TL;DR – In every way, this film stuck the landing, but I can’t help but feel that part of the ending didn’t sit well with me.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene that you do not have to stay for
Disclosure – I paid to watch this film
Spider-Man: No Way Home Review –
It has been a while since I have seen a film with so much hype building before release like I think not even Avengers Endgame had this much pressure behind it. As I walked into this film, there was a fear that they would never be able to stick the landing because there was such wide expectations as to what this film was meant to be. However, now that I have seen and had some time to ruminate on it, I think they were able to stick the landing, which is almost remarkable.
So to set the scene, in the closing moments of Spider-Man: Far From Home, internet conspiracy nut J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) revealed doctored footage alleging Spider-Man was a murderer, but also showing to the world that Spider-Man was actually Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The adverse reaction is immediate and vicious as public opinion shifts against Peter even though he did nothing wrong. The response is so bad that even his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) can’t get into college because they are caught in the blowback. Not wanting his mistake to hurt his friends, Peter makes a trip to 177A Bleecker Street to meet Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Strange promises to cast a spell, so everyone forgets that Peter is Spider-Man, but things go badly wrong. Okay, so this is a difficult film to talk about because you can not really discuss it without getting into spoilers at a frighteningly quick pace. So with that in mind, we will give some general impressions and then dive into full spoilers.
If one thing has helped this MCU juggernaut work all these years, it is the casting, and you see on show here in Spider-Man. Sarah Halley Finn and Chris Zaragoza’s job back in Spider-Man: Homecoming is essential for how this film works because if we didn’t care about Peter, MJ, and Ned, we would not care about anything in this film’s narrative. It likely also helps that they have had Jon Watts in for the whole trilogy, so there is a level of institutional knowledge in understanding these characters that you can see up on the screen.
In many respects, this is a film about consequences, people trying to take a short cut and it all is blowing up in their faces. But more importantly, it is a film about how you act when you must deal with your own mess laid bare for all to see. Tom does a great job of portraying someone who has been dumped in the shit through no fault of his own, and you feel for him and the predicament he is in. You completely understand why he goes to Strange and why it is not a (completely) selfish request. This is important from now on because you could be unsympathetic to Peter’s plight without that knowledge. I like that they gave Ned something to do other than just being the guy-in-the-chair and that MJ was never reduced to the damsel in distress.
From a visual perspective, yes, aspects felt that they were presented as being in these wide-open expenses but were clearly filmed on a soundstage. Yet, I was visually engaged for the entire runtime. Part of that was from the exciting scenarios that the film posited. I never knew what a fight between Spider-Man and Dr Strange would look like, yet here we got its perfect encapsulation. Both heroes try to stop the other while still being kind of friends and having dramatically different skill sets. We also see that in the first fight with one of the film’s villains, which has equal parts tension and comedy.
To be able to discuss the film honestly, we need to engage [SPOILERS], so if you have not seen the movie, be aware that we will be discussing the ending of the film from here. From the moment that Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) appears to give legal advice to Peter and May (Marisa Tomei), you could feel everyone in the audience sit up and go, “wait, are they actually going to do this”. But even when they made the big reveal, I was still not sure that they were actually going to pull it off. But even if you suspected that Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) was going into the film, that reveal still hits.
From a narrative standpoint, I like that the new additions don’t diminish Peter (Tom) but instead become like old mentors to help him find his footing in the world. It is clear that the film does owe a lot to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it also tells a different story, even if there is some overlap with the themes. Thematically, I liked the juxtaposition that all the villains were plucked from the moment that they died, but Peter (Andrew) and Peter (Tobey) continued in their lives and had all sorts of unrecorded adventures. It allows them to link to the past and still a little new in their presentation. I was concerned that having so many villains in the film would be detrimental. However, unlike in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Spider-Man 3, it avoids feeling bloated because firstly, we have already met them before, so there are not five origin stories we need to deal with. But more than that, the villain in this film is not the Rogues Gallery we get. The villain is just the concept of consequences.
One clear thing is that everybody in the cast is giving their all. Watching Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina slip into their old characters like a comfortable pair of shoes was a delight to watch. They came to each scene like it was categorically important, and that emphasis can be felt throughout the film. The same can be said for Tobey and Andrew. There is a feeling of joy you get from their performances and some deep sadness. I am not sure any line has landed quite like Andrew’s “I stopped pulling my punches”. This also leads to some of the best banter in the entire MCU between the three Peter’s. I mean, the sheer joy of them working out how each of their web slingers worked was just delightful. On that banter, how Peter (Tom), MJ, and Ned slipped right into their team trio is a testament to how good the actors are. You can feel how good they work with each other, which is why I think the ending didn’t hit as well for me as it did for others.
Speaking of that, let us talk about the ending of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, the banter, the not-quite-surprises-but-still-nice-anyway moments, and while I think they stuck the landing, I could not help but feel some frustration. Part of that stems from the decision to have the fight at night, which I understand from a production point of view, but all the Spider-Mans look the same in that low light, which made tracking what was going on difficult at times. However, more than that, the ending where Peter is forgotten just felt mean, especially after May, even if it was a culmination of the film’s themes. I think it mostly felt off for me because of the gut feeling that this won’t stick, robbing it of its thematic weight. Also that it felt more of an outcome they needed for the more expansive universe and Sony/Marvel relations rather than the film itself. It wasn’t helped by just when I was processing those feelings, the film decided to waste my time by slapping a trailer at the end.
In the end, do we recommend Spider-Man: No Way Home? Look, while I had issues with the ending, I still feel like they stuck the landing, and at least everything up to that point was a delight. Sure, the film could have been a little more adventurous with its multiverse cross-over, but I have a feeling that we are just on the tip of that exploding in the MCU. If you liked Spider-Man: No Way Home, I would also recommend to you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse because one should always watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Spider-Man: No Way Home
Directed by – Jon Watts
Written by – Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Based on – Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Music by – Michael Giacchino
Cinematography by – Mauro Fiore
Edited by – Jeffrey Ford & Leigh Folsom Boyd
Production/Distribution Companies – Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures & Sony Pictures Releasing
Starring –Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, J. K. Simmons, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, J. B. Smoove, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Paula Newsome & Arian Moayed with [Spoilers] Charlie Cox, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, Cristo Fernández & Tom Hardy
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13