Director: Jon Watts
Date: December 17, 2021
PG-13 | 2 hour 28 minutes
DISCLAIMER: This is a spoiler-heavy review.
They did it. They finally did it.
After a plethora of rumors and horrible acting on late-night interviews, a live-action Spider-Verse movie actually happened. On paper, putting all the iconic villains and different iterations of Spider-Man is a great idea, but the execution needs to be perfect. Both “Spider-Man 3” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” couldn’t execute their lofty ambitions and became franchise killers.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” isn’t a franchise killer but an epic blockbuster full of applause-worthy fan service, spectacular action sequences and a strong emotional core found in very few superhero movies.
Thanks to Mysterio, the world knows the true identity of Spider-Man and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds himself at Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) doorstep. Peter asks the sorcerer to cast a spell that would make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man. He keeps messing with the spell, however, and mayhem ensues.
Villains from other universes, including Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Oc (Alfred Molina), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Electro (Jamie Foxx), enter Peter’s world and it’s up to him to send them home. Little does Peter know, help may be on the way.
This movie has tons of scenes that’ll have viewers cheering and yelling in their seats. One scene, though, stands out for its lack of fanfare: the first meeting of the three Spider-Men. Director Jon Watts (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home”) could’ve made this moment a loud, bombastic one. Instead, he chooses to unite the three heroes over their relationship with loss.
Each Spider-Man has experienced loss in some way or another, shaping their life. As Holland’s (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “Cherry”) Spider-Man recovers from Aunt May’s (Marissa Tomei) shocking death, the other two Spider-Men (Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire) comfort him with tears in their eyes as the only other two people who understand his plight. It’s a devastatingly beautiful scene and the three actors are superb in it.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” gives multiple characters closure. Garfield (“The Social Network,” “Hacksaw Ridge”) redeems himself from Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) death by miraculously saving MJ (Zendaya) in an eerily similar fashion — one of the best callbacks in the movie and Garfield’s heartbreaking reaction is enough to warrant the third movie he never got.
Maguire (“Spider-Man,” “The Great Gatsby”) gets a nice moment with Molina (“Boogie Nights,” “Spider-Man 2”), giving their arc a complete ending. Both he and Dafoe (more like daGOAT) are tremendous in the movie, especially Dafoe, whose terrifying performance proves his Green Goblin is an iconic superhero movie villain. Watts succeeds in giving all the villains enough screen time to leave an impact but doesn’t allow them to dominate Holland’s Peter.
Holland has never been better as Spider-Man than in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” He’s asked to be quirky, vengeful and broken in the movie and is up to the task, refusing to be overshadowed, unlike his previous entries — finally, Tony Stark doesn’t loom large here. Holland’s interactions with the other Spider-Men are crackling.
Watts nails the chemistry between the three Spider-Men. The trio makes meta jokes about their movies (the Avengers joke is an all-timer) and swings together in the incredible climactic sequence.
It’s a treat to see Maguire suit up again but it’s Garfield who shines. Even though his movies were quite lousy, he was a perfect Peter Parker/Spider-Man and this installment gives him his due. Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider-Man,” “500 Days of Summer”) didn’t know how to use him, but Watts ensures Garfield’s immense talents are on display in a bittersweet and scene-stealing performance.
Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Doctor Strange”) elicits some good laughs and the sequence between him and Peter fighting in the mirror dimension over a mythical cube is a top-tier Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) action scene. It features mind-bending special effects, similar to the CGI in “Doctor Strange,” and is flat-out breathtaking.
With great budgets and casts comes greater expectations and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” lives up to its sky-high expectations. Big blockbusters are easy to mess up but Watts does a masterful job in giving the fans what they want. This isn’t just a fun movie, it’s a marvelous one.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” rated PG-13, is now playing in theaters.