THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS……READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK
After a couple of long and tumultuous years of delayed theater releases, premiers on streaming services, and less-than-impressive box office numbers I am excited to say that I think movies are officially back with Spider-Man: No Way Home. This is the third movie with Spider-Man as the title character in the modern MCU and it is by far the most ambitious of the three. It is directed by Jon Watts (as were the first two) and comes in with a run time of 2 hours and 28 minutes making it the third-longest film in the MCU (behind Eternals and Endgame).
Let’s Get Nit Picky
I do have some critiques of the film and I want to get those out of the way first. First of all, the film definitely changed some of the old characters significantly. Max felt especially different, going from being an awkward dorky janitor to a cool and quippy bad boy. I’m not sure if they felt like the character would be received better this way, but as someone who would consider themself a fan of the Amazing Spider-man movies, this is a difference that did not go unnoticed.
Early on in the film, I felt like the introduction of each of these villains felt rushed and thin. All five characters were thrown into the story in like a 5-minute span of time. It also felt like after he caught these five he just stopped looking for more and assumed he had them all when in reality he probably should have assumed there was more out there until he found out otherwise.
The last nitpick I want to point out is the use of spells and magic to push the plot forward and conveniently fill holes that they encountered. Pretty much every major plot point is driven by the convenience and unpredictability of magic. For instance, they get to a point where they want to introduce the other two Spider-Men, so Ned conveniently now has the magic to bring them together when he is trying to find Tom Holland Peter Parker. At the end of the film Dr. Strange casts a spell to make everyone forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but that also magically sends everyone back to their own universe? Why is that? I thought the spell that was supposed to do that was blown up? The other thing that was convenient is how all of their cures pretty much worked on the first try (with exception of one). I guess things still did go wrong in the apartment fight scene, but the cures still pretty much all worked as planned.
Three…..is the Magic Number
All the aforementioned critiques have to do with plot coherence and believability. The reality is that Spider-Man: No Way Home makes a concerted effort to overshadow plot coherence with nostalgia, action, a quick pace, and heavy emotion and it does a great job in doing so. To be honest, I had no idea how much joy it would bring me to see all three of the big screen Spider-Man actors on the screen together. I have seen almost every Spider-Man movie ever made and because of that, it made me feel like all these years have been leading up to something bigger than each individual movie. It also gave me an immense amount of closure for Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. People forget that his story wasn’t supposed to end after the second movie, and they give Andrew Garfield the chance to explain what has happened since Gwen’s death. He also gets a chance to redeem himself by saving MJ and it darn near made me cry. It was also really fun to watch Tobey Maguire back in the suit for the first time in over a decade even though I still think he is an awful actor.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is by far, no questions asked, bar none, Tom Holland’s most inspiring performance of his career to this point in my opinion. The tragedy and emotion he experiences are incredible and he really makes you feel it as the audience. This is probably the closest I’ve gotten to tears in an MCU movie since Steve’s call with Peggy as he crashes into a frozen ocean. The last scenes of the film where Peter is saying goodbye to MJ and Ned before they forget who he is, and then when he goes into the restaurant with the intention of introducing himself and explaining what happened…these were just absolutely gut-wrenching moments to witness. In addition to the emotion, it is always an extremely funny movie. It was both funny and satisfying to watch the three Spider-Men interacting and playing off each other. This is the most ambitious combination of characters into a movie in MCU history in my opinion (move over Endgame) and it’s executed beautifully.
They also did an excellent job of setting up this Spider-Man for his opportunity to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, disassociated from the Avengers and the MCU. They give Peter his small little apartment, his homemade suit, and the fact that no Avenger (or person for that matter) remembers who it is that is in the Spider-Man suit. They even set up the fact that Simbiot (Venom) is now in his universe. I think this is all done as an attempt by Sony to take the character back and now make their own trilogy independently with Tom Holland, but I’m honestly okay with that.
Overall, this is not the most perfect, well-written movie in the MCU…but at the moment I can’t think of another movie by the studio that was more fun than Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you haven’t seen it in theaters I would highly recommend it. I’ve already seen it twice! For the last year, I’ve been predicting that this would be the first movie in the COVID era to break the billion-dollar box office mark and so far that prediction looks quite promising. Big movies are back on the big screen and it’s exciting to see!