Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Score:  B+

Director:  Jon Watts

Cast:  Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon

Running Time:  148 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I didn't do anything wrong."

Marvel has a knack for massive, high-concept projects. The mere concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was revolutionary back in 2008 when Robert Downey Jr. kicked things off with Iron Man. So, in a way, Spider-Man: No Way Home is just another global event movie for a studio that bathes in global event movies.

In reality, the final film in the Home trilogy starring the newly cemented real-life couple of Tom Holland and Zendaya is so much bigger than anything Marvel has done before. And as expected, they do it amazingly well.

Picking up moments after the conclusion of 2019's No Way Home when J.K, Simmons' J., Jonah Jameson broadcasts to the world that Peter Parker exists under the red and white suit, No Way Home struggles early to find its footing.

Attempting to capture a world divided and a teenager no longer able to move in the shadows, Jon Watts plays things safe during the early moments. Short comedic bits are interjected within generic swinging scenes as sex, relationship dependency, and college admission letters fill the air. M.I.T. is the school of choice for our trio of high school seniors. But they have each suddenly become controversial figures, thrust into the public eye without a judge to keep order.

The college issue is what leads Peter to Doctor Strange. Hoping he can return to a more private life, Peter longs for a spell that will make everyone forget who he is and the powers he holds. It sounds simple. In reality, it is simple. But in typical teenage fashion, Peter begins to ramble off a series of exceptions, highlighting his unawareness of the magic's complexity.

That is a significant pitfall for No Way Home. Inarguably a more mature, sophisticated, and emotionally vulnerable Spider-Man film, there is tremendous progress made within the confines of Peter's mind. His confidence is strong, his love for Zendaya's MJ unquestionable.

But weaved within all that are moments of immaturity, unawareness, and stubbornness. Granted, we all go through episodes as we age, and one can only imagine the depth of issues that Peter has given Thanos' snap and the loss of Tony Stark, his lone father figure. But the two extremes give the film an occasional bi-polar feel as we attempt to navigate the muddy waters and better understand Peter's transition from boy to man.

As we all know, the spell goes awry, opening the multiverse as villains from the past emerge, hellbent on killing our beloved Peter Parker. A series of humorous exchanges regarding identity keep the film light, allowing a circuit of special effects to take center stage as, in typical Marvel fashion, the film roars into another gear.

Forced with the decision to give people a second chance or send them to their death, No Way Home occasionally takes itself too seriously as it works to navigate Spider-Man's internal growth further. That said, Watts plays well with the multiverse theory, teasing several parallelisms to past Spider-Man incarnations as he works to tell a familiar story with just enough subtle differences to keep us guessing. The result is uncertainty eating at the back of our minds as we question just how far the film will go to solidify its premise and the jokes it's willing to tell at its own expense.

When the sand settles, and the friendly neighborhood vigilante must make a massive decision, personal sacrifice is laid bare on the table. Like it has for much of the film, heart and soul reign supreme as chaos storms all around; a sense of internal peace is the prize most longed for. In many ways, the film's final moments beautifully signify why No Way Home works so well. Though narratively bleak and unapologetically recycled, it sets up the franchise for future success. It allows for an "anything goes" approach as we migrate between the unrestrained multiverse. It also permits Peter Parker to grow up, bearing a darker, more gritty third act than what we've gotten in the past.

Towards the beginning of the film, Doctor Strange tells a helpless Spider-Man that "the multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little." Not much changed over the nearly two-and-a-half-hour journey, but the forks and tangents that now stem off the central vein of life ensure that wherever we are headed, it is going to be epic.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.