Film review by Jason Day of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) starring Tom Holland as the titular, arachnid-power infused superhero. Directed by Jon Watts.
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After his secret identity as student Peter Parker was revealed, crime fighter Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is finding life difficult. Parker is thought to be a villain, not a destroyer of villains, and his family and friends are suffering from public exposure.
Seeking a remedy, Parker approaches the mystical Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for a spell to ensure only those close to him know of his superhero alter ego. The spell works but brings with it unexpected problems when villains from the past as well as two other ‘Spideys’ from alternate parts of the ‘multiverse’ (Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield) are heralded into Parker’s world.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Did I really do what I hitherto felt was unthinkable and sit through an entire ‘Marvel multiverse’ epic, after managing to avoid (rather successfully, I’m proud to state) umpteen Iron Man, Avengers and Thor productions?
Well, yes I did and I even sat through the entire closing credits waiting for the fabled, hidden ‘double epilogues’ (note to Marvel fans: if you want extra nuggets of detail about this movie, the only thing of consequence you get is a trailer for the next Marvel flick that you can see online).
And am I now going to write positive things about No Way Home, a film that features such ridiculously named characters as ‘Mysterio’ and phrases/concepts like ‘the multiverse’ and other mumbo jumbo mutterings?
Yes again – and there’s no one more surprised than I at that – but for every hit with this movie there is a knock.
One thing to get out of the way first is the ‘multiverse’ aspect of the story, multiverse meaning a space or realm consisting of a number of universes such as our own. It’s a complex matter to get your head around, although if you have watched any Marvel movies of late with the many crossover narratives and characters the concept won’t be entirely alien to you.
Kudos then to the writers for featuring this interesting angle to the otherwise standard superhero movie format so well – multiple realities and multiple backstories are introduced and neatly summarised with due care and attention and a fair amount of fun.
I’m not familiar with any of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, but I loved the Tobey Maguire franchise so it’s quite invigorating to see the three cinematic ‘Spideys’ sharing the screen. As the trio busy themselves in the science lab seeking a cure for their assembled baddies, cue much hilarity as they avoid stepping on each others toes but confuse themselves and Spidey Holland’s pals with who is the real/lead Peter Parker.
The trouble is, when you have three separate incarnations of an overarching narrative/format running alongside each other, you run the risk of cramming too much in. And this is what happens with Spiderman: No Way Home.
Things get messy after the above exposition and interfere with what should be a smooth and exciting finale in which they tackle not one, not two, but five baddies from each of their respective ‘worlds’. Weirdly with all of this potential for explosive action, anticlimactic and run-of-the-mill is how it turns out.
At one point all three Spider-Men stop and buouy themselves up with a quick ‘team Spidey’ confidence boosting chat, making an underwhelming denouement judder to a halt. It’s unnecessary and adds even more minutes to the too long duration.
It could be more the part written/directed, but Holland only ever comes across as a muscley 12-year old out of his depth. Better performances are to be found in the incredible supporting cast. Aside from the usual quality sociopathy you’d expect from Willem Dafoe (‘Green Goblin’), we are treated to Maria Tomei as soup-kitchen volunteering, feminist Aunt May and Molina as lip-smacking pantomime baddie ‘Doc Ock’.
I’ve seen a few movies starring ‘Spidey’ love interest Zendaya now and have never quite seen the appeal of quite an ordinary performer, but I absolutely love her as MJ. Sensible, patient, down-to-earth it’s a role she inhabits perfectly and she and Holland make an adorable couple. If the publicity junket is to be believed, they are also an item in real life.
The script is peppered with smashing one-liners meaning that Cumberbatch, as a crowd-pleasingly sarcastic and self-aggrandising Doctor Strange, gets most of the best dialogue and your spirits really lift when he drops in on the action at regular intervals with tart observational commentary and to roll his sleeves up to help ‘Spidey(s)’ out.
Cast & credits
Director: Jon Watts. 2hr 28min/148min. Columbia Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Marvel Studios. (12a).
Producers: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal.
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers.
Camera: Mauro Fiore.
Music: Michael Giacchino.
Sets: Darren Gilford.
Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons.