Spider-Man: No Way Home is easily the most highly anticipated film of the year and the biggest superhero movie event since Avengers: Endgame.
The return to villains and cast members of past Spider-Man films makes this a wonderful culmination of two decades, three franchises, and eight films of live-action Spider-Man. While it is incredibly heavy on its fan service, it handles those elements in a well-balanced, and surprisingly emotional, superhero story.
The film’s exploration of Peter Parker is the MCU’s best yet. Any complaints of an over-reliance on ties to the MCU are thrown out of the window with his film; giving audiences the most comic accurate portrayal Tom Holland has delivered. Holland, in his sixth time as Parker, delivers a sincere and grounded performance as the web-slinger with his life turned upside down.
This Peter feels like a well-established Spider-Man who is a competent and intelligent superhero. He might feel overwhelmed at times but he is very much the character fans know from the comic books. This is best seen in how much the film uses Peter’s status as the young genius we know him to be, minor references have been thrown in previous films but Peter’s intelligence is integral to solving every problem in No Way Home.
Seeing more of Peter’s intelligence on the big screen feels like it further establishes the character never needed the Stark-tech, and has always been capable and smart enough to do this on his own. His moral compass is explored in some really interesting ways that give a deeper look into the psyche of the web-slinger that only enriches Holland’s portrayal.
Equally thrust into the turmoil of Peter’s life is the supporting cast. Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, and Jacob Batolon all get a ton to work with that makes them feel much more crucial to Peter’s life than they did in Far From Home. Aunt May returns to a very solid characterization as Peter’s adoptive mother and her presence as his main source of support and a loving presence for him are very evident (something Homecoming also did well but Far From Home seemed to abandon).
Despite the character’s limited time romantically involved, the chemistry and affection between MJ and Peter are sold really well. It feels like it utilized Zendaya’s acting talents beyond her more limited stuff to do in previous installments, especially Homecoming.
Doctor Strange’s role in the film had some fans concerned regarding the obligatory MCU character and new mentor role to Peter, but his presence is organic and not used as a mentor. The two have mutual respect as fellow Avengers. Peter might be slightly awkward with him, but more as a teenager seeing an adult, rather than an inexperienced hero seeing a mentor.
The returning villains of the film were a super exciting inclusion that I am sure sold the movie to the majority of audiences. Their inclusions, however, serve more than a simple fan service-y return. Each character’s original motivations are addressed, explored, and developed further. No Way Home takes classic villains straight out of the past movies and manages to give some brilliant arcs in addition to their previous appearances and within the confines of this movie.
Standouts among the villains are Doc Ock, Green Goblin, and Electro, these were obviously the most heavily marketed so it should come as no surprise that they are very present in the film. Each of the performances nails the original feel of the characters but brings something new when presented with the opportunity to interact with the MCU’s Spidey.
But talent soars both in front of and behind the camera, Michael Giacchino’s score is a standout among the Spider-Man films rivaled only by the incredible soundtrack of Into The Spider-Verse. Motifs ripped straight from the Raimi and Webb films are blended into beautiful pieces that honor the many years of Spider-Man on the big screen.
Jon Watts has solidified himself as a fantastic superhero movie director yet again, he has handled his Spider-Man trilogy expertly and only given more reason to be excited about his Fantastic Four film.