Spiderman: No Way Home Review (spoiler free)
So it turns out it’s really difficult to write a review for Spiderman: No Way Home without mentioning spoilers, even alluding to the possibility of spoilers is almost a spoiler. So, if you don’t want even the slightest hint about the film, stop reading now although I will only reference what has been seen on trailers.
Let’s start with Marvel. They’ve dominated the movie scene for over 13 years and while there have been some instances of ‘superhero fatigue’ with the feeling Marvel are simply churning out movies to meet a basic standard, every now and then, a new film feels fresh.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was quite a formulaic Marvel movie but still felt like it was at a higher standard, Guardians of the Galaxy was essentially a comedy about people who weren’t superheroes, Thor: Ragnarok, a comedy involving superheroes and Spiderman: Homecoming, a high school comedy involving superheroes.
These films help to break up the monotony of ‘at least decent’ movies being released that really keeps Marvel rolling. I had the exact same feeling while watching Spiderman: No Way Home. This film was more of a straightforward superhero movie, mixing comedy, drama and action but done to a top level. For me, Spiderman 2, through nostalgia and just generally being a great film, would have to be my favourite Spiderman film but this was right up there.
The movie starts where the last one ended, with Peter Parker revealed as Spiderman to the world and appearing to be a villain in their eyes, affecting his everyday life and his friends. This is where Dr Strange gets involved with a spell to make everyone forget he is Spiderman but the spell goes awry, opening up the multiverse and brining in villains from previous movies.
The introduction of old characters could well appear to be a manipulation of Spiderman and superhero fans in general but it doesn’t feel like that when you watch it. Doc Ock was the first villain announced way before any trailers for the film dropped, with Alfred Molina reprising his role from Spiderman 2. In a way, it is mind-blowing to have a villain from another Spiderman movie, under a different company (although I know Sony and Marvel now collaborate together), from 20 years ago could appear in the ‘actual’ Marvel universe. The previous Spiderman films by Sony, with no involvement from Marvel other than it being their character, were set up as their own stories and own sequels, where the phrase ‘cinematic universe’ didn’t exist.
Whatever you make of any previous Spiderman film, it’s refreshing that these films always have the villain as the actual threat. Not a villain with a powerful object and a disposable army but villains who do all the fighting themselves which is a welcome change from the usual Marvel villains. Linking previous movies has the advantage of fixing, clarifying and redeeming any faults they may have had or sometimes just use the movie to joke about the mistakes that were made.
Things can only be redeemed to a certain extent. The Lizard from The Amazing Spiderman and The Sandman from Spiderman 3 were two of the weaker villains, in terms of persona, motivation and gravitas and they still feel a bit out of place when compared to Doc Ock and the Green Goblin. There is a complete flip for Jamie Foxx’s Electro though which is welcome for the villain even if it was a massive leap from how he was presented before, both in appearance and mannerisms.
While he may not technically be a returning character from another Spiderman universe, having J K Simmons back as Spiderman’s biggest critic, J Jonah Jameson, is a smart choice, both in general and as a way to please Spiderman fans further.
The story itself opens up a whole new set of possibilities for the Marvel universe with the Multiverse, which is how these villains come into Marvel’s Spiderman’s world, which is exciting although it does seem to mean Marvel can do whatever they want and call it ‘a Multiverse thing.’
Tom Holland’s Spiderman trilogy has been a great entry into the Marvel universe, with the brilliant Homecoming and No Way Home sandwiched between the decent but sort of forgettable Far From Home. An even bigger achievement given how much Spiderman exposure there has been over the years, comparable to Batman and Superman.
Sure, there are plot points or decisions made in the movie that probably don’t make a whole lot of sense but this was one of those movies where you just sit back and enjoy all of it. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie with a permanent grin on my face. The movie has been called ‘a love letter to Spiderman fans’ and there is no disagreement here.