‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Review: “An Exciting, Poignant Conclusion”
Spider-Man: No Way Home is finally out for the world to see. Following the successful Homecoming and Far From Home, the time has come for the third installment in the MCU Spider-Man trilogy. While Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films never saw a third installment and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 is divisive to say the least, No Way Home looks to break the cycle. After Mysterio’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) edited footage of the attack on London, the lives of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his friends turn upside down. Seeking to undo the damage done by Mysterio, Peter goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In usual Parker luck, things go wrong fast and Peter is left to deal with villains from other universes.
The biggest positive of No Way Home is that it’s allowed to bring a different tone to the MCU Spider-Man films. This time around, Peter is left to his own devices, more than ever before. The Peter we see in this film gives us a different perspective on the previous two films. Moreover, the film feels like a missing puzzle piece. One that helps to convey what many think this iteration of Peter has been missing.
However, getting to that point is not without its obstacles. And with No Way Home, Peter has plenty. The Spider-Verse alumni of Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, and Jamie Foxx help elevate the film to new heights. This third film feels like a celebration of Spider-Man and his rogues. The story of No Way Home could not be done without these returning actors.
Dafoe is the standout of the returning rogues, giving one of the most threatening performances of a comic book villain in recent memory. His interactions with the other villains, and most importantly Peter himself, help to establish the stakes of the story. None of this film would work if the emotional beats don’t hit. Therefore, Dafoe and co. give it their all. Molina is another standout, and watching these actors step into roles from 20 years ago was exhilarating. It’s practically like they never left. These villains are at the core of No Way Home‘s story, and an essential stepping stone in Peter’s character arc.
Another aspect of that character arc is Doctor Strange. Cumberbatch’s return as the Sorcerer Supreme gives Peter a different type of foil. One that tries to help, but at the end of the day acts out of the interest of the greater good, even if it means getting in Peter’s way. As opposed to Iron Man in Homecoming or Nick Fury in Far From Home, Strange acts less like a mentor and more like a co-worker. It’s an interesting dichotomy between the two characters that works. Their relationship also adds to Peter’s maturity, something that has changed with each passing film.
Peter’s supporting cast from the previous two films also gets development. More specifically, MJ (Zendaya). Her relationship with Peter has never been more fleshed out. After finally developing a relationship in the previous film, Peter and MJ display a level of affection that only elevates the tension of the situation Peter is in. For once, the stakes have never been more personal for Peter. It’s more evident than ever that No Way Home aims to honor the Spider-Man films that came before it. Moreover, it does so by making things more personal, while still keeping the large scope of the MCU setting that Peter has been in since his introduction in Civil War.
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Therein lies some of No Way Home‘s issues. The film is far from perfect. Much like Avengers: Endgame, No Way Home desperately tried to balance plot points with character development. It works most of the time for the film. However, it struggles under the weight of how many characters it has during the second half. No Way Home is an expansive and lore-heavy film. The exposition can at times feel a bit too much. Especially if you’re not as dedicated to the lore of the character as some others are.
Still though, when it’s not bogged down by its expansive history, it easily uses it to develop its characters. Most importantly, that of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. Holland has never shown as much range as he has in this film. The charm and wit from his previous two outings are still there. However, this is a much more worn-down Peter. One whose responsibility is beginning to waver. Because of this, between the many moments of levity, we get a dark seriousness from the character.
Jon Watts uses his directing prowess to get some extremely intense performances out of Holland. We finally get to see Peter’s darker side in this film and it is absolutely spectacular. No Way Home really puts on display how far both Holland and Watts have come as a director and actor duo. This whole trilogy has been a beautiful evolution of the character of Peter Parker. By the time the credits roll, and Michael Giacchino’s beautiful and triumphant Spider-Man theme has played, you’ll feel as if you’ve witnessed a complete journey.
A journey of three films, showing the growth and maturity of one Peter Parker, Spider-Man: No Way Home makes for an exciting and poignant conclusion. A trilogy that sought to introduce a new iteration of the web-slinger, and get him to become the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man everyone loves. It’s a film not without its flaws, but still has enough thematic resonance and strong character work to keep it afloat. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Spider-Man: No Way Home is Now Playing in Theaters.
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