Peter Parker/Spider-Man become better defined in ‘No Way Home’
Editor’s note: The following review contains plot spoilers. Details will become more specific as you read farther down the review.
The best part of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the return of familiar faces from past “Spider-Man” films to the big screen as everyone crosses over through the multiverse.
Villains (and the actors who originally played them) return from the movies starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Fans knew that would happen because of the trailers, but there’s a surprise that will be discussed at the end of this review in the interest of fully cautioning readers about plot spoilers.
The latest “Spider-Man” movie has a lot of heart, and it’s ultimately about compassion, second chances, what it means to be a friend and whether rules should be broken despite the best intentions. This film examines unexpected consequences of risky actions.
That’s a lot to pack in this character-driven movie, but “No Way Home” manages to make it work.
Overall, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a successful movie that gives fans reason to applaud at specific moments, but the second movie of the trilogy, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” remains a better film in terms of action. But “No Way Home” is the better film in terms of character development because ultimately it defines the kind of hero Spider-Man will be.
If you’re a Marvel fan, you should see “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” If you’ve loved the Spider-Man films since Mr. Maguire first started swinging, you absolutely should see it.
“No Way Home” picks up from the cliffhanger at the end of “Far From Home” (2019) in which Spider-Man (Mr. Holland) is accused of murder. And journalist J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, reprising the character he played in Mr. Maguire’s era), has told the whole world Spider-Man is Peter Parker.
That flips Peter’s life upside down, and soon police are questioning him, his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon).
That plot is wrapped up. There’s apparently not enough evidence to press charges, but be sure to watch for an Easter egg involving another Marvel superhero. He’s there briefly.
The movie then proceeds to its main story: Peter doesn’t like living in a world where everyone knows he’s Spider-Man. It’s causing problems for him, MJ and Ned. He asks Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make people forget he’s Spider-Man. Then, as Doctor Strange is creating the spell, Peter asks him to undo it.
If creating a spell can cause problems, ending it midstream can make things even worse. And that sets the stage for villains such as Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) to cross over from their universes. (Digital de-aging means Mr. Molina and Mr. Dafoe look like they did when they acted in the movies starring Mr. Maguire.)
Soon Peter faces the moral dilemma of whether to send the villains back to die, as they originally did, or to take out the evil in them and give them a second chance in their universes.
Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) acts as Peter’s conscience, reminding him that heroes are here to help people and save lives. It’s a simple and bold truth, but it comes with risks, and Mr. Holland’s Spider-Man evolves into a more mature hero because of his final decisions.
If you’ve read this far, you know enough about whether to see this film. One of the major plot spoilers is in the next paragraph.
The best moment for fans is the placement of Mr. Garfield, Mr. Maguire and Mr. Holland together as the three Spider-Men from three universes meet. It’s fun seeing them compare their differences, including the puzzling fact that Mr. Maguire’s Spider-Man can shoot webbing directly from his wrists. Mr. Holland’s and Mr. Garfield’s Spider-Man had to create mechanical web shooters, as did Peter Parker in the original comics.
Director Jon Watts had the challenging task of pulling many characters and morality themes together in a story that succeeds on the big screen but might have succeeded even better as a six- or seven-episode series streaming on disney+. That would have allowed more time to explore the characters and have a trial for Peter Parker.
Within a movie, the murder accustation had to be dealt with and dismissed quickly — well, viewers know Peter’s innocent — in order to move on to the bigger story.
Artistically, a six- or seven-episode series would have been great. But commercially, it made sense to keep “No Way Home” a movie. The film had the third highest global debut at the box office in cinematic history, and it’s a strong movie that’s meant for the big screen.
Overall, “No Way Home” is a successful look at Spider-Man finding his way home to what matters: to his heart, his courage, his dedication to doing the right thing even when it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. As mentioned previously, the second film, “Far From Home,” has better action, but nothing in the “Spider-Man” movie franchise beats “No Way Home” for seeing Peter Parker use his brains (math over magic) and listen to his heart.
As always with Marvel movies, be sure to remain after the credits to see what’s next for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, who will return in next year’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Filming has already been taking place in Los Angeles.
And if you read to the end of this review, fear not. There were other major plot spoilers that were not revealed here. See the film for those.