SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME Review
It is the movie that is the herald of the return of cinema. Or its destruction and decay into carnival rides. Depending on who you ask. Much speculation and theorising has snowballed around this movie to what can only be described as a fervourous, rabid anticipation within the fanbase. Can something under so much scrutinity live up to the unbelievable expectations? In a spectacular and amazing turn, it somehow does.
Spider-Man: No Way Home sees Peter Parker's identity be revealed to the world, putting those closest to him at risk. In a misguided attempt to fix everything, Parker turns to Doctor Strange for help, before bringing threats from different dimensions to their world and putting the multi-universe at risk.
One of the strengths of the Tom Holland trilogy of Spider-Man films is how Tom Holland and director Jon Watts capture the essence of the character in a way that fights the story of the larger cinematic universe. Spidey is a kid who struggles with wanting to do teenage things like taking a date to the end of year dance, and sacrificing that to use his powers to do the right thing. Here, that idea is at the forefront with Peter wanting to go to college with his friends but his dual life getting in the way and him shouldering the blame.
When the multiple multiverse menaces do arrive, Peter doesn't opt out for the easy option but holds onto his optimism in the good in everyone and a second chance. When things do start taking a turn and we see Peter pushed towards his dark side, it makes it all the more heartbreaking to see his belief be shattered but equally uplifting to see his support guide him away from it. It is a simple idea, conveyed really well and not pushed into the background to make way for fan service and spectacle. Don't be afraid, there is still plenty of that too.
It is no secret that Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe and Jamie Foxx reprise their villainous roles of Doc Ock, Green Goblin and Electro. It is a blast to see them back on screen, especially when some of their original themes play as the first appear. They are all clearly having a blast getting to go over the top in their performances, especially Willem Dafoe who is still terrifying and is given more chance to show why he is Spider-Man's archenemy.
Another way the film makes their return work is how they interact with Holland the MCU at large. Beyond the fish-out-of-water scenario and appreciation for the universe (Electro is intoxicated by the Iron Man arc reactors), the performances are unique to the films they come from. Sam Raimi allowed the actors to 'ham it up' with the performances where the MCU style of acting is more subdued in comparison.
Visually, the movie has clearly felt the impact of being filmed during the pandemic and attempting to keep filming away from prying eyes for obvious reasons. The result is not constantly obvious, but some background green screening does not match the lighting and most of the interior sets are in dark, windowless environments.
When the action kicks in, it steps it up a notch. One fight in particular sees Spider-Man fighting Doctor Strange in the Mirror Dimension resulting in a kaleidoscope of buildings and trains and portals as the heroes weave their way between them. The finale itself is easily the most entertaining finale to an MCU movie with the feeling of a kid playing with their toys and imagining the potential team-ups. It, and this movie as a whole, could be grating to general audiences but fans will lap it up.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is the next step in ambitius, franchise filmmaking with multiple, disconnected film series merging together. The result is pure popcorn entertainment with plenty of fan service, inventive action scenes, wonky visuals and plot but never putting character development at the forefront. Watts wraps up his Spider-Man trilogy with a perfect arc for the web-head and Tom Holland cementing himself as the best live action Spider-Man.