Spider-Man: No Way Home review – An Impossible Triumph
If you thought this would be Spider-Man’s greatest movie, you might be right. With at least five villains, rumors of the return of Spider-Men, aand the concept of the multiverse that opens it all up, Spider-Man: No Way Home plays just about every bit of strength it has to claim the title of the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.
Spider-Man: No Way hits theaters on December 16. For the most part, it works … if you’ve seen all of the previous Spider-Man movies. Inevitably a tangle of characters, stories, and motivations, No Way Home handles a surprisingly tidy plot for those who understand where each player is coming from. Look at the Spider-Man back-catalog and you’ll know why the people in the back of the theater are clapping all the time.
What if you don’t know two decades of previous Spider-Man films intimately? If you’re here for a simple, well-oiled and entertaining Marvel (and Sony) movie, you won’t be disappointed. You might not fully appreciate the magnitude of what is essentially the live-action equivalent of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, aka.. But you will be entitled to sympathetic heroes with relevant character development; fluid and dynamic action scenes; weird and wacky humor; high stakes; powerful emotional blows; and at least one amazing one-liner, delivered by Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) of All People.
Basically, it’s the Tom Holland Spider-Man movie that most closely resembles Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s previous installments. Director Jon Watts deals with real-life consequences, a darker tone in general, and a recognizable New York setting (with a few Marvel Cinematic Universe touches). In other words, Holland’s third entry does make up for the filling that Spider-Man: Far From Home was.
The basic premise sees Peter Parker dealing with the fallout from the events right at the end of Far From Home. His secret identity is known to the public, combined with the small (fabricated) detail that he murdered Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Now, with a savage media after him, led by the glorious (but underutilized) J. Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons), Peter must adjust to a difficult existence pursued in the uncomfortable public spotlight.
If you’ve pulled this plot point together from the aforementioned record-breaking trailer, you might argue that’s not reason enough to justify Peter’s next decision: go see Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and ask the wizard to cast a spell that brings everything back to normal. This idea begins with sweet hijinks in keeping with the fun high school games influenced by John Hughes from Holland’s first two outings. But then comes a surprising spectacle, filled with expectations, with a thematic weight.
Marvel has announced the inclusion of returning villains, including the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). Maybe that was to warn you to study their stories, so that you’re happy with a line or two provided as to why each villain reacts to a story that takes them to a different universe.
The stars are the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Thanks to Marvel’s digital aging technology, Dafoe and Molina mostly look like they were almost two decades ago when they appeared in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy. Most. Sometimes it looks like an Instagram beauty filter has been strategically placed on certain parts of the screen.
Visual effects in general have been chunked up and downsized, so we don’t have to sift through Far From Home’s heavy effects storm. The action scenes, featuring hand-to-hand combat, seem more practical and visceral. More gritty, more sweaty, more bloody. A first-person perspective takes you on a dizzying ride with Spider-Man swinging from A to B. Small details, such as Peter using his webs to grab objects around Aunt May’s apartment, add charm and a welcome color. This time Peter is also exercising his Spidey senses, so the oft-joked about “Peter Tingle” is now a real highlight – which we can finally feel too, via sound effects and a close-up of Holland’s face.
A streak with Doctor Strange is not only trippy and mind-blowing, but it gives Peter a chance to use his other super power: his brain. Holland’s iteration, while younger than the previous two, rarely gets a chance to use its less flashy asset. A scientific prodigy in the comics, the film version of Holland almost was portrayed as a frustratingly naive and gullible athlete. But this time around, he’s doing a lot better (although Spidey’s trademark jokes, aside from a scene with Doc Ock, are still sorely lacking).
Holland can also showcase his dramatic acting skills, more than his effortless sympathy. The darker, PG-rated material pushes Holland to searing, emotional places that sparkle with the nagging moral decisions inside Peter. Special mentions go to Zendaya (Peter’s girlfriend, MJ) and Jacob Batalon (Peter’s best friend, Ned), the former of whom has a lot more going on, despite playing Peter’s girlfriend and that he inevitably finds himself falling from a tall building in the third act. MJ even has a character growth thread – but be warned, such gifts can be taken away so quickly (sigh).
The work of the camera is more fluid, the dialogues more lively and the inner turmoil of our hero vanishes well. An influence from the Russo Brothers is almost felt, ushering Holland’s third Spider-Man movie into bigger new territory. If the character is to become the next Tony Stark, this is the way to burn a few more scars on the facade of a more interesting hero. If you’ve come for the biggest movie of the year, you will definitely come away satisfied.
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