REVIEW: Spider-Man – No Way Home (2021)

A film by Disney, Directed by Jon Watts

The long running Spiderman film franchise has always had problems managing the fine line between creating a good movie and adding a bit of fanservice for the fans. In the past, and the same could be said about all comic book movies prior to a few years ago, corporate suits would decide to pepper far too many villains into a movie, or too many cameos in order to sell more toys. Take, for example, Amazing Spiderman 2 – the second film in the aborted Andrew Garfield series that ultimately led to Sony teaming up with Marvel Studios after years of back and forth. The film was advertised as being a knock-down drag-out brawl between Spiderman and one of his longtime foes Electro. Unfortunately, they felt the need to also include an incredibly halfhearted take on the classic super villain, The Green Goblin. This happened at the very end of the film and felt very tacked on. That’s not even to mention the fact that a third antagonist, The Rhino was also in the mix.

Even the much beleaguered third entry of the original Spiderman trilogy, Spiderman 3 starring Tobey Maguire, had the issue with “too much” with their inclusion of a subpar version of Venom, once again, at the very end of the film already packed full of a second Green Goblin character and The Sandman. When it came time for this third movie in the Disney Spiderman trilogy, I was worried. Were they going to blow it like the past two times? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no. Spiderman: No Way Home actually does the multi villain storyline and fan service correctly.

“With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. 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.”

On paper, the overall premise of this movie looks like a fanservice nightmare. Starring FIVE villains (Doctor Octopus, Electro, The Sandman, The Green Goblin, and The Lizard), one would think it would be impossible to have enough time to get anything done, but the one key difference here is there have been seven previous movies in this series to borrow from. Much in the same way the Avengers built up to their big ensemble film, the same has happened here. With the multiverse now being a big part of the Marvel continuity, ALL Spiderman movies are now canonized – they just all happen to be in parallel dimensions.

With this, the film doesn’t have to waste time reintroducing a bunch of villains they just assume that you know who they are and where they’re coming from. In this way, these cameos don’t feel forced, unlike the debacle Disney polled when they brought Emperor Palpatine back in the third film in their Star Wars trilogy not that long ago (“Palpatine is back…somehow!?”). It seemed like Disney execs thought that’s what fans wanted so they did it no matter how silly.

What basically happens is that Peter Parker is distraught after the outing of his secret identity by Mysterio in the last film. When he realizes how much this revelation is hurting his family and friends, he asks for help from Doctor Strange. The spell goes wrong, with the result that EVERYONE that knows Peter Parker, even in other dimensions, is being pulled into the “prime” universe. This includes previously deceased characters that were apparently plucked from their own timeline prior to their death. With this one little change in the fanservice formula, Disney and Marvel Studios have fixed a longstanding issue with Spiderman films (and superhero films in general), in that the villains constantly die. What follows is Peter making an attempt to “save” his rogues gallery in order to give them a second chance – a noble idea that ultimately doesn’t go as planned.

In the overall scope of Phase 4 of the MCU, the concept of ‘The Multiverse” has been front and center ever since Wandavision. Ever since The Avengers used time travel to undo the damage Thanos caused, things have been getting pretty unstable. We know that an evil force is possibly incoming according to Loki, and constantly ripping up the fabric of space and time is not likely helping matters. It will be interesting to see what the overall ramifications of all of this end up being, whether it be just the appearance of Kang the Conqueror, or a HUGE villain ala Galactus on the horizon. All bets are now off, and literally anything could happen in the MCU.

This stuff could go horribly wrong if they don’t watch it, I mean you could have utterly confusing storylines involving alternate versions of characters coming in and out, or random backstory that makes plots confusing etc. I immediately think of the last few seasons of Doctor Who when thinking in terms of how an open ended world like this can get out of hand and cause major issues for the franchise. But, if this is how we get the X-Men in MCU, I’m all for it!

I feel like I waited long enough for spoiler time, and honestly every website on Earth blew this almost from day one, but the return of Tobey Mcguire and Andrew Garfield to the franchise was amazing and handled VERY well. The scenes will all three Spidermen? Spideys? I’ll just say all three heroes, were so good and got me hyped up more than the final battle of Avengers: Endgame simply because of how long it’s been since we’ve seen either actor. Both do a great job of recapturing their respective version of the character’s mannerisms, and add a real sense of scope to the franchise.

In a movie where there was need to go too hard, there are some extremely powerful performances here. Willem Defoe utterly slam dunks everything with his portrayal of Norman Osbourne. Both the tragic “Norman” and the utterly reprehensible “Goblin” are done great justice, and you are left wondering why the man has never won many major awards for his incredible acting. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield give incredible runs in their surprise returns to the franchise, showing incredible emotion trying to “mentor” this newest Spiderman into not going down paths they may have.

People like J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei don’t have much screen time, but are amazing when they are on. I especially liked the almost Alex Jones take on J. Jonah Jameson, literally the perfect signature role for Mr. Simmons. The only real let down I had was no inclusion of people like Bruce Campbell that made the earlier movies so fun, but seeing one cameo in particular made up for that.

In the end credits scene, we see Eddie Brock a.k.a Venom, apparently warped to Mexico for some reason during the convergence. Eddie: “You’re saying this whole place is, just, tons of super people,” he says. “There was a billionaire, he had a tin suit, and he could fly. Right? And there was a really angry green man.” After that fairly great scene, we see that he has dropped a small glob of the symbiote onto a bar table before going back to his normal time, hinting at what I hope to be a future crossover. The question then persists: why did Eddie even get warped there? If you recall, Venom possesses the knowledge of “80 billion light-years of hive knowledge across universes”, so it was his connection that brought them together.

moving forward, I hope we get some sort of Venom / Spiderman film to make up for the nonsense that was Spiderman 3. Having the two characters together would be the sort of goofy crossover that makes Marvel Comics so fun to read. Perhaps having the Symbiote Hive come to Earth to regain Venom would be a cool way to have that BIG ominous threat that would build some hype for a sequel, especially after already having a major villain in Carnage already used. All I know is that the next film will definitely have some big shoes to fill.

This was easily the best Spiderman film ever produced, and one of the few comic movies that totally “feels” like the sort of awesome stuff one would see in an actual comic book. The acting is top notch, the call-backs to previous films were great, and the overall pacing was awesome. I took my Son to the theater with me to see this and he was enthralled the entire time. This was his first movie EVER in a theater, and he normally has issues paying attention to movies at home on TV. The fact that he has not stopped talking about Doctor Octopus since this has been cool. With this experience alone, I absolutely loved the film, and can’t wait for more!

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