“Spider-Man: No Way Home”: An instant modern classic
Release Date: January 17th, 2022
By Ezra Rivel
Over two years after the second installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man trilogy, “Far From Home,” fans got to watch Tom Holland’s Peter Parker on the big screen once again. “No Way Home” focuses on Peter’s bond with his friends as drama and violence unfold around them. The excitement from the previous two movies remains constant, but darker themes are introduced as Peter, an incoming college freshman, is forced to face the consequences of his actions as Spider-Man. It’s a coming-of-age story done right and was brilliant to watch unfold on screen.
The plot connects seamlessly to the ending in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” where Mysterio publishes a falsified tape of Spider-Man, framing him as a murderer, and releases his true identity on national television. Peter’s desire to live a normal life with his new girlfriend, Michelle Jones (Zendaya), is ruined as he gathers crowds of both fans and haters wherever he goes. He seeks help from Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who casts a spell that will stop the world from knowing that Peter is Spider-Man. This spell goes horribly wrong, however, and various villains from previous Spidey movies make a comeback. These intense events set the stage for the amazing action scenes later in the movie.
The main cast of Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, and Benedict Cumberbatch give a fantastic performance in line with the previous MCU movies they took part in. The dynamic between Peter (Holland), MJ (Zendaya), and Ned (Batalon) makes it feel like they are an actual group of friends. It’s also clear that Director Jon Watts is pushing for Dr. Strange to be the next “father figure” to Peter, akin to the relationship Peter had with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark. Jon Favreu (Happy Hogan) and Marissa Tomei (May Parker) are involved in some limited but very impactful scenes within the movie. However, by far the most exciting cast members were the returning actors from previous Spider-Man films. Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin) and Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus) return from Sam Raimi’s Spidey Trilogy, and Jamie Foxx (Electro) reprises his role from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Thomas Haden Church (Sandman) and Rhys Ifans (The Lizard) return as voices for CGI versions of their characters due to Covid restrictions. All five returning villain actors are a joy to see on screen, but Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborne/Green Goblin was easily the most memorable. Gobbie was so much more frightening than his original appearance, and it’s shocking how Dafoe outdid his previous performance as Spider-Man’s baddest villain. Ultimately, all five returning villains have more depth added to their character, despite some being more important plot-wise than others.
Peter Parker’s journey is evident in this one film alone. Peter enters “No Way Home” as a boy and leaves as a battle-hardened man. Parker suffered the loss of his mentor Tony Stark in “Avengers: Endgame,” and had to deal with this loss in “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” but this is the first MCU Spidey movie where Parker is somewhat on his own. If he didn’t intervene during Dr. Strange’s spell, the various villains wouldn’t have been sent to his version of Earth from the unfolding MCU multiverse.
The journey that Peter goes through in the film is beautiful to watch on the big screen. There are, however, some elements of the film that are a bit too “coincidental.” Some discoveries and fixes to major plot problems are introduced with ease. Without delving into movie spoilers, it would be hard to comprehend how these inventions were made so quickly. Despite being a comic book movie, these elements probably could have been handled in a different way that would seem as believable as possible for the plot. The final battle scene was nothing short of spectacular, focusing on Spider-Man’s clash with the various villains. Every single character interaction, past movie reference, and impactful scene was done perfectly. Many comedic moments found their way into serious scenes without off-putting the tense atmosphere. It truly is the peak of Spider-Man movie battles. The film ends on an intensely emotional and bittersweet note, as Peter makes his way to college, a changed individual, reflecting on the events that just unfolded.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a coming-of-age movie. Many people disliked the handling of Tom Holland’s Peter in previous movies, almost making him feel like a “fun and games” type of character due to the mostly low stakes presented in Peter’s life. Of course, being a high school student and the comic hero known as the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” Peter’s hero persona wasn’t fully meant to rival other MCU heroes when it comes to the problems he faced. However, past live action Spider-Men had to deal with the loss of a loved one which really set the motivation for their character to develop and change. “No Way Home” sets up the previous two Holland Spidey movies somewhat as one big origin story. Peter learns the hard way that he needs to let things go in order to progress in his life as the hero he is. This lesson is projected onto the audience as well. People who went through middle school, high school, or college with Holland’s Spider-Man have grown and learned new things along the way. Children who are too young to understand Peter’s mental turmoil and changed perspective on his life as a superhero will reflect back on “No Way Home” in the future, and people who have already gone through periods of change and evolution in their life will watch the movie and relate to Peter’s forced maturity, proud of his growth.
“No Way Home” is a perfect movie for all ages. Younger and/or sensitive individuals may want to build up to the full experience, as many emotional and sad moments fill the otherwise action packed and character driven movie. Anyone who is ready to experience the film will have an absolute blast watching it, although it’s recommended to watch at least the previous two movies in the trilogy before tackling “No Way Home.”
All in all, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a near perfect movie, and will remain a fan favorite for years to come. An instant classic filled with amazing actors, action scenes, and emotion.