Tom Holland returns in the third MCU Spider-Man movie, and his first of the shows in Phase 4, with Spider-Man: No Way Home. I want to break down my thoughts on the film, which does a wonderful job of addressing the perceived missteps of the latest Spider-Man reboot. As such, there will be spoilers below. So, just as a big warning:
?? SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! ??
Now that we have that out of the way, Spider-Man No Way Home ended up being exactly what everyone expected: a Spidey reunion of Spider-Mans across the multi-verse, teaming up against the Sinister Six. Well, the Sinister Five if you want to get technical.
In our previous Spider-Man movie article, where we discussed the finer points of Spider-Man: Far From Home, one of the last points we mentioned was that if Sony had made its own Sinister Six movie, it wouldn’t have been nearly as well-received as the Mysterio-laden action-packed MCU film that we were blessed with in 2019. They were right to combine with the creative production of Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal, Jon Watts, and more.
One of the past grievances of the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies is that they lacked that galvanizing moment of tragic loss. In Tobey Maguire’s origin story, we had the loss of Uncle Ben. The same goes for Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man. But so far with Tom Holland, we hadn’t seen any of that loss directly.
A core aspect of Spider-Man’s character is the whole great power, great responsibility schtick. You could certainly argue that Tony Stark served as Spider-Man’s father-figure, but the tone of the movies never really lent themselves to capitalize much on that loss. They’ve been fun. They’ve been cheeky. They’ve shown the more positive aspects of Spider-Man’s character that we all know and love.
But, as it turns out, the MCU has been playing the long-con. Instead of rehashing the origin story of Peter Parker in a single movie (for the third time in two decades), they’ve been giving us an origin trilogy with the loss of Aunt May. And, naturally, she gives Peter the iconic responsibility line to boot.
It certainly marks a turn in the tone for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, as he was suddenly filled with rage and vengeance over Norman Osborne’s actions. We saw a completely new side of Spider-Man, a darker side, especially in those final moments on the Statue of Liberty’s broken shield. And now that the world has forgotten he is Spider-Man, how will Peter Parker handle the isolation that comes with everyone you hold dear forgetting him completely?
We easily could have seen MJ or Ned take the fall and serve as Peter’s catalyst, but they went with Aunt May. In the end, though, the memory spell ended up taking all three of them, and more.
Another bonus of Spider-Man: No Way Home is how fast-paced the action is. Within the first half hour, Doctor Strange is casting the spell and setting up the action that follows. Inside of the first hour, we’ve become reacquainted with Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Sandman, Electro, and Lizard. And then it’s onto the other Spider-Men. Spider-Mans? I don’t know how the plurals work here.
The point is that the story was constantly moving and snowballing, keeping us on the edge of our seats. Even the Matt Murdock Daredevil cameo was unexpectedly exciting! How great is it that ( ?? HAWKEYE SPOILER INCOMING ??) in the SAME WEEK we got to see the reveal of Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his role as Kingpin in the Hawkeye series, AND we get to see Charlie Cox in Spider-Man: No Way Home?! Such fantastic planning!
What I really enjoyed about the movie is that Spider-Man: No Way Home wasn’t about Spider-Man fighting villains. It was about him doing what he has always tried his best to do: Save them. Spider-Man is a selfless hero, constantly putting himself into harm’s way to protect the ones that he holds dear. Even if that means protecting his enemies from other universes. It’s something that Aunt May understands, and we get that final reminder from her as Peter and Happy visited her gravestone.
Third, it’s important to note that Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t a movie filled with cameos. The reprisals and roles of this movie were full-blown master classes in acting. Alfred Molina’s reaction when Peter inserts in the new chip was incredible, as was the full-blown psychological madness of the Green Goblin wrestling control over Willem Dafoe.
In the first half, we get so much fan-service that I could hardly keep up with it. From classic lines like Osborne’s, “I’m something of a scientist myself”, to the introduction of Garfield and Maguire, my theater was hopping! It really followed suit with the tone of the previous two Spider-Man films.
But everytime Dafoe, Molina, or Jamie Foxx took the stage, they absolutely nailed it. Some might go so far as to say that they stole the show! It was almost as if the writers took off the training wheels and let the actors thrive in their roles the ways that they envisioned the character. After so many years, it was as if nobody even missed a step.
A final point about the villains: I really, REALLY wanted a Spider-Man Sinister Six movie, and I’m happy for what I received. We still got the awesome fight sequences of Spider-Man managing a battle on multiple fronts, but he did it with two more of his Spidey friends. That gave us the web-slinging, high-flying action that makes Spider-Man movies such a joy to watch.
I’ve heard remarks that J. Jonah Jameson served as the de facto sixth member of the Sinister Six, thanks to his role in sweeping the general public into the anti-Spider-Man hype. Although, doesn’t that kind of make Mysterio the indirect sixth member? After all, he was the one who publicly announced Spider-Man’s identity to the entire world. Jameson just ran with it.
The other obvious choice for the sixth man was Venom. The mid-credits scene with Tom Hardy gave us that nugget, but I’m not convinced that the Venom in that universe really has any beef with Spider-Man yet. However, it does set us up with future symbiote hijinx in future flicks.
And so where does this leave Spider-Man and his role in the MCU? The world knows Spider-Man, and his role in saving the universe isn’t suddenly removed from the sacred timeline. But Peter Parker is now alone, starting from scratch, watching his friends keep living life with the relative safety of not knowing he is Spider-Man.
It’s a terribly sad burden and sacrifice for Peter to make. He’s just a kid, and yet he gave up everything so that he could protect the people that he holds dear. It’s heartbreaking. He no longer has to juggle two lives, now he is just Spider-Man, regardless of what his coffee cup might say.
I highly recommend checking out Spider-Man: No Way Home. It puts a firm bit of punctuation on Tom Holland’s Spider-Man origin trilogy, and expands our insight into Peter Parker’s emotions in a brand new way. It’s a worthy addition to the Spider-Man lineup, and to the MCU as a whole.