AS conclusions to trilogy’s go, No Way Home is certainly quite satisfactory to watch, though begs the question of necessity. While it’s understandable that going out on a high is important, and that with Sony’s success with its animated film Into The Spider-Verse (2018) Marvel might want to get in on that cross-dimensional toybox, this multi-universal battle of legends, whilst visually spectacular and narratively well done, is unnecessary.
As a fan of these films, it is difficult to admit when there is a flaw. But No Way Home is one large flaw. It’s a fantastic film, but its success is built on the nostalgia of a generation that grew up with the villains of previous incarnations of Spider-Man Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Had these previous Spider-Men movies flopped, I’m left to wonder what No Way Home would have looked like? Perhaps it might have continued to establish itself as a strong Spider-Man story that can stand on its own two feet without current Spider-Man Tom Holland standing on the shoulders of his much older predecessors.
True, Director Jon Watts has outdone himself this time as from the get-go we’re rushed through the media frenzy of the aftermath of Far From Home (2019) and how Peter Parker goes from being a hero with no fear to a hero with a lot to lose. His education, his friendships, even being Spider-Man are all affected by Mysterio’s dying lie in the previous film.
It’s certainly interesting to see a world in which Peter Parker and Spider-Man are known as one and the same, and we see for the first time why Peter Parker’s identity is kept so secret. When everyone knows where a superhero lives, whom he loves, who his friends are, his life, and the lives of those around him, are affected in all sorts of ways.
Spider-Man’s faced a lot of villains during his short time thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – Thanos, Vulture, Mysterio. But the people? They’re not an enemy he can web up and punch. This is Spider-Man as we’ve never seen him before – exposed and desperate. And what comes out of that desperation?
As you might already know from promotional materials, in desperation Peter seeks out Dr Strange, the latest in a line of guiding figures to help Peter. Peter asks Strange to perform a spell to make everyone forget Mysterio outed him as Spider-Man. Strange, more than happy to do so, reveals that the spell will cause everyone to forget that PETER is Spider-Man. This includes his girlfriend, best friend, aunt, and pretty much everyone who ever met him.
Parker has gone through several growths as a character since his first appearance in Captain America Civil War (2016), from child playing hero to hero learning what it means to be an Avenger, this movie does not move forward Parker’s character in any way.
Perhaps this might make sense if this was to be his final appearance, a reason why Spider-Man becomes less of a presence in the MCU. However, we now know that a second trilogy is already underway with Holland set to reprise his role. The only other purpose this film might serve is further establishing the multiverse and setting up the plot to Dr Strange And The Multiverse of Madness set to release in May 2022 (if Covid doesn’t pull another fast one).
That this is not the last Holland film leaves me hopeful that the next chapter in Spider-Man’s story will take a different direction back on the path already paved by Watts. Despite its flaws I shall recall this film with some fondness. It is much perhaps like upgrading an iPhone within a year between models. It’s unnecessary, but the appreciation for the newer features and the sleeker look leaves you with a pleasant recollection, with the downside of a much lighter wallet and later reflections of wondering why you made that purchase at all.
Naturally, in this film, Strange’s spell goes wrong, and, instead of living in a world where he is once again anonymous, Peter faces the worst sort of enemies – ones he could never see coming, strangers to him, but more than familiar to a fanbase that’s been waiting nigh on two decades to see these actors reprise their roles.
Whilst it is a joy to see Alfred Malino and Willem DeFoe return after so many years, the film does feel somewhat like a Spider-Verse knock off and not nearly as good. Whilst Spider-Verse took on Miles Morales’ story and the question of what exactly makes a ‘Spider-Man’, No Way Home doesn’t do much for the characters that have already existed in the MCU.
Spider-Man has always been out of his league when fighting his enemies. While he may be a web-slinging acrobatic badass with quick wit and Stark tech armouring him up, his enemies have always had the experience of being older and wiser. Vulture was smart, ambitious and willing to do anything to keep his family afloat. Mysterio was patient, precise and a master of illusions and cast his greatest one after his own demise – Peter Parker, not him, was the man who launched the drone attacks.
Far from the greatest entry, it is not the worst movie within the MCU nor the worst Spider-Man movie out there. It’s fun viewing, one that will please fans who’ve been around the last twenty years and is a delightful adventure worth revisiting.
Though for the future of the franchise, I hope it is not nostalgia for the Garfield/Maguire days that makes up the plot for the next adventure of the famed web-slinger. But that’s a few years away at least!