Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man: No Way Home 2021
I ended up missing the past couple movie releases due to the arrival of a little bundle of joy that’s taken up much of my time lately. But I just couldn’t miss out on the latest Spider-Man movie especially with the multiverse aspect coming into play. And I’m very glad that I was able to see it as soon as I did. I’m not big on the anti-spoiler culture that has permeated a lot of the nerd fandom lately, I was just excited to see it as soon as possible. Plus I signed up for the latest Lambcast discussing this and every other Spider-Man film so I had an extra reason to see it. I’ve enjoyed every Spider-Man movie to some degree or another with my least favorite: Amazing Spider-Man 2 still being ranked as a fun-but-very-flawed film so I was happy to see them all come together in this film. There was plenty of fanservice to be had, but for the most part, it was all done with a degree of reverence, plus it all made sense to further the story or the characters. There were some more changes to this MCU Spider-Man timeline to help differentiate Tom Holland’s Peter Parker even more from the others than they already have but I loved this entry in this long-running and varied franchise. And as there are plenty of spoiler fanservice elements, beyond this paragraph will definitely be spoilers.
What was really impressive about this film is how it really allowed this MCU Peter Parker to mature. One of the biggest differences between him and the other two live action Spider-Men is that he’s still in high school and therefore still very immature and new to the heroing. By the end of either of the previous first films, both Peter Parkers were either done or almost done with high school and had a pretty good handle on the Spider-Man thing. Holland plays Parker as someone who’s still very unsure of himself and his decisions and makes the decision to go to Doctor Strange for universe-altering magical help when he and his friends don’t get into college due to the Spider-Man controversy at the end of Far From Home. This is where a normal high schooler would turn to someone more like May or even Happy who could help fix his problems on a more down to Earth bureaucratic level rather than a mystical one, something that Strange does point out but only after he’s already attempted the spell. Throughout the events of the film, Parker learns to trust his friends, his instincts, and his decisions, and even though he loses everyone he sets himself up for a fresh start in the next chapter of the MCU or possibly Sonyverse.
It’s difficult to ignore the fanservice elements of this multiverse and while the marketing did a fairly good job at hiding the big reveal, it wasn’t that big of a surprise to see all three live action Spider-Men working together in practically the entire third act of this movie. It really was a treat to see all of these characters from the different iterations of Spider-Man come together in this way. Maguire came in as the older Parker although he hadn’t let himself go in the same way that Peter B Parker in Spider-verse had. Garfield also gets to come back as a more experience Spider-Man but he still felt like he was mostly in his prime. They each had their own comedic and dramatic moments to shine as they gave support and encouragement to Holland’s Spidey. It was fun seeing them comment on the organic web shooters and it was touching if not surprising to see Garfield be the one to catch the falling MJ as redemption for not being able to save Gwen. It was a little disappointing that the women were absent from this film despite having a reason to be there, but from a story perspective it would have taken the focus away from Tom Holland’s journey. Both MJ and May were given strong arcs where they were important steps in Parker’s journey even though both were sidelined by the end. MJ was an active participant, but she never had her own goals outside of getting into MIT and being Parker’s girlfriend. She even admonishes him about making important decisions involving her without discussing it with her first and at the end he makes the massive decision to make her and everyone else forget that he’s Peter Parker without discussing it with her first. Meanwhile May is the moral center of Peter’s arc, convincing him to save the tragic villains from the other films rather than sending them back, mostly to die. She is even given the Uncle Ben role here in the MCU as she dies giving the iconic Spider-Man line, but it’s yet another example of a woman that has to die in order to further the story of a man’s character. It still works, but it would have been nice if it had been done at least a little bit differently.
The villains brought back for the film were all an absolute treat. Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn slash Goblin had an incredible arc as he played both the meek Osborn role willing to help Parker and the absolutely evil and psychotic Goblin who was truly the main villain in this film. They even had a great excuse to bring in a close approximation of one of the Goblin’s other iconic looks from the comics with the tattered hoodie, minus the Halloween mask. Otto Octavius was another welcome addition as he played the mind controlled villain before turning into first a reluctant ally, then a wholehearted ally by the end. The other three villains didn’t have as much to do, but they were all improved by their appearance in this film. It was also an excellent choice to have Peter come to the conclusion that he needed to save and redeem all of the villains rather than agree to Strange’s fatalistic approach to return them to their timelines unchanged for the fate that had already been decided for them. It’s a decision that felt much more Spider-Man like and was satisfying to see play out.
This movie really felt like both a beginning and an ending for this iteration of Spider-Man. Aside from the upcoming Thor film, every solo hero in the MCU hasn’t had more than a trilogy before mostly wrapping up their overall story arcs. This very clearly wraps up the teenaged Spider-Man who was Tony Stark’s prodigal student and ends with Peter Parker being completely on his own, without any Stark tech to back him up or Avengers allies to call on for help. Whether this brings him into a new era on the outskirts of the MCU, potentially tied in with the street level Defenders marked by Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock in a brief and early appearance, or if it brings him back into the Sony fold to fight against or alongside Venom and Morbuis, or even the much less likely possibility that this ends this version of Spider-Man completely to pass onto the animated Miles Morales. It will just be a matter of time before Spider-Man comes back in some form or another, and I know that I for one, will be just as happy to see him back. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.