“Spider-Man: No Way Home” – Poor Setup, Amazing Payoff

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - IMDb


“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the newest installment in the MCU Spider-Man Franchise, and follows Peter Parker after his secret identity was revealed at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” This not only ruins his future, but his friends & family’s future as well, so he enlists Doctor Strange to cast a spell to make the world forget he’s Spider-Man. Unfortunately for Peter, the spell goes horribly wrong, causing some familiar villains to reappear as the Multiverse is disrupted.

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The issue with this film is that, in order for the writers to get to the film’s compelling sequences, character arcs, and fan service, they cheated in setting up the plot. And by cheated, I mean they made the characters incompetent just to move the plot forward. The idea that Doctor Strange — the most powerful sorcerer on the planet who was able to wield & use an Infinity Stone with ease — was foolish enough to not only help a naive high schooler, but also fumble the spell simply because Peter was too chatty, is utterly farcical.

Also, Peter had no reason to make such a big deal out of Aunt May, MJ, and Ned forgetting that he’s Spider-Man — why couldn’t he just tell them after the spell? He never had to interrupt Strange, and even if he had more legitimate concerns about the spell, why didn’t he ask them before Strange started to cast it? It’s unanswered questions like these that hold the film’s credibility back.

With all that said, this movie was still a blast from beginning to end.

Firstly, the villains were awesome (except for the Lizard, who looked like a 1990’s cartoon). It was a lot of fun to see Alfred Molina back as Doctor Octopus again, who was just as cunning and intimidating as he was in “Spider-Man 2.” The version of Electro in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was a massive improvement over the version from the abysmal “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Not only did he not look like Mr. Freeze from “Batman & Robin” anymore, but he was also charismatic and exciting to watch.

New Spider-Man: No Way Home poster shows off different Green Goblin look |  GamesRadar+

But the villain who stole the show was Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Dafoe was brilliant in this film; his performance as the Goblin was just as great as the performance he gave back in 2002. Dafore is able to swiftly transition from a tortured, sympathetic man into a charismatic yet vile presence that was so thrilling to watch on screen. Even though this film had many villains, it’s clear that Goblin was the main one, especially considering he murdered Aunt May.

Speaking of which, Aunt May’s death was executed almost flawlessly. It was tragic, brutal, emotional, and most importantly, the scene was given time to breathe. The film didn’t cut away from Peter saying goodbye to her; it stayed with the scene, letting the audience soak in what just happened along with Peter. It’s surprising that a Phase 4 Marvel movie actually took its time and chose to prioritize character development over mindless action.

It’s time to discuss the reappearance of our 2 Spider-Men: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Like many people who went into this film, I was 90% sure they were going to show up, and I was obviously excited… for Tobey Maguire. The dilemma of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is that Garfield is without a doubt the best actor to portray Spider-Man, but his portrayal of Peter Parker was easily the worst and simply a waste of his talent. In all fairness, some of this is due to the writing of the two miserable films Garfield starred in, especially considering that Alex Kurtzman wrote the second film, who is quite possibly the worst writer in the history of fiction.

Since I went into the theater with this attitude, I was blown away by what the film showed us of Garfield’s Spider-Man — in the best way possible. First of all, the writing provided Garfield with a lot of great material to work with, as he was able to flex his acting muscles with this character now damaged by the death of Gwen Stacy. He was also hilarious at the same time, especially during the best scene of the film when the three Spider-Men were chatting about their superhero experiences before the final battle, in which Garfield’s Spider-Man admits he was the “lamest.”

Spider-Man No Way Home Trailer and Spider-Man 4 Announcement Marvel Easter  Eggs - YouTube

Tobey Maguire was also fantastic as the paternal, matured, and experienced version of Peter, who found a way to balance the Spider-Man persona and his personal life with Mary Jane. His hopefulness and optimism was reminiscent of Luke Skywalker from the Original Star Wars Trilogy, and while this aspect of the character wasn’t dramatic, it did feel like the logical continuation from the end of the character’s arc in the Raimi Trilogy, and was satisfying overall.

I want to end this review on this point: Tom Holland has consistently delivered fantastic performances as Peter Parker/Spider-Man over his tenure with the MCU, but was unfortunately surrounded by a universe bogged down in connecting everything together, to the detriment of classic Spider-Man imagery and plotlines. The past 2 MCU Spider-Man movies have both been Tony Stark centric: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” presented Stark as the replacement for Uncle Ben, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was more about Tony Stark’s technology that anything related to Spider-Man. In “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” however, this issue was fixed.

9 Questions We Have After SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME's 2nd Trailer - Nerdist

Peter learns what it takes to be Spider-Man. This film has the “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” line, uses classic Spider-Man villains who finally have nothing to do with Tony Stark, and ends with Peter essentially leaving the MCU. After Doctor Strange casts a new spell making the world forget who Peter Parker is, Peter finally ditches the glorified Iron Man suit for a traditional Spider-Man costume and swings around New York City, implying that this film is Holland’s goodbye to the MCU. The writers came up with a genius way to transition the Tom Holland version of Spider-Man into a position where he could be used to make future movies under Sony once the studio pulls the character out of the MCU. And honestly, this makes me more excited for the future of Spider-Man, which is something I didn’t expect this film to accomplish.

Objective Grade: B+ | Subjective Grade: A-

Click here for my ranking of the MCU Infinity Saga.

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