Spider-Man: No Way Home (Spoiler-Free) Review
Ever since making his MCU debut back in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has been treated like a secondary character – which is strange considering he’s likely more popular than all the MCU characters combined. Stuck in the shadows of Iron Man, Spider-Man has never really felt like a solo entity in the MCU as his villains have been so tied to Tony Stark, basically making him Tony’s super-powered janitor to clean up lower foes. Perhaps, it’s because Spider-Man is constantly tugged in two directions with Sony still owning the rights, yet playing around in Marvel Studio’s playground, but I’ve been eager to see a true Spider-Man movie breakout into the MCU. That time has finally, finally arrived with Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Far From Home left Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in real rough shape as Mysterio pulled one final trick from the grave in revealing Peter’s identity to the world. No Way Home wastes absolutely no time in delving right into the impact of everyone knowing that Peter is Spider-Man and it’s very intriguing to watch the ripples. Not only does this put Peter’s personal life in the public eye in a way that makes him the target of J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) tirades, but it also divides the public on whether Spider-Man is a friendly neighborhood hero or public menace.
Even the lives of MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) are impacted as they’re seen as “accomplices” and face similar scrutiny. MJ and Ned are even rejected from their dream colleges like Peter and the film really does a great job establishing the impact of Peter being known as Spider-Man. It’s not uncommon in Spider-Man films for some allies, citizens, and super-villains to see the face behind the mask or straight-up learn who Spider-Man is, but No Way Home shows the deeper impact of Peter’s greatest secret being revealed. Peter is hounded at school by cellphone cameras, him and Aunt May are forced to leave their home, and worst of all, he can longer protect his friends and has accidentally brought them into the crossfire. Peter’s greatest weakness has fully been exploited and it showcases the dangerous, even volatile side of being under the public microscope and forces Peter to search for help from an old ally.
It’s not too long until Peter goes to the iconic sorcerer Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to try and conjure up some way to return to normalcy. Peter heading into the Sanctum Sanctorum not only lets us know that Wong (Benedict Wong) is actually now the Sorcerer Supreme rather than Strange, but also lets us see these two well-known Marvel heroes interact more intimately. Although they start off as kindred spirits, their dynamic turns as ice-cold as the Sanctorum’s winter setting as Peter flummoxes the spell Dr. Strange attempts to cast to make Peter’s identity a secret again causing the multiverse to break open and villains from another universe to pour in.
The battle between Strange and Peter that ensues leads to a visually stunning fight sequence that bring some Doctor Strange DNA into the film. Their bout in the “Mirror Dimension” is a total blast and probably one of the greatest Spider-Man fight sequences of all the live-action movies. It feels like a small civil dispute that actually carries big meaning as it stems from their different perspectives on how to deal with these new threats. While Strange has his expected all-knowing view of the situation stating that these villain need to go back to their time even though he knows it’ll lead to their death, Peter takes a more humanistic approach to aid these villains and make them better. It’s a perspective and debate that drives the entire film in a great way as it adds a lot of great character depth to the familiar villains as well as Peter.
Now, it was heavily debated if the five notable Spider-Man villains that return (Doc-Ock (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe)) were in fact from the other live-action Spider-Man movies. It’s confirmed pretty right away that they are, but their appearance doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to No Way Home establishing the MCU films entering the multiverse. Anyone that’s seen Loki knows that the multiverse has already been set in motion, but No Way Home is the first real test of it in the films and it’s not exactly smooth sailing. With these villains, the film tries to establish a point of reference for when they were sucked out of their universe, and it complicates things too much the more you think about it. It just creates so many lines that don’t always connect and while Peter’s idea of saving these villains is very akin to the character, there’s this plot hole created that messes with the continuity of the movies these villains come from because of when they say they were taken. This won’t be much of a problem going forward given that other multiverse counterparts brought up in future MCU films won’t be involved with prior storylines, but it just creates this overly complicated situation that doesn’t introduce the multiverse cleanly.
Multiverse logistics aside though, the return of these actors and villains of past Spider-Man movies is handled with great care. These returning characters aren’t just treated as quick cameos, but rather as integral parts of Peter’s story in No Way Home. Where other adventures for Peter have seen him have to prove himself as a hero, he’s already established himself well in No Way Home. Now with the task of reforming these villains, Peter is tested in understanding the consequences of being hero and what’s gained and lost in his actions.
It’s a much darker and more mature storyline for Peter that’s well explored in him attempting to right the wrongs of these villains and deal with the consequences of this choice. The film’s more realistic, grounded tone is incredibly welcomed and fitting for the story its telling but does have faults in the goofy comedic jokes shoved in that don’t work here – especially with the villains and Strange. It is incredibly rewarding though to see the story threads of these villains from their previous films continue to be explored with their reemergence here. The villains’ storylines actually weave well with Peter’s arc and play a pivotal role in making No Way Home absolutely devastating at times.
No Way Home really makes viewers see Spider-Man like never before with how broken he eventually becomes and the darker road it leads him down. Holland absolutely excels in bringing the emotional range and depth to No Way Home’s most crushing blows and it’s easily his best performance in the MCU, possibly his career. No Way Home has some of the most tear-jerking moments in the MCU with how Peter’s decision to help these villains causes unexpected devastation. It’s easily the darkest Spider-Man film to date and sees Peter nearly fall to the depths of his villains. However, the lows lead to the incredible high that is No Way Home’s finale that’s a pure celebration of Spider-Man’s legacy.
The film’s final fight sequence is an epic spectacle of heart and heroism that’s simply never been achieved in the MCU or any other comic book movie – yes, it even rivals Endgame. It continually pays homage to Spider-Man’s cinematic legacy in ways that rewards fans of all generations and allows unexpected pay offs that fans will gush and tear-up over. It’s a true work of beauty that effectively creates dynamically engaging action and continues the characters arcs established incredibly well. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and cheer all once and is literally the stuff dreams are made of. More importantly, it leads to one of best endings in the MCU that paves an interesting path for Peter’s future as Spider-Man.
Throughout the film, you’re left wondering how this multiverse problem will be corrected and Peter eventually comes to a devastating realization that’s absolutely heartbreaking to see unfold. Even as someone who hasn’t connected much with Peter and MJ’s relationship, the effects of Peter’s decision on their relationship are gutting as Zendaya and Holland bring a lot of raw emotion to the moment that touching and the writing behind it is really top-notch. It forces Peter to grow up in a way that hurts but remains meaningful in how it makes him reflect on what it means to be Spider-Man. Although what happens with Peter is so devastating because of how there’s no turning back from it, there’s still a sense of hope that persists in Holland’s performance and the small future shown for Spider-Man that exciting to think about. It’s truly the end of an era for Spider-Man and Peter Parker as we’ve come to known them, but not the end of him as a whole. There’re plenty of possibilities for what Peter’s future will look like in this proposed second trilogy and one specific looming question answered in a post-credit scene.
No Way Home ends Peter’s MCU arc with high emotions and impactful consequences that come together to not only celebrate Spider-Man’s cinematic legacy, but also carve a brave new path for Spider-Man in the MCU that’s more mature and meaningful. It’s a film that’s truly vindicating as a fan for how it pays respect to the character within its story and surprises and redefines what it means to be Spider-Man. It’s easily one of the best Spider-Man movies of all time as well as a strong entry for Holland as the iconic webslinger.