Did the highly anticipated Spider-Man No Way Home soar to great heights or fail to meet expectations? Find out in our review!
WARNING: Spoilers for No Way Home below!
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina
Release Date: December 17th, 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, is Tom Holland’s time as Spider-Man also ending?
By now, Holland needs no introduction to Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans. No Way Home is his 6th film as the famed web-slinger. It’s also his 3rd as the leading character, following Homecoming (2017) and Far From Home (2019).
All of Peter Parker’s MCU appearances have charted his journey from a confused, naive teenager to a mature, battle-worn hero. To that end, Spider-Man: No Way Home presents this iteration of Parker with perhaps his greatest challenge yet. The plot is sprawling and ambitious. It incorporates aspects of Spider-Man’s overall legacy over the past two decades.
Hollywood loves nostalgia. We live in an era of continuous reboots, revivals and reimaginings. However, sometimes these trips down memory lane are not always executed as expected. Some returnees receive extensive screentime, namely Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Dr Octopus (Alfred Molina) from Sam Raimi’s early 2000s trilogy, as well as Electro (Jamie Foxx) from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Others however do not. Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church, both of whom are esteemed, talented actors, appear effectively cameo throughout the film. Under-utilising them seems to be a waste of great talent.
No Way Home pulls off a commendable feat – exploring a concept no other big-screen Spider-Man has before. Peter Parker’s identity is out in the open. What happens next? While already ambitious, the concept could have been explored even further. How does knowing Spider-Man’s identity change things when he isn’t hated? How would people react to Parker being the ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man’, rather than a reviled murderer?
In Spider-Man: No Way Home, director Jon Watts weaves the aforementioned nostalgic elements with Peter Parker’s ongoing story. To this end, the much-anticipated appearances of Holland’s predecessors – Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, lend themselves to this theme.
The three Parkers’ tragic experiences mirror one another. There’s enjoyable, powerful chemistry between these three actors, playing different versions of the same character. It further adds to the feeling that this is Holland’s finale or his final bow.
Legacy, Returnees and Themes
It’s important, however, to not just focus on the ‘legacy’ cast members. Unlike many other isolated superheroes, Peter has a strong support system in his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and loyal best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), in addition to a more active Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) than previous iterations. This of course lends itself to more humour (particularly from Batalon). It also allows Peter to not just interact with the villains and actually create meaningful relationships with his loved ones.
These connections are ultimately a driving force in No Way Home, showcased in perhaps the most dramatic way possible. Loss is a familiar concept in any Spider-Man story – and this Peter has already experienced this, with the death of Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame (2019). For such a normally upbeat character, the film does a good job of bringing Peter to his lowest point and darkest mental state yet.
As well as this, No Way Home explores growing up in several ways. Firstly, in the literal sense – Peter and his friends are graduating high school and looking onwards. Then, the metaphorical sense. In many ways, Holland’s Peter learns from the other Spider-Men. More importantly, how to not repeat their mistakes. Peter goes through a significant emotional journey throughout Spider-Man: No Way Home, only for this growth to mean very little due to the ending.
Overall, this film was very entertaining and felt conclusive. Of course, there were some minor missteps. Tom Holland’s future in the MCU is uncertain as of now. Holland himself is pushing for either Miles Morales or a female Spider-Man to take the lead next. 5 years and 6 films is a long stretch for any actor. Perhaps passing the mantle could be a good refresh for Spider-Man. Who knows what could happen?
★ ★ ★ ★