Movie Review: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
NO SPOILERS UNTIL THE WILLEM DAFOE MEME
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, J.K. Simmons
Plot: Peter Parker’s life is thrown into a spiral when his identity as Spider-Man is made public, and he’s accused of murdering Mysterio. In an attempt to undo the damage, Peter seeks out Doctor Strange. Things become substantially worse when their spell goes haywire and opens up their world to invaders from parallel universes.
Review: It’s been long enough since The Avengers, and the MCU has achieved so much, that it’s hard to remember how little faith there was in Marvel Studio’s plan to build up to the original cross-over. There were going to release a series of movies, all of which would be successful in bringing goofy characters like Thor and Captain America to the big screen, and then they’d somehow pull it all together in an epic blockbuster unlike any we had seen before. They did that, and it was gangbusters, and then they’ve only gone and topped it several more times. What’s left for the MCU, but to start absorbing other franchises into itself? That brings us to Spider-Man: Far From Home, a movie that not only fits into the MCU canon but drags in characters from other Spider-Man movie franchises.
Although it doesn’t take long for Peter Parker (Holland) to put his legal issues on hold, the wider impact of his identity being revealed weigh heavily on him and his friends. Peter, Aunt May (Tomei) and his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Batalon) are under constant scrutiny and are unable to go about their normal lives, constantly followed by the media and hateful mobs convinced Spider-Man truly is a menace. This hits hardest when Peter, MJ and Ned are rejected from MIT, prompting a guilt-ridden Peter to consult with Dr. Strange (Cumberbatch). Initially happy to help Peter with a memory altering spell, things go wrong when Strange’s spell is corrupted and the multiverse is breached. Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Sandman and the Lizard cross over from alternate universes and run Spider-Man through a gauntlet of attacks.
Pulling together Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina (both of whom are digitally de-aged), Jamie Foxx, Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans to reprise their characters from earlier iterations of Spider-Man is deadset brilliant. We expected a series of brief cameos, but they’re all decently fleshed out characters who get plenty of dialogue between each other and the inhabitants of the MCU. Each of them are the versions of the characters we’re familiar with from previous films, as the trailers depict different designs of Electro and Green Goblin. In some nice slice of fan-service, they do arrive in the forms we’ve seen, with their changes coming during this story and resulting in more comic-book accurate looks.
What drives the story, and makes it work, is that it isn’t a running series of nostalgia nods and fan service. It’s a running series of nostalgia nods and fan service hanging off an emotional core with Parker’s personal morals being challenged. Parker is unwilling to send this crew of villains back to their own universes to face potential death at the hands of other Spider-Men without attempting to save them. His initial mistake comes from trying to help his friends, and the situation worsens because he refuses to give up on anyone as he tries to find cures and fixes for the villains. The biggest challenge to his unshakable convictions is Norman Osborn, who taunts him for wasting his strengths on noble deeds. Watts has really tapped into Osborn’s viciousness and madness and turned into the most deadly opponent in this movie.
That’s all we’re saying in this section, so…
RATING: TEN out of TEN but keep reading if you want because
NOW WE’RE DOING THE SPOILERS
As fun as the scenes between the villains are, they get over-shadowed in the second half of the movie. While Spider-Man is trying to round up and help the villains, MJ and Ned are looking for Peter. They wind up finding not their Peter, but two Peter Parker’s from other universes who have found themselves transported to the MCU world. Yes, these other Spider-Men are the versions played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield with both actors returning and doing an amazing job of picking up these roles and developing them further. Scenes between the three Spider-Men are absolutely hysterical. The banter about their powers, villains and adventures is brilliant, and its great hearing the three of them poking fun at the sillier aspects of their own franchises. They all get decent amounts of screen time, with the characters closing up some hanging plot threads. A small moment between Garfield having a final conversation with Electro was surprisingly solid.
If you’ve been dreaming of a team-up between all three cinematic Spider-Men, you’re going to find that this scratches that itch. It feels as though the goal was to continue the story for each of these characters rather than pay lip service, and it’s clear that all involved worked hard to match up the performances and character traits.
There’s a couple of other little surprises that we won’t get into…although we’re very excited by them…except for one that produced a huge cheer from the crowd. The scene of Peter, Aunt May and Happy chatting with the lawyer Matt Murdock, played by Charlie Cox, is very cool. Looking forward to Team Red!