“Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021) – “Spider-Man. Where are you coming from, Spider-Man? Nobody knows who you are.” – “The Electric Company” Spider-Man Theme Song
Many apologies for contradicting the aforementioned decree, but when we last saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man (Tom Holland), everyone discovered “who he is.”
In director Jon Watts’ “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) – which seems like it arrived in theatres a decade ago – Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals Spider-Man’s identity as Midtown High School senior Peter Parker to the world through J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) news report on TheDailyBugle.net.
“What the—?!?” Spider-Man exclaims.
Well, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” – again, helmed by Watts (who also directed “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)) – picks up immediately from the “Far From Home” post-credit scene. Now, in a panic, our Friendly Neighborhood Red & Blue Hero, grabs MJ (Zendaya), swings across the city and inside some subway tunnels, and arrives at home to flee the chaos and hoopla.
Oh, he and we ain’t seen nothing yet!
“No Way Home” is – far and away – the most ambitious (live-action) “Spider-Man” movie. Second place isn’t close.
While “Homecoming” offered a long-form introduction to the MCU’s web-slinger (outside Holland’s first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)) and “Far From Home” was a denouement from the “Infinity War” (2018)/”Endgame” (2019) saga, this film takes a massive, incalculable concept – the multiverse – and introduces it to New York City. More precisely, the multiverse’s expanse targets one human being, Peter Parker.
The result is a crowd-pleasing, popcorn-snacking, and jaw-dropping 148-minute flick.
Sure, screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers take apparent departures with logic and also construct an ordinary problem – albeit under extraordinary circumstances – to trigger Peter’s multiverse dilemma, but any scriptwriting shortcuts or tangled webs are forgiven through the pair’s sweat and determination to please the audience, and more specifically, Spider-Man fans.
Die-hard Spidey fanatics won’t want “No Way Home” to end, as McKenna, Sommers, and Watts joyfully and skillfully include oodles of references, quotes, Easter eggs, surprises, and nostalgic cues throughout the 2nd and 3rd acts. The film feels like the three said fellas must have mapped out this movie over countless four-hour, past-midnight diner conversations with the overjoyed glee of teenagers hopped up on stacks of pancakes and 40-oz glasses filled with soda pop.
So, who or what did this Spidey Team conjure?
Conjure is apropos because Peter turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help with his current conundrum. Since just about anyone on the planet tied to social media knows that Peter is Spider-Man, the folks closest to him – Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), MJ, and Ned (Jacob Batalon) – are negatively impacted. No thanks to Mysterio and Jameson, Spider-Man/Peter is widely-considered a muddled hero or, at worst, a villain. Chalk it up to guilt by association and perception is everything, so Peter asks Strange to stir up a spell that makes the world forget that he’s Spider-Man.
The Good Doctor attempts to help this desperate teen, but due to Peter’s anxiety and meddling in the middle of the incantation, Strange ends the mystical experiment. Unfortunately, the magic accidentally releases individuals from other universes who know Spider-Man’s true identity and brings them to this one.
In other words, some specific villains from previous Spider-Man movies (namely from Sam Raimi’s and Marc Webb’s films) magically appear and hence offer brand-new challenges for Holland’s Peter.
Doctor Strange assigns the unenviable task of cleaning up this mess to MJ, Ned, and Peter and exclaims, “Get on your phones, scour the Internet, and Scooby-Doo this ****.”
Hey, just round up these new/old baddies, and then Strange will send them back to their respective homes. Spidey, however, wants to travel an unselfish, noble path and help these otherworldly adversaries by “fixing” their problems.
Have you ever dated someone who tried to fix you? Maybe you were open to it, or perhaps not.
Anyways, Peter attempts to “Scooby-Doo” and “Mr. Peabody” this super-predicament using Stark technology. Since “No Way Home” is a comic book film that bathes in magic, multiverses, and superhero themes, one obviously suspends disbelief. Still, Peter attempting to address immense physiological and technological challenges during a – seemingly – lazy Sunday afternoon has all the eye-rolling feelings of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unlocking the key to time travel over coffee in “Avengers: Endgame”.
Although the key to this movie’s success is not how we got here, but hey, that we’re here!
“No Way Home” is not a happy accident. It’s a thrilling, stand-up-and-cheer one, and Watts throws everything plus the kitchen sink (and a toaster oven for good measure) on the screen to take full advantage of this cinematic event’s time and place.
In the process, Holland, Cumberbatch, Zendaya, Batalon, Tomei, Jon Favreau, and others gladly tinker with the appliances and scores of toys, as they seem to enjoy the experience as much as we are.
The film’s intended payoffs, and there are many, outweigh some flawed logic, the 1st act’s slow pacing, and insanely-instantaneous scientific breakthroughs.
Well, Watts’ Spider-Man trilogy is complete. Also, Peter’s high school life is now behind him. How does the pomp and circumstance of this Spider-Man film top the next one? Your guess is as good as mine because “No Way Home” may or may not be the best Spider-Man movie, but it’s the most rewarding one.
⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, and Jon Favreau
Runtime: 148 minutes
Image credits: Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures