Directed By: Jon Watts Released: December 17, 2021
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How often can you say expectations were met? When a product comes out, you wait in a line surrounded by rabid fans, and walk away feeling satisfied? I have been a victim of failed expectations on more occasions than I could ever count. Remember Spore in 2008? Perhaps the recent Cyberpunk 2077, something I bought a strategy guide for but couldn’t even play. Maybe you’ll cringe in horror to find out I sat in a theater for both Dragonball: Evolution AND The Last Airbender. Then there is Spiderman: No Way Home. A movie that fans wanted more than just the stars, but the entire universe worth of expectation or it would see riots in the streets. I ask this because I truly believe that the latest outing for the web head has not only met most expectations, but possibly even exceeded them.
We all know the big reveal at this point, correct? Hopefully you got a ticket in time and were flabbergasted that your hopes and dreams all came true. On screen are the Spidermen of your youth, two actors donning the suit that we as fans have wanted again for decades. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield have returned, hearts soaring. But their personalities are fully intact, just like their villains the Spidermen feel just as wholesome and witty. I would even say Andrew gives a much more heartfelt performance here than his own films. Now as someone who grew up with the Raimi trilogy, seeing Tobey again, someone who rarely does acting anymore outside The Great Gatsby (2013) and… The Boss Baby (2017)? Since I saw this at the earliest showing possible, my theater collectively lost their minds. It was a treat on top of already exquisite cake.
I have to talk about the scene that has ingrained into my mind since I left the theater. After the two most wholesome heroes bring our titular Tom Holland (please note, since all three have the same name, I will address them by their actors’ names) from his hole of depression, they execute a plan to help “cure” their villains. They gather at a school lab, a location all three of them would have plenty of experience with. Tom is still in his Spidey suit, his identity and self-worth have been diminished throughout the film until all he has left is his powers (and friends, but that’s not important right now). Andrew is wearing a lab coat, his Spiderman is the only one who was able to work for a lab, Oscorp, and has the most scientific experience. Tobey is in plain clothes (a youth pastor outfit, as Andrew puts it) as his life has been about living day to day and keeping a relationship afloat. All three are wearing their Spidey suits, cause even in the worst circumstances they are all heroes at the end of the day.
As fans we all had these moments, we envisioned what these three would talk about if they were to meet. I’m pretty sure they covered nearly the major points. Sure, to some it might seem like extreme pandering. What would the tech Spidermen say Tobey who has organic webs? The talk about what responsibility means and who told them. What kinds of trauma they each faced? What helps is we, as an audience, have seen each one grow and suffer from different times in our own lives. But unlike the start of the MCU where we knew at some point these characters would meet up, giving us the incredible experience that was The Avengers, there was no foresight with our childhood hero’s coming together. To see not just Tobey and Andrew back, but to see what has come of them since we last saw them. Tobey saying that he and MJ made it work, Andrew saying that he has overcome his insecurities. These are what makes these just simple cameos’, these are full characters.
I can’t gush all day about how good it is to see more Spiderman; the inclusion of past villains is just as impactful. The easy first, Sandman and The Lizard don’t do much for the story. Honestly there isn’t much these two could contribute, Sandman is just a man who wanted to see his daughter again and The Lizard has a narrow-minded goal of changing the course of human evolution. Now, what makes Sandman at least interesting is his conflicting goals against other villains. He wants to go home as soon as possible, and Tom wants to save them all before they go. With Sandman in particular, he would be more stable and able to hold his daughter, while Dr. Conners would have to return and face the consequences of his actions.
The final three villains have such impactful goals. Electros’ return is a significant improvement from his iteration in The Amazing Spiderman 2. He has a clear goal, the advanced tech from being in a world influenced by Tony Stark means he could “become a god.” Plus, Jamie Fox is able to pull out a more immersive performance here. Doc Oc (Alfred Molina) is a treat to behold on screen. The fight scenes he has with Tom in this are exceptional, the arms moving in such fluid motion while clearly strategizing against an opponent they are all too familiar with, then absorbing nano-tech. All such genius and natural inclusions to the plot, actually seamless. The arc Oc goes through just feels right, as someone who has seen Spiderman 2 (2004) more times than humanly necessary, I loved these moments. His interaction with Tobey at the end, chills. Then there is Willem Dafoe.
Having the Green Goblin be the central antagonist was an inspired choice. He pulls at every fiber of Tom’s Spiderman, his need to help others and his naivete. The performance is just next level, you fully feel for Norman as he struggles to rein in the Goblin. Does he even want to though? This is front and center on screen, I couldn’t get enough. In a film of stand-out performances, Willem Dafoe still shines among stars.
A moment that I knew HAD to be in this film was one that took me a second to not just appreciate, but to absorb. Green Goblin has fought Peter (Tom) down multiple stories of Happy’s building and now finishes the duel at ground level. As everything is on fire and just as it looks like things might settle, May is hit by the glider. Honestly, thought that was an instant death. She gets up, and even as May is clearly in tons of pain, she focuses on making sure Peter is safe and has a clear mind. She has him focus and gives him her version of “with great power comes great responsibility” before slowly dying, never giving an ounce of weakness. Marisa Tomei is at her best here; it really does feel like she is the emotional core for Peter. Her death is just as impactful as Uncle Bens in the Raimi movies (minus the retcon that Flint killed him in 3).
No Way Home finishes with a shocking and yet perfect representation of what Spiderman is. After trying to “have his cake and eat it too” (stupid saying, but applicable) he realizes that his actions have consequences, and he needs to right his wrongs. A fitting resolution to Tom’s trilogy of accepting responsibility and becoming the hero that everyone knows he can be. He has Doctor Strange erase the knowledge of Peter as a whole, so no one will come to find him anymore. Even if it means his loved ones will also forget him. It’s a tough decision but seeing how his indecisiveness has led to this he knows what needs to be done. Now Peter is all alone, no one knows who he is. He doesn’t have a lot of money, no friends, and no one he can call. But he is still Spiderman, as he makes his own suit and ends with the audience knowing that no matter what, he is Spiderman.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I love this film. They somehow made a multi-dimensional with more villains than literally any other Spiderman film feel like a grounded story about the building of a true hero. It has a wonderful pace, a ton of fantastic performances, and an emotional center that leaves you feeling satisfied once you’re watching the credits. This might be my favorite movie of the year, but only more viewings will tell.
So, what did you think of No Way Home? Did you also freak out when Charlie Cox showed up? (Really wanted to give him his own segment, but this review is already my longest) Do you really want to see a The Amazing Spiderman 3 now that we all know Andrew is clearly a great Peter Parker? What will come of the end credit scene of Tom Hardy’s Venom? There is so much to talk about with this movie, so put down your thoughts in the comments below!