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Spider-Man: No Way Home – Does It Live Up To The Hype? (Review)


In the third week of December, Marvel’s latest cinematic entry Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) swung into theaters, scoring the #1 opening weekend box office gross of the pandemic. Whilst possibly being the blockbuster with the highest number of leaks ever, the film garnered an impressive amount of hype to live up to, even for MCU standards. And it sure as hell delivers. No Way Home impressively pulls off the difficult task of telling a compelling story focusing on Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, whilst also incorporating characters from the expansive multiverse. It follows the arachnid superhero as he is forced to reevaluate what it means to be Spider-Man, as well as providing audiences with a satisfying franchise culmination that has been 20 years in the making. This movie deserves to be seen in the cinema. Treat yourselves to a good time.

The Sony-Marvel partnership has had its rocky moments, but thankfully the two studios have continued collaborating on their Spider-Man films. No Way Home has become the most successful film of 2021 at the international box office, grossing Sony and Marvel $600.8M in its worldwide opening weekend (the third-highest EVER). It has also received positive reactions from both fans and critics alike. The movie is set immediately after its predecessor Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), depicting the aftermath of Spider-Man’s identity being revealed to the public. Struggling with the consequences of being unmasked, Peter Parker consults Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in an attempt to rectify things. However, Peter tampers with Strange’s spell and exposes their reality to a number of visitors from across the multiverse. The appearance of familiar villains forces Peter to reconsider his responsibilities as Spider-Man and profoundly alters his path going forward.

The majority of big surprises in No Way Home were leaked online months in advance, likely a traumatic reminder of 2014’s hack for Sony. The re-introduction of foes from past iterations of Spidey was sadly unable to be kept under wraps. The inclusion of Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Electro, Sandman, and The Lizard was thus shown to us in its promotional material. This however does not spoil or degrade their appearances at all. No Way Home’s fan service is heavy, but as it ties in well with the narrative, I find it entirely forgivable. These villains are not glorified cameos, they are integral elements to the plot that spur development in the character of Peter Parker. After having rewatched all the previous live-action Spider-Man movies, it was a true joy to see these characters grace the screen once more. Too many villains have been this franchise’s Achilles’ heel before, with Spider-Man 3 (2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) suffering greatly from this issue. But No Way Home makes it work.

Spider-Man and Spider with New York City backdrop
Yatheesh Gowda/Pixabay

Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin is positively chewing the scenery in every frame he’s in. The man’s demented laugh and uniquely expressive face remain unparalleled. And with his Power Rangers mask done away with, Dafoe’s kookiness is now on full display. Alfred Molina returns as Doc Ock and yet again charms viewers as the tentacle-bearing mad scientist (watch this video, you just can’t not love this guy). Both Dafoe and Molina are part of some magnificent action scenes that feature genuinely brutal exchanges of blows between them and the webslinger. Also reprising his role is Jamie Foxx as Electro. Foxx is given the opportunity to redeem himself after his terrible first outing, pairing a fantastic re-design with his quintessential charisma and humor. Rhys Ifans (the Lizard) and Thomas Haden Church (Sandman) also appear, but they are unfortunately given much less to do. J.K. Simmons also comes back briefly in his iconic role of J. Jonah Jameson, this time as a satirical double of InfoWars’ unhinged Alex Jones.

Although the movie has quite a slow first act, I think it helps us breathe a bit before the multiverse craziness ensues. We get to spend a lot of time with our main characters and Tom Holland and Zendaya have fantastic chemistry as a couple, both on and off-screen. Interestingly, every live-action Spider-Man movie’s leads have been involved romantically in real-life, but in No Way Home it translates the best. If you dislike quippy Marvel fanfare, this movie isn’t for you. Dialogue is filled to the brim with comedy, a lot of which lands, but some of which doesn’t. The writing includes lots of funny callbacks to the Raimi and Webb films, one of which concerned Green Goblin and received a massive roar of laughter in my theater. No Way Home actually made me like the earlier movies more and really feels like a fulfilling Avengers-esque climax to that lineage. It’s also a very emotional film that has a lot of somber moments that have us hoping there is more than one friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Miles Morales Spider-Man in Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Eduardo Merino/Pixabay

The most important question remains: Is it better than Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)? No, of course not, not by a mile. Not only does it lack the unique style and artistic voice, but Spider-Verse achieved the same and more success with its multiverse story without any previous build-up. Without being predicated as much on nostalgia and fan service, Spider-Verse is a genuinely revolutionary work of art. No Way Home also suffers from some sloppy story beats, occasionally corny and mildly cringe-worthy dialogue (reminiscent of Saturday Night Live), and subpar CGI for Sandman and the Lizard. You can also kind of feel that the villains are from different movies as they don’t always gel with one another. To be fair though, that might have been the point. It also cemented my immense dislike for 3D since some dark parts of the movie were unbelievably blurry. But that is more so an indictment of that format, rather than of this film in particular. Lastly, the cinematography, directing, and editing are also nothing to write home about.

In spite of its flaws, this is definitely my favorite piece of content from Marvel’s Phase Four so far. It was also easily the best moviegoing experience I’ve had since seeing Avengers: Endgame (2019). The auditorium was as packed as Covid-19 would allow. And the audience was often rambunctiously screaming, yelling, and clapping in quick succession. Unlike Home Alone 3 (1997), this third installment builds on the quality of its two predecessors, Far From Home and Homecoming (2017). It’s a true celebration of three generations of Spider-Man films. And it sets the stage for interesting Spider-Man adventures still to come. With great power comes great responsibility. And it is your responsibility to see this movie in a movie theater as soon as possible.