Genre: Action, Adventure
Director: Jon Watts
Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, J.K. Simmons, Benedict Wong, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe
Running Length: 148 minutes
Synopsis: For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man (Tom Holland), our friendly neighborhood hero’s identity is revealed, bringing his superhero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.
Review: Note that this review does not contain spoilers beyond what was readily available in the trailers and promotional material, but proceed with caution in any case if you’re totally averse to spoilers.
If you thought one comic cinematic universe was plenty, Sony Pictures’ (and Disney, technically) third installment of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would like to ask you to hold its beer – bringing back villains and familiar elements from across all prior Spider-Man films (7 live-action ones spanning three different Spider-Men, plus the spectacular Into the Spider-Verse, an animated film that remains the best Spider-Man movie released), and giving multiple characters proper send-offs that they were never accorded previously.
It’s enough to send long-time fans of the masked webslinger into a tizzy, but the true masterstroke in No Way Home is how it never alienates the more casual moviegoer, and the film is a solidly entertaining one regardless of whether your foray into the Spider-Verse commenced during the Tom Holland era, or earlier in the Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire eras.
Spider-Man has always been one of the most beloved comic superheroes, and personally I believe that’s because he’s so stubbornly mortal and human despite his superhuman powers. Peter Parker’s mistakes have almost cost him dearly, and yet he infallibly bounces back from them, a little worse for wear but still an eternal optimist. To err is human, and that human aspect makes Spider-Man a very easy protagonist to root for versus many other superheroes.
In No Way Home, this is brought into sharp relief, both because Peter Parker proposes a unique, out-of-left-field solution for the villains from the multiverse that pay him a visit, but also because this is the first film where we see his character grow up and dealing with the very human aspect of grief and loss. It’s rare to say that a superhero movie manages to deal an emotional gut punch, but No Way Home manages to do this multiple times and is a better film for it. Holland has also grown into the role, and this is undoubtedly his best performance yet as Spider-Man (or more accurately, Peter Parker), delivering both the physicality of a superhero and the emotional vulnerability of a teenaged boy progressing into adulthood.
No Way Home also satisfies on all the typical fronts of a Marvel film, with some great action setpieces that while not breaking any new ground, surely scratches the action itch, but also not leaving out the more “friendly neighbourhood” aspects of Parker, including his personal relationships with friends and family, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humour. It is a lot for a single film to handle, and at times No Way Home teeters on the edge of feeling overstuffed despite being almost two and a half hours long (yes, you also need to sit through the entire end credits roll to catch two post-credit scenes). But when a film is as hugely entertaining as No Way Home, it’s easy to ignore the little niggles that one might have.
It’s no secret that Sony and Disney had to wrangle a lot of technicalities to get this third film made, but with No Way Home, Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige have very successfully managed to open up possibilities for Spider-Man to be co-developed with Disney in the future within the MCU, or for Sony to develop films in the standalone Spider-Verse that they own. And if they can be as good as No Way Home, I am all for it.
Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)