So I watched Spider-Man: No Way Home
I think it’s fair to say that this was 2021’s most anticipated film. Ever since the first trailers dropped and we saw Doc Ock’s mechanical arms and Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs, it felt like the world (myself included) went into a frenzy. I expertly avoided reviews and spoilers but it was impossible to avoid this film’s hype. While I think claims that it’s “the best movie Marvel has ever made” are the dictionary definition of hyperbole, it definitely is one of the most fun movies Marvel has ever made and one of the most rewarding for fans. This eagerness to please fans is one of the main reasons this movie works so well but simultaneously is the reason why it fails in so many ways.
Okay, basic plot: After having his secret identity revealed by Mysterio, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds it impossible to live a normal life. From having to answer for the destruction and chaos Spider-Man caused in the previous movie to having his personal life being placed under the microscope, Peter and his friends struggle to lead their lives and plan for their respective futures. Peter decides to enlist the help of Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who he hopes can cast a spell to restore his secret identity. Dr Strange agrees but when his spell doesn’t work as intended, Peter finds himself battling villains from other universes who all have a score to settle with Spider-Man.
The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was Tobey Maguire’s first Spider-Man movie. I always liked watching movies at home but seeing a film on the big screen was when I first truly fell in love with movies. So when I learned that Green Goblin and Doc Ock were going to make appearances I knew I had to see this in the cinema. This was an opportunity to be transported back to my childhood and re-live those moments of joy and wonder. Around me in the theatre, there were people of different ages who all would have varying answers if you were to ask them who they considered to be their ‘Spider-Man’. In the interviews I watched leading up to seeing the film, Tom Holland repeatedly stated that this film is a “celebration of three generations of Spider-Man” and that’s the best way to describe this movie. It also reminded me of playing the ps4 Spider-Man game which I felt was a great Spider-Man movie.
I think this is Tom Holland’s best turn as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I always think of Spider-Man as being a teenage superhero and Holland’s version has always brought that coming-of-age, teen-filled angst to the character. This is definitely the most emotionally wrought and broken that Holland’s Peter Parker has ever been and Holland definitely has the acting skill to bring these moments to life. Overall as a movie, I still prefer Homecoming to this movie but in terms of individual performance, this is Holland’s best depiction of the character. I can’t praise Tom Holland without also paying tribute to the performances that Zendaya and Jacob Batalon churn out as MJ and Ned respectively. The chemistry between the three is tangible and Holland couldn’t produce a great Spider-Man without these two by his side.
I wonder if every third Spider-Man movie in the trilogy is contractually obligated to have a million and one villains in it? Fortunately, unlike Spider-Man III, this movie actually works and manages to do a great job balancing its villains and having a plot that makes sense (well, most of the time). A recurrent theme in this movie is one of redemption. Both in the characters and actors in this movie. I think Jamie Foxx’s smurf Electro in Amazing Spider-Man II was wildly disappointing and No Way Home gives both the character and the actor a second chance to deliver an infinitely better performance.
I have to single out Willem Dafoe’s return as Green Goblin. He is as menacing and terrifying as ever. Dafoe understands the character so well and gives a performance that cements his place as the top Spider-Man villain put to film so far. And even though Dafoe is over 60, he still manages to kick Peter Parker’s ass like the best of them. I don’t wanna get into spoilers but oh my goodness what an ass whupping!
I’ve sung this movie’s praises as have many critics and fans AND it deserves its praise but it isn’t perfect. It suffers from a problem that a lot of Marvel movies have had lately: 1. It will do anything to make the fans happy and 2. it’s inconsistent. Now these aren’t the worst flaws to have but they take away from making the movie from something fun and great to watch, to something truly special. There’s a lot of moments in this movie that are simply there as fan service and exist to make you yell at the scream in delight. Now this is unavoidable in this movie since it brings back beloved characters. Just there mere fact of seeing villains from previous movies is going to make you scream because, “oh my goodness, it’s Doc Ock!” This is generally not too large of a problem but there are too many moments in this film that feel shoe-horned in to make the fans squeal like little kids.
The second problem is one of consistency. Now I know that even though Marvel and the MCU dominate film and television, Marvel still needs to play it safe and make movies that the casual filmgoer can appreciate. So this means, whoever’s name is on the poster, needs to win every fight. No matter if in previous films, we’ve shown that certain characters have abilities that make them basically gods. Think back to how in Age of Ulton and Civil War, Vision is an indestructible Vibranium killbot and in Infinity War he’s a purple dildo who can’t throw a punch. Or how Scarlet Witch’s powers fluctuant dependent on what the script needs her to do (or not do) at any given moment.
Another place where this film proves to be frustratingly inconsistent is that No Way Home takes place right after Far From Home, a movie where Peter trusts someone too quickly and gets burnt. So you would think that he would have learnt his lesson and wouldn’t make that same mistake again right? WRONG! And yes, you can argue that he’s a teenager and teenagers are prone to making the same mistake over and over again. But he’s portrayed as being this super genius, Tony Stark level smart but he just keeps on doing such idiotic things and then being baffled when there are consequences. This idiocy actually takes away from some of the movie’s hard-hitting emotional moments. I couldn’t feel anything because I kept thinking to myself, well that’s what you get for being an idiot.
Overall, I think most people aren’t going to care about these “flaws” as much as I do. They just want to see Spider-Man fight some retro villains and this movie delivers on that. However, I feel that Marvel needs to check the formula on its blockbuster-making recipe sheet. They’re adding way too much sugar and why wouldn’t you? People like the taste of sugar. But too much can be nauseating and Marvel are flirting with that line.
If you’ve ever watched a Spider-Man movie, you need to see this movie because, while not perfect, it is a fan’s wild dream. GO SEE IT! 7/10