SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME Review
Possibly the most anticipated film of the year for a majority of moviegoers and most definitely one of the most anticipated Spider-Man entries ever (at least until the next one), SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME arrives to cap off the year, and seemingly its trilogy, with a go-for-broke reach for extravagance. With the arrival of the much theorized multi-verses (a theme that will no doubt impact the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next phase), Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and friends must face the past, present, and uncertain future.
Picking up seconds after the previous FAR FROM HOME where the world has now become aware of Spider-Man’s true identity (thanks to the return of the now-Alex Jones-like J. Jonah Jameson, played once more by J.K. Simmons), NO WAY HOME focuses on the impact of that reveal, and to no surprise, having the world know you’re everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man kind of sucks (especially if they believe you’re a murderer like Jake Gyllenhaal's late Mysterio falsely claimed in the last film). But Peter isn’t the only one feeling the heat from the new target on his back as his GF, MJ (Zendaya), and BFF, Ned (Jacob Batalon), and even poor, hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) are caught in the crossfire of being associated with the allegedly murderous web-slinger. Seeing their futures tainted by his actions, the always helpful (if constantly bumbling) Peter finds that the only sensible solution is to enlist everyone’s favorite neighborhood wizard, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to help him out with his problem.
While it’s a bit surprising to see Dr. Strange — a wise ass enchanter who knows the downfalls of using the dark arts so casually — so quickly come around to Peter’s rushed wish of making the world forget about Spider-Man’s identity, the guy goes ahead and helps the kid out. Of course, Peter screws up the spell and before long a tear in the universe (or universes!) brings in a who’s who of former Spider-Man villains — those villains of course, hailing from the universes of previous SPIDER-MAN films! But rather than go straight to beating these throwback goons back into their own shuttered universes, Peter (bless his heart), decides that he wants to HELP these baddies and find the maybe warm hearts lurking beneath their sandy, electric, psychotic, tentacle-y exteriors.
This idea — of our hero actually taking the time to actually help the villain stop being a villain — excitingly lofts NO WAY HOME towards unique territory, and for a moment, writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers almost pull it off as we see Peter, perhaps naively, try and help some guys he hardly knows much about. Also, it’s just really fun to see the likes of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro cross the studio and universal lines to muck about with this new and shiny Spider-Man. Each former baddie gets their own particular moment to shine with the likes of Mr. Dafoe and Mr. Molina returning to their zesty overdramatic villainy — with Dafoe in particular absolutely stealing the show with his somehow increased appetite for chaos and dementedness — while the likes of Mr. Foxx gets a chance to finally have some fun with characters that didn’t necessarily get a fighter’s chance in their own films (sorry AMAZING SPIDER-MAN franchise, you weren’t very good). When these villains are put into a room together, quite literally I must add, the mixing doesn’t quite live up to its set up but with such a strong stable of actors, even the jokes that shouldn’t land still manage to sling a grin onto your mouth.
By far the longest Spider-Man film, NO WAY HOME certainly feels and operates like an end-all be-all conclusion to a franchise, what with the cross franchise synergy and all, but as with the previous entries of Holland and Jon Watts’ franchise, the power of this Spider-Man resides in the threats and suspense of the more low stakes situation of being a kid with an uncertain future. As they usually showcase, the chemistry between Peter, MJ, and Ned finds the film’s pure heart and humor, and momentarily, one wishes this cast of talented young people could get a chance to make a movie where Spider-Man and the threat of universal destruction are pushed a tad more to the side. Not to say that the reveals and potentials of the emerging multi-verses aren’t good; in fact, while some moments certainly seem to have been manufactured in a lab to drag out those sweet, sweet “please clap” moment from the audience, that doesn’t make NO WAY HOME’s surprises any less entertaining in the moment. However, even with all the gifts the film offers in its crossovers, these moments can’t quite match the genuineness of the friendship between three high school graduates as each new applause worthy moment feels like a list the Marvel execs came up with to hit all the right (and ultimately expected) notes.
Even as I rag on the woes of a film simply doing a pretty good job of being entertaining rather than intellectually deep, NO WAY HOME takes a few fair share of jabs towards other exciting areas, particularly in its approach to the ideas of the past and the uncertain future. With the former, Watts and his writers tap onto some interesting discussions on the idea of the rehabilitation of villains known only for their misdeeds, contemplating the idea that maybe villains can be saved. Of course, a superhero movies gotta superhero and these tantalizing ideas are stampeded by the film’s numerous action sequences featuring CGI sprites punching each other. In its latter theme of those uncertain futures (for both the MCU and Peter Parker himself), NO WAY HOME finds a little more solid footing in ably meshing the toils of Peter’s want for a more normal life and the sacrifices (sometimes heartbreaking ones) that come with the job; an area that the talented Mr. Holland is more than capable of showing, as we see his Parker pushed to his physical and moral limits. Like the best superhero works, this film shows the tragic consequences, not all of them deadly exactly, that haunt our heroes even when they save the day.
As with INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME, NO WAY HOME impressively lives up to the momentous hype. It doesn’t always strike a fair balance between the more invigorating heart of this current franchise with its tiptoes towards the past and fan wish fulfillment but even then it’s a miracle that so many dangling pieces come together in a nice sturdy web. The future for more Spider-Man films looks good but as for where the actual story goes from here? Well, that’s where things can get real interesting.