*This review will be spoiler-free for Spider-Man: No Way Home and will only contain explicit information available in official trailers and TV spots for the film. However, this review does contain spoilers for previous Spider-Man and MCU films.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has everything viewers want in a Spider-Man film: action, humor, and a lot of heart. The film brings back old villains, who are all a treat to see again (though I am partial to Doc Oc), and has a ton of fan service. The film is a celebration of all three generations of Spider-Man. My whole movie theater clapped and cheered throughout. In short, this is absolutely my favorite Spider-Man film, and I cannot wait to see where Tom Holland’s take goes next.
No Way Home follows Peter Parker/Spider-Man as he deals with the consequences of Mysterio leaking his identity and blaming crimes on him, which occured at the end of Far From Home. Peter ends up asking Doctor Strange to make everyone forget his identity. However, Peter botches the spell and this leads to villains from the multiverse coming to the MCU universe (Earth-199999). These villains are all returning from the Raimi/Maguire and Webb/Garfield films, and consist of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, and Flint Marko/Sandman from the Raimi films, and Curt Conners/Lizard and Max Dillon/Electro from the Webb films.
Iron Boy Jr. No More: No Way Home is a Pure Spider-Man Story
One of the most prominent criticisms of MCU Spider-Man is that he is “Iron Boy Jr.,” meaning he’s deemed “too reliant” on Iron Man for both his technology and mentorship. While this has been the subject of intense fan debate, No Way Home expertly shrugs off such criticisms.
Holland’s latest movie is a Spider-Man story through and through. As any fan of the character can tell you, the best Spider-Man stories demonstrate Peter taking responsibility for his powers and actions, thereby trying to do the right thing even when it’s difficult. And that is exactly what Peter does in this film.
Peter is the one who causes Strange to botch the spell and unleash the villains into his universe. As a result, Peter makes fighting them his responsibility. Though I cannot discuss much further due to spoilers, this is the core of the story.
By the end of the film, Peter has truly become Spider-Man. While on the outside, Holland’s portrayal of Peter is very different from traditional versions of the character, in actuality Holland is playing a more authentically teenage version of the character. Peter, throughout all his appearances so far, makes many mistakes and is learning to be a hero. While this is somewhat true of other versions, this is a much larger, multi-film arc, whereas the other versions generally accomplish this in their first film. This is the story of Peter growing into the iconic mantle, which places a nice bow on the trilogy at large.
Returning Rogues: No Way Home’s Villains are Marvellous
All of the returning villains are absolutely awesome. The film understands the core of the characters as portrayed in their previous films very well. In some cases, they’ve even been upgraded, such as Electro looking much better now (in the Webb films he was entirely CGI and blue, but that has been done away with). He even has the added bonus of references to his classic costume.
I was worried about bringing back some of the villains considering their arcs in their respective films (Doc Oc and Sandman to be specific). I did not want the legacy of a film like Spider-Man 2 to be tarnished in order for No Way Home to function. However, the film does justice to them, especially Oc, which was both a joy and a relief to see. The only slight disappointment was Lizard, as he does the least in the film, though he was still great to have back.
The action is also incredible. The villains have a very diverse powerset which gives each fight a unique feel, especially when they team up. And Marvel ensures the villains use their powers in new and inventive ways.
No Way Home’s Supporting Characters are Spectacular
Alongside Holland’s portrayal of the webhead is a spectacular set of supporting characters, featuring both new and old faces. Ned, Peter’s best friend, is hilarious as always. Similar to the previous film, Marvel gives him a bit of a subplot, which allows his comedy to shine through. Ned also plays very well off of Zendaya’s character, Michelle.
Michelle, in turn, was a pleasant surprise. She and Peter are dating, but there is no back-and-forth, will-they-won’t-they nonsense between them like there was in the Raimi and Webb films. Michelle and Peter appear as a genuine couple with real chemistry and Michelle is also quite funny.
My only problem is that Michelle is not MJ. While Marvel recognizes this to a certain degree (her name is Michelle Jones-Watson instead of Mary Jane Watson), it still doesn’t feel right to have Peter with anyone besides the original MJ.
Meanwhile, Marisa Tomei, while at first glance being a bit of an odd choice for Aunt May considering her age, really comes into her own as the character. In her previous appearances, Tomei has played a much less serious May, even having a relationship with Happy Hogan. However, in this film I really felt the core of May, who acts as a guiding voice for Peter. Tomei’s performance doesn’t quite live up to Rosemary Harris’s perfect portrayal in the Raimi films, but she’s still a great, albeit very different, version of May.
Doctor Strange is awesome to have in the film as a guest star, and thankfully Marvel doesn’t try to make him Peter’s new mentor. Strange does what he needs to, but he’s not there to save the day. And he often argues with Peter about how to deal with the villains, which complicates Peter’s decision-making process and brings an interesting dynamic to the film overall.
Uniting Three Generations of Spider-Man
No Way Home is a wonderful film, with a great lead, awesome villains, and an excellent supporting cast. But the truly remarkable aspect of the film is that it unites three generations of Spider-Man all in one. Whether Maguire, Garfield, or Holland is your favorite Spider-Man, this is a film for you. The film, more than being just a Spider-Man film, is a film about the love of Spider-Man. And that is simply amazing.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.
Chad Berkich is a Senior Editor for the Chicago Thinker. As a sophomore at the University of Chicago, he plans to study mathematics and physics. He is a Christian and conservative, and his other interests include superheroes and science fiction, video games, and rock music.