is popping Peter-1’s back. The direction in those scenes felt suddenly unsure and flat, whereas much of the rest of the movie had a much more noticeable dramatic weight to it.
How was Electro brought into the spell when he didn’t know Peter-2’s identity? What becomes of Peter-1 and Peter-2’s timeline since their villains were redeemed? Harry Osborn from Peter-1’s timeline became the Green Goblin (and subsequently died) only as a result of his father’s death. Does the newly reformed Norman Osborn returning to the moment before he died change all that? What about Doc Ock who went into the water near a raging ball of fusion? One hopes that Doctor Strange had the presence of mind to return them to someplace safe. Speaking of whom, how does the fracturing of the multiverse at the end connect to the same effect we see in the Loki series?
Beyond that, what will become of all three Spider-Men? Will we ever get to see Tobey Maguire in the role again? What about Andrew Garfield? Would that change the outcome where he lost Gwen Stacy? Regardless, if the studios haven’t approached Emma Stone about playing Spider-Gwen at some point, I feel like they’re missing a step.
Lastly, what will happen to our beloved MCU Spider-Man? When we leave him, he’s all alone in the world. He has no family left, his friends have forgotten him, and even the Avengers won’t remember him if they bumped into him on the street. While that means that he can operate as Spider-Man without the fear of a backlash to those he cares about, Spider-Man has never been a lone wolf. His relationships and attitudes towards other people have been a big influence on him. Where will he go from here?
What a ride. What. A. Ride. I have enjoyed the MCU offerings post-Endgame, but there hasn’t been the same unified meta-structure as in the Infinity Saga. This movie feels like it sets in motion what Doctor Strange will have to contend with in Multiverse of Madness this May. That feels like the next big narrative thread that the next cycle of movies will explore. So, in addition to being an incredible accomplishment of its own, No Way Home gives us that next big landmark, and delivers it in a larger-than-life way that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I honestly could not ask for more from a Spider-Man movie.
Of course, it’s also a big reset button to everything we’ve built up for Peter-3 so far. I do hope that future installments (which given the incredible earnings of this film make them virtually guaranteed) will start to rebuild the Wall-Crawler’s interrelationships. We get a hint of that in the donut shop scene, but we need more of it. A lot more. Regardless of where the franchise goes from here, I think Spider-Man: No Way Home absolutely deserves every penny it’s earned.
And that’s the way this fanboy sees it.