Spider-Man: No Way Home feels like most Christmas parties – we feel like we earned the right to live a little and make a couple of decisions that might be dripping with excess. Just a tad.
To not spoil anything means that I pretty much have to dance around the entire movie, but I’ll try to work around what’s already revealed. Just to set the context, No Way Home kicks off where Far From Home left off – Mysterio framed Spider-Man for his death and revealed his secret identity to the world. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds it impossible to live a normal life with adoring fans and haters alike making their presence felt at every waking moment. But the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back is when the people that he loves and care about become collateral damage as a result of his status as a pariah.
As such, he takes drastic measures and ends up persuading Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) into conjuring up a spell so dangerous that even Wong (Benedict Wong) wants no part of. Of course, something has to go wrong, and we start to see visitors – mostly enemies – from previous Spider-Man movies appear in this world. So it’s up to Peter, along with MJ (Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) to step up and save the day. What else could go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out.
If I’m honest, No Way Home is a throwaway story plot-wise but even so, there’s enough in the tank to keep everyone happy and entertained. I’m happy report that this is fan service done right – save for one classic meme that never came to fruition. I’m still sore about that one. The interactions of the various multiversal characters do shed some light on how the multiverse works, though to be fair, they also evoke more questions than answers. It bodes well for the upcoming Dr Strange movie, as I suppose that movie would be the definitive tome for multiverse laws for the silver screen. Or at least most of it.
The long and the short of it is that anything and everything is possible as hinted in No Way Home, though the ability to consciously make it happen is another story altogether. You’d do well to follow the breadcrumbs of details that are often dispensed offhandedly – something I don’t need to remind you about if you are a big Marvel fan.
However, the one thing is certain – and is also the beating heart of the movie: No Way Home reminds us of the essence of Spider-Man, who has to be low-key one of the most tragic superheroes in the Marvel Universe. He rarely catches a break and has to take it all on the chin. And he’s always broke. Uncle Ben’s ‘with great power comes great responsibility speech is starting to feel more like a curse than a blessing.
Because what makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man is his virtue – the ability to sacrifice all for the greater good, often at the cost of his personal happiness, and the only thing that keeps him going is his unwavering belief in the choices he has made. His life is essentially having to get beaten down over and over again and then come back for more, just to stand up for what he believes in.
Tom Holland puts in a commendable shift here, stretching a little further to flesh out Peter Parker’s true transition into adulthood and understanding what it means to be a hero – or specifically, Spider-Man. A lot is made about Peter’s desire to give others a second chance, but Peter himself doesn’t quite understand the concept of giving oneself a second chance until he has to make that decision himself – and that bittersweet ending couldn’t be more on brand. But if you have any sense of optimism, it also opens up a new world of possibilities. This ending is an excellent way to end Tom Holland’s tenure but I think it’s more likely that we can expect more movies with Tom in the current universe. Because this movie is the one where Tom Holland’s Peter Parker truly becomes Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas from 16 December 2021.
*Update: Amended score to 8, because while scoring the Witcher, I realised that giving both the Witcher and Spider-Man a 7 made no sense at all.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Verdict - 8/10
No Way Home is classic Marvelverse stuff – formulaic, but thankfully with just enough interesting bits to keep us on the leash. Just.