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Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home

January 10, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 27th film in the episodic Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the eighth live action Spider-Man solo movie in two decades with the third actor to take on the role, Spider-Man: No Way Home has a lot of mythology to draw upon and has to bring together a lot of different story threads.

And the fact that it works so well on its own is impressive in and of itself. The result is a film that feels like a culmination of the three different live action Spidey franchises, all coming together in highly satisfying ways. It’s got fun moments for the fans, but also genuine emotional payoffs, delivering basically everything you want from a comic book movie of this magnitude.

The film begins right after the end of the last movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has had his identity as Spider-Man revealed by conspiracy vlogger J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). A segment of the public has turned against the New York high schooler, blaming him for the death of that film’s villain, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who some have turned into a sort of folk hero. This film follows Peter as he struggles to balance his normal high school life with his newly revealed identity as Spider-Man.

This includes trying to shield his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), girlfriend M.J. (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) from the newfound media attention. With them all facing the consequences of being publicly linked to Spider-Man, Peter enlists the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that will make everyone forget his superhero alter-ego. But the spell goes wrong and a portal ends up being opened that draws in villains from other dimensions, including the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Electro (Jamie Foxx).

So, yeah, Spider-Man: No Way Home does the whole “multiverse” thing that was already done so well in the animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as it incorporates elements from the other live action franchises. Director Jon Watts is not only tasked with completing his own Spider-Man trilogy of Homecoming and Far From Home, but also building upon Sam Raimi’s original trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, and Marc Webb’s two Amazing Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield as well.

Watts has some pretty big shoes to fill in connecting back to the Raimi films in particular (Spider-Man 2 still remains one of the greatest comic book films of all time), and the fact that he pulls it off is no small feat. The film does have a bit of that greyscale Marvel look to it at times, but makes up for it with well executed set-pieces, including an early sequence on a bridge where the other villains start to appear.

It helps that the whole cast brings their A-game. The appeal of Holland’s Spider-Man is that he is still very much a kid, who gets scared and tries to do the right thing but messes up along the way, and this may be the actor’s best performance yet, as Spidey or otherwise. Molina does a good job of reprising his incredibly memorable role as Doc Ock, one of the best comic book movie villains of all time, and Dafoe steals every scene as both Norman Osbourne and the Green Goblin. Dafoe goes hard, turning it up to eleven to give the best performance in a movie where everybody else is already good.

I won’t spoil the other surprises that are in store, but needless to say they provide for incredibly satisfying moments when they arrive. This really is the Avengers: Endgame of the Spider-Man Cinematic Universe. It’s a massive movie in a lot of ways, but still manages to tell its own cohesive (if not really standalone) story. Yes, a lot of this is fan service. But it’s often done so well that it’s hard to really mind (it’s not dissimilar to the recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife in this way), punctuated by character moments that make it feel grounded.

This is not only an entertaining Spider-Man story, but a satisfying Peter Parker one as well. It’s the film’s conversations about what it means to be Spider-Man, and the responsibility that comes from trying to protect your loved ones while also being expected to save the world, that elevate Spider-Man: No Way Home into the top tier of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theatres where they are open. I was lucky enough to see it just before the current theatre shutdown in Ontario.

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