Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Review
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Back in 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming was definitely a fun and entertaining way for the comic book character of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) to star in his own standalone feature film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Spider-Man (played by actor Tom Holland) graced the screen as he debuted back in Captain America: Civil War, acting as a large cameo appearance, which was met with much fanfare anticipation than any superhero to appear in the MCU. Naturally, all eyes were on seeing Holland’s Peter Parker in his solo adventure, finding Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was directed by Jon Watts, to be a spectacular cinematic installment for the character, with many praising the feature for its light tone, it’s character development, and the performance by both Holland and actor Michael Keaton. The success of Homecoming paved the way for a brand-new Spider-Man trilogy within the boundaries of MCU, with Holland’s Spider-Man appearing in superhero team up films Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and Avengers: Endgame in 2019 before heading out on his second solo outing feature film with the release of Spider-Man: Far from Home in 2019. Much like Homecoming, Far from Home, which saw the return of Watts in the director’s chair as well as the main personal cast, saw Holland’s Parker venture on a class school trip to Europe, while trying to prevent a sinister plot that unfolds with the sudden appearance of the mysterious Mysterio (played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal). Far from Home was met with positive reviews and was another global hit at the box office, which cemented a further deal between Disney (who controls Marvel) and Sony Pictures that the character of Spider-Man who further be developed within the MCU. Now, after three years, Holland’s Spider-Man returns for his big adventure yet as Marvel Studios (along with Sony Pictures) and director Jon Watts release the film Spider-Man: Now Way Home. Does this latest installment in this new iteration of the famous webslinger comic book character stand tall and proud with this last outing in the dubbed “Home” trilogy or is just a bloated and superfluous superhero film that sways to much in nostalgia and fan service?
After the shocking reveal as Spider-Man by the broadcast video by Mysterio to the entire world, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is in panic mode, unsure how to deal with everyone knowing his superhero identity as the web slinging Spider-Man. With public and media scrutiny awareness has left his close family and friends exposed to backlash, with now girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best friend pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) refused their collegiate dreams due to their association with Peter. Frustrated and distraught by the mess he’s made, Peter seeks out Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help, requesting the creation of a unique spell from the Sorcerer Supreme capable of erasing the memory of Parker’s identity of Spider-Man from everyone, permitting a fresh start for the young superhero. However, when Strange’s spell goes sideways, unexpected things begin to occur, creating a disruption that opens the doors to the multiverse and welcoming anyone who’s looking to kill Peter Parker into this universe. When Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) arrives to destroy Spider-Man, it quickly dawns on Peter that something mysterious and disastrous is occurring. As other villainous beings begin to pour into our universe, Peter and his friends returning to Strange for help putting reality back in order, which triggers a series of events that no one could foresee and that something will come at a high cost for the young superhero.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Borrowing a several lines from my review of Spider-Man: Far from Home for this review, I definitely can say that I like Tom Holland’s iteration of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. The character of Peter Parker / Spider-Man has been an iconic superhero character in the Marvel superhero catalogue. The past iterations (in a cinematic feature film context endeavor) have been a mixed bag of sorts, with the debating ranging on which portrayal (i.e., actors Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield), but the success of actor Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character has definitely been a fan-favorite amongst many, including myself. His introduction in Captain America: Civil War and his involvement in Avengers: Infinity War provided that the Holland’s iteration of the famous webslinger superhero could definitely stand alongside other superhero characters in the MCU (as well as the actors / actresses that portray them), but both Homecoming and Far from Home certainly demonstrated on this newest iteration of Spider-Man would ultimately play out in his own movie. As stated, I personally liked Holland’s Spider-Man, with the young actor showcasing his various acting chops within the latest iteration of Peter Parker / Spider-Man; bringing a new cinematic facet to the character and feeling like his own thing within the MCU.. Altogether, I think that Holland is great as newest incarnation of Peter Parker / Spider-Man and, while some might continue to debate on which Spider-Man (Maguire, Garfield, or Holland) is the best one, I think that Holland is a solid one by bringing his own quirks and emotional depth to the character. Here’s to hoping that Disney and Sony Pictures continue their contractual relationship agreement with the character of Spider-Man as well as having Holland continue to play Peter Parker for years to come.
This, of course, brings me back around to talking about Spider-Man: No Way Home, a 2021 superhero action-adventure film and the third standalone entry in the MCU for Spider-Man as well as the final chapter in the officially dubbed Spider-Man “Home” trilogy. After the success of Far from Home, I was definitely looking forward to seeing where the next Spider-Man will go, but (like many out there) I was a little bit worried about Holland’s Peter Parker returning to the MCU, especially since the deal between Disney and Sony Pictures sort of reached an end and that the two studios were going to part ways; finding Sony planning to create its own franchise universe with the character. Luckily, a new deal was struck, and Spider-Man was going to be back in the MCU with a third movie, with Tom Holland returning to reprise his role of Peter Parker once again. After that, there was a bunch of rumor as to what the third film was going to be, with some rumors mentioning the involvement of past Spider-Man characters. Soon, a film’s movie trailer was released, which showcased the first glimpses of the upcoming superhero feature, which did in fact teased the return of several villains from the past Spider-Man movies (ones from the Maguire and Garfield Spider-Man universe) with the film’s plot centering around the multi-verse. Naturally, I was definitely excited for this, but kept on lingering on the fact that the studios were just going to “cash in” on nostalgia (something that can be either good or bad) as well as riding the coattails Sony’s 2018 animated feature film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by riffing on the multi-verse idea. Still, despite those few doubts, I was super hyped to see No Way Home, especially since not a whole lot of film details were being divulged about the superhero project and that the internet was continuing to build anticipation and rumors up until its release. So, with a release date of December 17th, 2021, I finally had a chance to go see the movie on its opening night. However, with my busy work schedule, I had to delay my review for Spider-Man: No Way Home a few days….to collect my inner thoughts for this review. So, what did I think of it? Did the movie lived up to its incredible hype? I loved it! Despite a few minor problems, Spider-Man: No Way Home is fantastic superhero spectacle that deserves all the praise and admiration that it has been receiving from both critics and moviegoers alike; delivering an amazing threequel installment that feels like feature film that honors its past, while establishing its future for the famous webslinger. There’s heart, drama, comedy, and superhero nuances and the movie everything is wanted it to be…and more!
As a sidenote, like many fans out there, I stayed away from the internet spoilers, so it wouldn’t ruin the level of secrecy surrounding this film and my overall enjoyment of first watching it. Thus, my review will be, for the most part, spoiler free. So, rest assured, some of the big moments in the film will not be mentioned in this review. So…enjoy!
Returning to the director’s chair for Spider-Man: No Way Home is director Jon Watts, whose previously helmed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far from Home as well other films such as Clown and Cop Car. Given his familiarity with directing the previous two Spider-Man movies (and the success that they had with moviegoers and at the box office, Watts seems like a logical choice to helming such a project for this threequel entry of this franchise. Thus, part of the success of what makes No Way Home fantastic is the past knowledge that Watts has with Holland’s iteration of Peter Parker / Spider-Man, which makes such a powerful culmination in this film. Rest assured when I say “culmination” …. it’s in the right context, with Watts making a celebratory (and grandiose) adventure for No Way Home to play around with. While Homecoming was about finding Peter’s footing in the superhero landscape and Far from Home was about his eventual leadership role (after the death of his mentor), No Way Home showcases what Spider-Man stands as the result of what the MCU iteration of the iconic Peter Parker character has to offer; cementing the young superhero as a fully fledge hero, who makes his own decisions and faces the consequences for his action. Because of this, Watts demonstrates the evolution of the character, which has grown since his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, as well as showing the dynamics of a young superhero. Of course, this has sort of been showing before by the previous cinematic attempts of the past Spider-Man movies, but Watts has a certain way of making his cinematic take on Peter Parker feel organic and a bit more life-like. Possibly because the director still finds the “youthful” energy within the character, which is felt throughout each installment, as well as seeing Peter Parker deal with normal “teenage” problems, while trying to balance a superhero daily routine. No Way Home definitely showcases that, but in a much more large-scale way, with Watts entangled a much sizable threat for Peter to face off against…..more so than a small time criminal or a fraud otherworldly superhero. That being said, Watts has plenty of time of showing Peter facing normal problems, such as getting into college as well as facing the public spotlight of being an unmasked superhero. Yet, the greater threat still lies.
Naturally, I’m talking about the multi-verse and how the past Spider-Man villains begin to appear and create a troublesome havoc for Peter in No Way Home. Yes, there is no doubt that Watts lays plenty of fan service and references to the past Spider-Man movies in the film, yet it never feels superfluous or that type of “eye rolling” inducing presentation. In truth, all of the fan service / references are terrific and are well-utilized in the feature, which makes for some great moments throughout the movie. Further examination into this aspect leads to some well-founded sequences that both honor the past (the Spider-Man films that have come before) as well as delivering some amazing moments for Watts to play around with. Aiding to this endeavor is the film’s script, which was penned by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, who (like Watts) have worked on Homecoming and Far from Home and are familiar with this iteration of Spider-Man. Thus, the story seems relevant to this portrayal of Peter Parker as well as feeling like a culmination (again, this word is important) for a personal journey as well as stellar superhero romp of the Spider-Man variety. Without spoiling too much, what’s presented in No Way Home definitely feels like culmination of everything that has come before for a rousing Spider-Man adventure for both the franchise (as a whole) as well as for Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker / Spider-Man.
What Watts also does tremendously well in the film is how he amps up a lot of the emotional dramatic moments that are scattered throughout the feature. There is no denying the fact that No Way Home is one that is filled heart and emotional evolutions; finding many of the various facing the greatest difficulties yet as well as confront their own respective destinies. Because of this, the movie has a proper balance big-time superhero frivolity as well as dramatic storytelling beats, which is more of a marriage together for a well-rounded narrative in No Way Home. That’s not to say that Watts makes the film different from what we (as viewers) would expect from a MCU superhero blockbuster endeavor, which has this cinematic universe notable trademark monikers such as comedy, action, and large-than-life CGI visuals. Rest assure that what’s presented is fun and entertaining, creating a lot of laugh-out moments and energetic action. Thus, after reading all of this, you can imagine how much I liked No Way Home, a film that resonates strongly within this iteration of Peter Parker / Spider-Man as well as finding way to celebrate the cinematic Spider-Man franchise in its entirety. Given all the hype and anticipation for this movie, it’s amazing that the project didn’t crumble underneath it all. Yet, despite that lingering notion, the movie does not fail, and I think that Watts (along with several others on this film) deserve all the praise and recognition. In short, No Way Home is fantastically directing and well-executed, delivering a powerful and moving superhero spectacle for the everyone’s favorite webslinger.
In its presentation category, No Way Home is very much a solid superhero blockbuster endeavor that shines for its technical achievements in visual effect wizardry. While the last film highlighted various locations and places within European adventure in Far from Home, No Way Home returns to NYC and has plenty of fun seeing the character of Spider-Man swinging and running around this familiar urban landscape that is common for this famous superhero. Thus, from a background visual standpoint, No Way Home feels very much like a Spider-Man movie. So, the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Darren Gilford (production design), Rosemary Brandenburg and Emmanuelle Hoessly (set decorations), Sanja Milkovic Hays (costume designs), and even Leigh Folsom Boyd and Jeffery Ford (film editing) should be applauded for their efforts in making No Way Home has a solid back and visual presentation all the way around. Likewise, the feature’s visual effect shots are solid, with their technical achievements lend to the superhero aesthetics with plenty of large-scale action appearing throughout the movie. There might be a few blemishes here and there, but nothing quite glaring as the film’s visual effects help strengthen the blockbuster nuances of the superhero variety. In addition, the cinematography work by Mauro Fiore is excellent all the way around, with various moments and sequences that are cinematically gorgeous to behold, especially some of the more dramatic / emotional scenes. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Michael Giacchino, who had previously composed the music for Homecoming and Far from Home, delivers his most impressive Spider-Man score with No Way Home. Giacchino’s musical composition for the film is well-executed and definitely hits all the right notes…. whether it’s quiet / docile character dialogue moments or rousing superhero melodies. It all works and definitely a great film soundtrack.
While I did enjoy the film immensely, I did find a few minor points of criticism in the film that No Way Home slightly falters upon. Perhaps aspect that the movie stands upon is in how different the film is compared to its previous two entries of Holland’s Spider-Man. While Homecoming had smaller scale, lower stakes narrative to tell (compared to the larger overarching story within the MCU) and Far from Home had a bit more personal obstacle for Peter to overcome (along with love interest awkwardness), No Way Home is a larger scale adventure for everyone’s friendly neighborhood character, which involves numerous villains, multi-verse expositions, heavier emotional drama, and having more of an MCU-style tale than the previous two. That being said, this isn’t the first time that a tonal change of style has appeared in the MCU, with Captain America’s second standalone film (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) having a more serious action/ gravitas tone versus his first feature film as well as Thor: Ragnarök, which had more comedic beats than the overtly serious Thor: The Dark World. No Way Home definitely feels like shifting tonal shift compared to its two predecessors, which definitely has more “bigness” and “grandiosity” to the story being told (as mentioned above), but it just seems a tad jarring and, despite how much I loved this movie’s narrative, I did kind of wish that the movie remained on a smaller scale. Again, it’s not a huge deal-breaker for me, but it is something that I can’t shake off.
In addition, the film’s pacing is bit off, with No Way Home being such a mammoth project to endeavor and to circumnavigate throughout. The movie does have a lengthy runtime, the film clocking in at around 150 minutes (two hours and thirty minutes), which causes the feature to have a slight fatigue in a few pocket areas scattered throughout the movie. Several scenes and moments, including great fan service ones, bringing the narrative of the film to a screeching halt that, while immensely fund to watch, does little to advance certain event in the story from progressing. I kind of went into this movie expecting to see such things, but I think the feature could’ve interject either some action to break up the overall ebb and flow of these pacing issue scenes or trimmed down a few areas.
Perhaps my biggest minor gripe would probably be the somewhat predictable nuances that surround the movie. As mentioned, I did say clear of all the internet spoilers that started to appear online, so I went into the film with “fresh eyes” as to what I was planning on seeing. However, No Way Home does have a familiar plot beats and themes that are both customary to a superhero endeavor as well as formulaic tropes to the Spider-Man mythos. Again, nothing of a big deal-breaker that could derail the feature from its entertaining enjoyment, but I thought that No Way Home could’ve rise above those tropes and not use them. Still, for better or worse, they are there.
What definitely makes No Way Home quite enjoyable from start to finish is in the overall cast for the film, which definitely bring their “A” game for this third Spider-Man outing; delivering some awesome standout performances regardless of how much they stand in the spotlight. Leading the charge in the film is actor Tom Holland, who once again returns to reprise his lead protagonist role of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. While starring in other films like Spies in Disguise, The Current War, and Chaos Walking Holland has certainly made a name for himself as Spider-Man within the MCU installments (or rather the MCU iteration of Peter Parker). Holland’s involvement in No Way Home is one that builds upon his inclusion in the MCU’s large sandbox of superheroes as well as continuing to see the young aspiring hero grow / evolve with each of his own personal installments. No Way Home definitely showcases that; finding Holland’s Peter a little bit wiser and stronger, yet still naïve and inexperience to what the dangers that lie ahead of him. Perhaps it is this reason why I (like so many out there) like Holland as Peter Parker, with the actor’s youthful antics and charismatic energy playing a part of the character. In No Way Home, Peter is put the test and is perhaps his most emotionally charged adventure yet, with Holland up to the task and handles all of his scenes quite well. In the end, I think that Holland is at the top of his game as Peter Parker / Spider-Man in No Way Home; proving that his iteration of the famed superhero is well-rounded and has evolved throughout his own personal journey in this shared cinematic universe. Let’s hope that Holland sticks around for future projects in the MCU!
In supporting character roles, actress Zendaya and actor Jacob Batalon return to reprise their character roles of MJ and Ned Leeds, Peter Parker’s now girlfriend and best friend respectfully. Given her past involvement on the past two Spider-Man movies, Zendaya, who is known for her roles in The Greatest Showman, Euphoria, and Dune, has certainly a large part to play in this Spider-Man installment, with her character of MJ playing a big participation in the narrative. Plus, it also helps that both her and Holland have great on-screen chemistry with each other, which aides in the believability of the relationship between MJ and Peter Parker. Similarly, Batalon, who is known for his roles in Let It Snow, 50 States of Fright, and Zaya, is still a great fit for the comedy relief platform in these Spider-Man movies as his friendship bond with Holland’s Peter is just as strong (and impactful) as it was in Homecoming, with No Way Home showcasing their relationship. Interestingly, another big MCU character shares some of the spotlight in No Way Home, with actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who is known for his roles in Star Trek Into Darkness, Imitation Game, and The Courier, reprising his MCU role of Dr. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange. He’s definitely a side supporting character in the movie, yet his involvement on this project is quite well-founded and does lend his acting gravitas / character role in No Way Home. Plus, his playful “back-and-forth” banter that he has with Holland is hilarious and fun throughout the film. Given all the various Spider-Man characters that appear in the movie, it was definitely a treat to see Cumberbatch playing Doctor Strange in No Way Home.
Of course, the villains of No Way Home do get a prominent spotlight for No Way Home’s story and definitely are a great fit for the film, seeing several iconic Spider-Man baddies from the past entries return for this multi-verse crossover adventure. Who definitely steals the show in the film is actor Williem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate and The Florida Project), who returns to reprise his Spider-Man character role of Norman Osborne / Green Goblin. It’s terrific to see Dafoe returning to play this iconic Spider-Man villain once again and its clear that the actor hasn’t missed a beat as he easily slides back into the role after nearly twenty years. There is still plenty to play around with, with Dafoe adding to a new layer of dynamics into Osbourne and creating pivotal questions as to what Holland’s Peter wants out of life. Likewise, it was great to see actor Alfred Molina (Frida and The Da Vinci Code) reprise his role of Dr. Otto Octavius / Doc Ock. While not so much extra layer material for the character than what was previously established in Spider-Man 2, Molina’s acting talents are still top-notch and (like Dafoe) hasn’t missed a beat in returning to play his bad guy role in many years. One can definitely see that he’s having fun returning to play Otto. The same can be also said about actor Jamie Foxx (Soul and Django Unchained), who reprises his Amazing Spider-Man 2 character role of Max Dillion / Electro. I think he actually does a better job in No Way Home, with Foxx having more fun in the role as well as having a better overall physical appearance than in his 2014 film. Plus, the character of Max has a bit more of better redemption-esque motive and I kind of liked that.
Who sort of gets shortchanged in the movie are the characters of the Dr. Curt Connors / Lizard and Flint Marko / Sandman as the returning villains from The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 respectfully. I say sort of as the characters are present in the movie, but take more of a backseat approach and are not as “in the spotlight” as Doc Ock, Electro, and Green Goblin. Kind of wish that they were more in the film. However, they are both visual looking villains in the movie and definitely are welcomed inclusion in No Way Home. Plus, it was great to see that actors Rhys Ifans (Snowden and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) and Thomas Haden Church (Easy A and Sideways) returning to reprise the Spider-Man villain roles once again. Altogether, I loved how all these acting talents returned for No Way Home and it was definitely an awesome treat to seeing them all together in one movie.
The rest of the cast, including actress Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys and The Beguiled) Peter’s fellow classmate / Ned’s ex-girlfriend Betty Brant, actor Hannah Buress (Tag and The Secret Life of Pets) as Peter’s high school gym coach Wilson, actor Martin Starr (Silicon Valley and Freaks and Geeks) as Peter’s Decathlon academic teacher Roger. Harrington, actor J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm and Almost Christmas) as Peter’s teacher Julius Dell, actor Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope) as Peter’s classmate Flash Thompson, actor / director Jon Favreau (Chef and Swingers) as Happy Hogan, and Benedict Wong (The Martian and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) as Doctor Stranger’s mentor / companion Wong, and actress Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny and What Women Want) as Peter’s aunt May are minor supporting players in the movie. Some are simply there for continuity reasons, while others have a bit larger role to play than their co-stars in this grouping. However, what can be said is that all of these acting talents are well-represented in the film (in whatever capacity their characters are in) as well as being well-acted by their actor / actress counterpart.
Lastly, as a customary standard for a MCU film, No Way Home does have two secret Easter Egg scenes during the end credits, with one placed as a mid-credit and the other at the very end. While I won’t spoil what is presented in either of them, I will say that both are great and further plants to seeds for something new and exciting to come on the horizon of this Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, be sure to check them out!
While trying to erase the memory of everyone forgetting that he is Spider-Man, Peter Parker’s life gets turned upside down and faces his greatest challenge of his life in the movie Spider-Man: No Way Home. Director Jon Watt’s latest film takes what was established in the previous two films and amps up almost every aspect for this threequel adventure; providing a cinematic superhero adventure that has plenty of action, comedy, and drama throughout the entire project. While the film stumbles in a few small areas, a great majority of the feature is well-met and well-received within the context of how everything is presented, especially in Watt’s direction, handling of the material of the Spider-Verse, terrific comedic / dramatic beats, big-screen superhero action, and solid acting talents across the board. Personally, I loved this movie. Yes, I do say that a lot for MCU superhero movies, but Spider-Man: No Way Home delivered on its promise and then some. It was a amazing film that definitely was the culmination of Holland’s Spider-Man Home trilogy as well as honor the past Spider-Man movies within its own way. Given all the MCU films that have come out during the 2021 releases (i.e., Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and this movie), I would have to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home is my favorite one as well as being my favorite entry in the Spider-Man Home trilogy. The hype and anticipation for this film is real and it’s almost a forgone conclusion by many that the movie won’t disappoint. Thus, it kind of a no-brainer to say that my recommendation for this movie is a highly favorable “highly recommended” as fans of both the MCU and of Spider-Man will be enthralled with No Way Home’s story / presentation as well as casual moviegoers who are looking for some great blockbuster superhero entertainment. It’s clear that the Holland’s Spider-Man will appear once again in the MCU in the near future and I, for one, am excited what new cinematic tales await this latest iteration of the famous superhero character. Who will he face? Who will be allied with him? What challenges lay in store for Peter Parker? It’s unclear, but I welcome whatever comes. In the end, Spider-Man: No Way Home stands a crowning and celebrated superhero film in the MCU that speaks to its Spidey past and shapes the future with an engaging and f fantastic Spider-Man adventure spectacle.
4.7 Out Of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: December 17th, 2021
Reviewed On: December 23rd, 2021
Spider-Man: No Way Home is 150 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action / violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments