Out of all the blockbusters to be released this year, Spider-Man: No Way Home has personally been my most anticipated. With the release of each trailer continuing to tease us and fans over analyzing every minute detail of their content, the big question was would the film ever be able to live up to expectations.
Thankfully the answer to that question is a resounding yes, with No Way Home not only being one of the best sci fi/fantasy actioners of the year, but also the finest solo adventure yet for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This may seem like hyperbole, with the film being still fresh in my mind, but this is on par with the best of the MCU and makes up for the extreme disappointment of Eternals (2021).
Marvel has certainly pulled out all the stops here, with director Jon Watts and the entire cast firing on all cylinders. I haven’t been this pleased with a superhero movie since Avengers: Endgame. Be warned, this review will be delving into SPOILER territory so if you want to see the film fresh I would advise to stop reading now. For the rest of you please read on.
No Way Home carries straight on from Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), with Spider-Man (Tom Holland) being outed as Peter Parker. Throwing his life into disarray, Parker decides to try and make things right, with him thinking that if everyone forgot his secret identity things would go back to normal. With this in mind he seeks the help from Sorcerer Supreme Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who he wants to cast a spell to make this a possibility.
As expected things don’t exactly go according to plan, with the spell breaking open the multiverse, allowing for a range of super powered villains from alternative dimensions enter Peter’s universe. Now he must work with girlfriend M.J. (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) in order to make things right. Making things harder is the fact that he has to work against Dr Strange who has a different way of doing things that jar’s with Peter’s more idealistic solution.
Unbeknownst to him though, he may have some other unidentified help that could make his plan a possibility but before he can do so he will have what could be the most challenging battle yet with life lettering consequences.
Jon Watts surpasses his work on his previous two Spider-Man films, filling his film with countless audience pleasing moments. The crowd I watched it with broke out cheering countless times during the runtime. It helps that this entry brings back numerous fan favorite characters and not only from the MCU.
As initially teased, No Way Home brings back some of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains with the likes of Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx all returning to their signature roles. The fact that their original appearances weren’t part of the MCU is no longer a problem with the introduction of the multiverse, giving the film infinite possibilities of where the film can go.
The most important of these returning cast members is Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborne/Green Goblin. The film quickly makes the right decision for him to ditch the original costume introduced in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) with Dafoe slowly starting to more resemble how the character appears in the comics.
What I thought would maybe have been an extended cameo turns out to be a fully developed role, with Dafoe giving the role his all, both emotionally and physically. Apparently one of Dafoe’s stipulations to return to the role was that he be allowed to carry out his own stunt work, with him showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 67.
One of the film’s finest action scenes involves him and his fellow villains squaring off against Spider-Man in an apartment complex, with Dafoe using Holland as his own personal punch bag, with Holland’s Spider-Man being thrown through walls, floors and ceilings as he struggles to survive. This one action scene better portrays the superhuman strength Goblin has than anything in Raimi’s original.
To be honest, I’m not surprised that Green Goblin manages to be a scene stealer, with him essentially being the films main villain. The writers even give Dafoe some dialogue that calls back to the original that managed to put a big smile on this viewer’s face.
While Dafoe is great, this isn’t to say his fellow villains don’t get a chance to shine. Alfred Molina once again brings an air of menace and dignity to his Doctor Octopus, being very much the conflicted villain that he originally portrayed way back in Spider-Man 2 (2004). He is the first of the old villains to make an appearance, with the bridge set action scene being a great taster of what is to come later.
I was also glad to see that Jamie Foxx’s Electro wasn’t short changed. As great as he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), the overall film was beneath him (and his fellow cast mates). He has gone through a slight change from when we last saw him, looking more like his original comic book version than the blue electrical look he was sporting previously. Foxx gets his fair share of one liners, showing he is still as good a comedic actor as a dramatic one. That doesn’t mean that his Electro is played for laughs, as he still proves to be quite a threat, especially when he teams up with Dafoe’s Green Goblin.
The likes of Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman and Rhys Ifan’s Lizard aren’t given as much to do in comparison but even then get a handful of memorable scenes that still make their characters worthwhile.
Although it seems like I’m fanboying more on the villains than the heroes, they are just as important to the plot development. It’s no surprise Tom Holland is terrific in the lead role. He has already proven to be tailor made for Spider-Man, with him giving his most emotionally nuanced performance yet as the web slinger. He is certainly put through the ringer with there being major events that will forever change the character as he progresses throughout the MCU.
He continues to share great chemistry with Zendaya, with their relationship being more established this time round. Zendaya is still her dry humored self as M.J. but seemingly gets more to do in this entry, with M.J. actually feeling like part of the team, working closely with Jacob Batalon’s Ned in guiding Holland’s Spider-Man. Considering the cast could be classed as being overstuffed, they never feel shortchanged in terms of screen time.
As well as our main heroes, No Way Home brings in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange which gives this adventure an altogether flavor to the previous Spider-Man films. A welcome presence, the inclusion of Dr Strange also gives Jon Watts the chance to inject some trippy visuals similar to what director Scott Derrickson brought to Strange’s solo outing.
And then there’s Marisa Tomei’s lovely turn as Aunt May, bringing a lot of heart and pathos in quite a short amount of screen time. Her relationship with Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan is both funny and heartfelt, with Favreau always being a welcome addition to the franchise.
As great as all these are, what fans really want to know about is if No Way Home includes those characters many theorized would make an appearance gauging from the teases shown in the trailers. Once again, for those who really don’t want events SPOILED please turn away.
One of the most important inclusions is Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdoch/Daredevil. While he only appears for one brief scene, it is highly important as it finally establishes once and for all that Cox is Daredevil in the MCU.
Overshadowing all that however is the films biggest piece of fan service, and that is the return of not one but two previous Spider-Man. Both Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire return as their respective Spider-Man. While their inclusion could merely have worked as simply fan service, both are given important roles to play with the two showing yet again what made them great in the role.
Garfield brings good humor to the role but is also somewhat damaged due to the death of Gwen Stacey. One especially emotional scene recalls her death and gives Garfield a great opportunity to show his range. It must be said that Garfield is great at keeping a secret with it seeming like every reporter for the past year asking if he would be making an appearance and him having to deny it.
Additionally, it was great to see Tobey Maguire return to his most recognizable role for what will probably be the last time. The other Spider-Men have some humor at his expense with them a bit bewildered at how his Spider-Man is able to generate his own webs, wondering if he is able to shoot them out any other part of his body.
Each of their returns are audience pleasing moments, with the cinema I was attending breaking into a roar of applause on each occasion.
The three Spider-Men work off each other well, offering both comedic and dramatic value. I must say, it gave me goosebumps during the finale to see the three of them working together. It would be great to see them perhaps return to their roles somewhere down the line, although it could possibly dilute the impact of their return here.
Like all MCU films, make sure you wait for the post credit scene. I won’t spoil this part of the film but I will say I will be interested to see where they take this element and how it will play into the Spider-Man series going forward.
No Way Home leaves Spider-Man in a good place and I look forward to seeing how they follow this up. I know there has been talk of Holland appearing as Spider-Man in the next Venom movie which will hopefully improve the third entry of that series. Even with that in mind it will have a hard time trying to top what is now one of the MCU’s best.
While director Jon Watts is moving away from Spider-Man for his next feature he is still staying within the MCU, with him being given the reins of the upcoming Fantastic 4 reboot. I for one can’t wait to see what he brings to the screen.
Plot: 5/5 Acting: 5/5 Action: 5/5 Overall: 5/5