The year was 2021, and cinema was having an extremely rough go. The world had seemingly come to a halt since 2020 began, and it looked as if things would never change for the better. Lockdown after lockdown, we waited for something to come up that would pull us all out of our homes. Especially with each new delay for everything entertainment-related. People were hungry for something special. Spider-Man: No Way Home came long after a huge number of leaks, trailers, TV spots, and interviews of Tom Holland and Andrew Garfield lying to people’s faces. Though, when you look at it all in retrospect, perhaps those lies were the biggest reason for this film’s success.
Spider-Man: No Way Home takes place immediately after the events of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home. Mysterio has revealed Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker to the whole world, and sparks of chaos have begun ensuing. Of course, now that Peter is the most famous person in the world, some people love him, and then some despise him such as J. Jonah Jameson. Due to the overly deep controversies that peter is tangled up in, he gets rejected from the college of his dreams, the same happens with his best friend Ned Leeds and his girlfriend Michelle Jones Watson. Though, when he asks Dr. Strange to help him reverse this whole sticky situation, a threat that spans across multiverses will fall on Spider-Man and everyone he holds dear.
I think it’s fair to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home is a perfect example of a proper Spider-Man story. Spider-Man comics have always revolved around the choices that Spider-Man is making. These choices lead to some powerful consequences in his case, and to fix the situation overall, he has to make sacrifices that no one should ever have to. These choices are genuinely heartbreaking in most cases, such as in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, where Peter had to decide between ruining every relationship he has, or giving up his urge to keep New York safe as Spider-Man.
To make this formula even better, and to make the film feel even grander in its scale of Spider-Man stories, it brings back every single villain that we know since the very first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. Green Goblin, Doc Oct, Sandman, Lizard, and Electro are all here and most of them seem to be the best versions of themselves. This isn’t the only thing that the nostalgia train has for us, they even got Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire to be part of this film. I was skeptical going into the film because I thought they might just be cameos. However, they are an integral part of the film, and they are written to feel exactly like they were in their respective films. As a bonus, they also brought Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock (Daredevil) from the Netflix Marvel Universe to the MCU.
This film had the best Spider-Man rogues gallery in cinema history, along with the three best renditions of Spider-Man working together. Now while Spider-Man No Way Home does a fantastic job of bringing a literal comic book story to life, it makes some errors that make the plot feel much less consistent. This isn’t to say that the film is bad in any sense, it just forgets to flesh out some of the plot holes. The themes are certainly what matters here, and Spider-Man’s character as this self-less hero is prevalent more so than ever. His arc here literally revolves around curing all of the villains and sending them back to their universes so that they don’t have to unnecessarily die.
Let’s talk about the performances, specifically Willem Dafoe and Andrew Garfield, who have quite literally stolen the show. Dafoe’s unhinged interpretation of the Goblin is as ripe as ever, with Garfield showcasing why he’s one of the most important actors in the industry at the moment. Despite Tobey Maguire giving an authentic performance, and Garfield being a legend, this is Tom Holland’s film through and through. He carries the film on his shoulders, delivering the best performance of his career as Spider-Man. Not to mention, Alfred Molina is a treasure, and Jamie Foxx has finally redeemed himself as a good Electro.
Lizard and Sandman are sidelined for the most part in this film, especially since their characters are completely CGI throughout the runtime. The CGI is confusing here, because everything feels like it’s realistic to a fault, and yet the lighting does feel quite off in some sequences. This was due to the abundance of green screens used in the film for even the most mundane moments. There’s a sequence of Flash Thompson speaking to Peter on a phone call, and his background is completely CGI, which makes the lighting on his face feel brighter than the surrounding. Though when it comes to the action, no one does it better than the MCU.
Michael Giacchino has finally created a score that cuts through you after trying to deliver a memorable and lovable background soundtrack to the Spider-Man franchise since Homecoming. Spider-Man: No Way Home easily has some of the best music in the entirety of the MCU, especially because it uses them so wonderfully. There are also hints of Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer’s scores from the previous series of films that pop up a few times in the film, which work to perfection. There still are the typical MCU tunes in here, though they aren’t as repetitive as they are in the rest of the films.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a redemption story for most of the characters in the series. We see Otto helping the good guys with his powers, we see Andrew’s Peter rescuing MJ from falling when he couldn’t save Gwen, we see Tobey’s Peter saving Green Goblin from getting stabbed with his Glider.
This is a story of growth and maturity, not just for Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, but for every character that you see in it. It brings back the older versions, to give MCU Peter something to learn from amidst his darkest moments. Most of all, Spider-Man: No Way Home ensures that Spider-Man walks out from the shadow of Iron-Man’s legacy. It lets go of the nanotech, the Stark Industries fabricator, and the suits with 30 different functioning modes. It’s Peter in a tiny apartment, starting from scratch as just our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man against the world as a hero of his own.