Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up immediately from the dramatic conclusion of Far From Home. Where Mysterio enacted his revenge; revealing Spidey’s identity to the world. Peter Parker asks Doctor Strange for help but when a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
With the MCU teasing the arrival of the Multi-verse for over a year, through Wandavision and Loki, it appears that Peter Parker’s wish to remain anonymous was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ripping open the fabric of space time and teasing the arrival of villains from the previous two live-action Spider-Man franchises. Ironically, there is no sign of anyone from the best Spidey movie and one that has already explored the multiverse – Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse.
In keeping with the crux of the film’s premise, there are an infinite number of ways this review could go. It could be a five star rave, a one star slating or a messy, overlong ramble with more puns than Spider-Man 3 had villains.
However this is most certainly the version of the multiverse completely devoid of spoilers. Which admittedly makes much of the film difficult to discuss!
Peter Parker is, without a doubt, the Marvel character who has been put through the ringer more than any other. No matter what universe or timeline he has been on. He has been beaten up, dusted, beaten up some more and suffered his fair share of heartbreak and loss. Whether it has been failing to save Gwen Stacy or losing paternal figures such as Tony Stark and multiple Uncle Ben’s.
However through it all. Peter has tried his best to remain a good person. Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man if you will. After all, as someone once, or twice, said “With great power comes great responsibility”.
The flip side of this (or should that be blip side?) is that Peter’s attempts to do the right thing that inevitably causes him more problems. When their association with the costumed vigilante Spider-Man, means that MJ and Ned will miss out on being accepted to M.I.T., Peter asks Stephen, sorry, Doctor Strange to cast a spell to make everyone forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man. You know, a world-altering spell rather than simply calling the college to argue their case. Anyway, his interference in the casting of the spell causes a rip in the old space-time continuum, multiverse, Spider-verse thingy. Resulting in the appearance of some villainous characters from Spider-man’s past. Not all of them belonging to this version of Peter.
Cue Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman, Lizard. That’s one, two, three, four, five. One more and there would be a rather sinister six for him to deal with. Hmmm. Cue thoughtful emoji face.
When Peter discovers that all of these enemies died at the hands of Spider-Man and that their return to their own dimension would mean certain death. He once again tries to do the right thing and save everyone. Setting him against not only deadly antagonists but also his newest mentor figure Doctor Strange.
Whilst unsurprisingly it delivers on the action with blockbusting set pieces, where the film really soars are in the quieter moments.
No offence to anyone else who has doned the spandex suit but Tom Holland is the best on-screen version of Peter Parker. As the one closest to the teenage age of the comic book character, he has successfully encapsulated the wide range of emotions that come from being a superhero whilst still at school. For example the immediate switch from joy to fear when he realises his date’s dad is the Vulture. Or the internal struggle he faces when trapped under the rubble in Homecoming. The relief he feels when the people he cares about learn his secret to the terror he feels when being dusted in Infinity War.
He is equally comfortable in the John Hughes-esque scenes with Ned and MJ (the real life chemistry of Holland and Zendaya transferring to the big screen – negating Joey Tribbiani’s theory about the “heat” between dating co-stars) and the scenes where Holland wrestles with the “great power” and “great responsibility”. As he grapples with what it means to be Spider-Man, if there was one performance that one could reference as an inspiration for this film, it would be Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life.
If only he had someone to turn to who could relate to how he is feeling… For those reading this whole review looking for confirmation if they might see the live action equivalent of the Spider-Men pointing at each other meme? Not going to happen.
Previously in the latter stages of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, casual fans may have struggled to keep up with all the new characters, overarching plots and cross-referencing. Ironically, this movie poses a problem for anyone only familiar with the MCU version of Spider-Man. With seven movies strictly now “canon”, a lot of the references may swing over their heads, leaving them somewhat baffled.
On paper a lot of this could be seen as pandering or fan service. After all, what fan is not going to mark out at the return of Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe? Or the repetition of a famous line or seeing a familiar face? However all of it is actually in service to the character. From his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War to now, the MCU’s Peter Parker has been heading towards an inevitable fork in the road. While in the multiverse, there are infinite possibilities, Now Way Home proves that there was only one path he could take. Director Jon Watts and Holland have always understood the power and responsibility they had with the character. They have taken the audience on that journey with Peter and the end result feels 100% natural and completely earned.
Simulateneously bringing closure to many different plot threads, or web strands, while promising exciting new beginnings, Spider-Man: No Way Home is the most ambitious, action-packed and emotionally satisfying live action Spider-Man movie ever made.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas now
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe
Runtime: 148 minutes