Spider-Man: No Way Home was somehow able to give fans just about everything that they could have wanted from a Spidey flick. Not only did it bring back fan-favorite characters from prior web-slinging franchises, but it managed to tie all of that together into a convincing and satisfying Peter Parker story. Grand action setpieces combined with intimate emotional moments make No Way Home the biggest, and to some, the best cinematic Spider-Man adventure yet.
And luckily for fans, more MCU Spider-Man movies are on the way, with a fourth flick currently being developed by Marvel and Sony. The pressure is on, though. Spider-Man 4 has a monumental task ahead of it, needing to follow on from a Spidey film that has pleased just about everyone. A plethora of characters and potential storylines are still at play, but will this be enough to top what's come before? Could it be better?
Here's how Spider-Man 4 might pull it off.
Bring the Emotion
No Way Home producer Amy Pascal touched upon an important philosophy when approaching future Spider-Man films, favoring emotion over spectacle:
"You can’t think about topping yourself in terms of spectacle. Otherwise movies just get larger and larger for no reason, and it’s not a good result. But we do want to always try and top ourselves in terms of quality and emotion."
Compelling emotional conflicts have been at the core of each of the MCU's Spidey solo films, building with each entry but always keeping it personal to Peter no matter the stakes. This was another point that Pascal hit on, mentioning that Peter Parker's personal and emotional journey should never get lost in the narrative:
"Kevin [Feige] and I never want to lose sight of one thing: Peter Parker. That he’s a normal kid. That he is orphaned over and over again. That he’s a teenager, so everything in his life is at a heightened pitch and everything matters more than anything. That he’s fueled by goodness and guilt. That he’s striving for a greater cause, and he’s vilified by the press."
In order to succeed, Spider-Man 4 needs to double down on the emotion. Peter seemed quite hopeful now that he's finally become Spider-Man, but he's more emotionally vulnerable and alone than ever after the loss of his friends and family.
It's still unknown whether MJ and Ned will play a part in the next film, but Tom Holland has gone on record of wanting his best bud co-stars to continue to be involved. Their absence or inclusion will undoubtedly invoke an emotional response from the audience, symbolizing a life that Peter has now been denied if he wants to protect them. Spider-Man 4 can capitalize on this by either forcing Peter to truly start from scratch by finding new friends or having his amnesiac amigos be used against him.
Another way to amp up the emotion is by centering the narrative on a plot device that does just that: the symbiote. Teased in the slightly confusing post-credits scene featuring Venom, the black goo has now found its way into the MCU and will certainly cross paths with Peter sooner or later. If Spider-Man 4 wants to reinforce the emotion and keep the plot personal to Peter Parker, the symbiote is the way to go.
Giving Peter the black suit will not only make him look ten times cooler, but it will also allow the filmmakers to play with Peter's emotions. The end of No Way Home offered a dark glimpse of where Peter could spiral if he chose to, coming incredibly close to taking revenge for Aunt May in a particularly gruesome manner.
Adding the symbiote into the mix could bring Spidey close to this point again, exacerbating Peter's grief and aggression to the point that it impacts his crimefighting and personal lives. Watching Peter struggle with his emotions and not letting them get the better of him could be just the struggle that Spider-Man 4 needs.
Marvel and Sony could even combine these plot elements, with the symbiote perhaps being the impetus for Peter to confront MJ and Ned. Newfound confidence could bring the former friends in the same room again, but a twisted personality for Peter may only further alienate himself from the ones he cares about. Seeing Peter try and fail to connect with his friends would make for a tragic reunion but would also certainly make a true moment of reconnection all the more emotionally satisfying.
A Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
No Way Home managed to balance Multiverse-shattering stakes with a threat that was still personal to Peter. Unfortunately for the threequel's follow-up, matching the spectacle of three Spideys going up against fan-favorite villains would be an impossible task for Spider-Man 4. Pascal even noted that trying to build on the spectacle going forward will only lead to the films getting "larger and larger for no reason."
The issue with Spider-Man 4 is that it not only has to follow on from No Way Home but also build-up to a potential Spider-Man 6. Increasing the stakes even further in the fourth installment would only lead to the detriment of future films, and Sony and Marvel would quickly run out of compelling ideas to go bigger. What else could they do?
Continue to mine the Raimi and Webb films and bring back supporting characters like Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy? Or go even further and bring back the original live-action Spider-Men in Nicholas Hammond and Shinji Tōdō? At a certain point, the novelty wears off. So if you can't go bigger, what do you do?
Well, you go back to the friendly neighborhood.
Spider-Man 4 needs to be smaller in scale, so the luster isn't completely lost and big crossover events still feel special. One way to do this is to keep the focus on the Big Apple.
The Homecoming trilogy didn't truly take advantage of NYC in the same way that the Raimi or Webb films did, where Spidey swung from building to building and rallied the city's citizens to help him. Despite New York City being an integral part of Spider-Man's character in the comics, the MCU hasn't emphasized that.
Homecoming was the most connected to New York, albeit mostly shying away from Manhattan. Far From Home was almost entirely set abroad, only featuring one major scene in its closing moments where Spidey really got to have fun swinging around high-rises. No Way Home had flashes of NYC throughout its runtime, such as the opening swing back to Peter's apartment or the climactic battle at Lady Liberty, but it was still mainly focused on the narrative.
This almost feels intentional, building Spidey up enough that it feels like he has earned his right to be able to swing around New York City and protect its inhabitants. Spider-Man 4 should embrace that. Even if Spider-Man 4 isn't able to include Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield again, their influence can still be felt by having Peter swinging through the city just as they did. And that will be spectacular enough.
Fully integrate New York City into Spider-Man 4's story, and that proves that Tom Holland's Peter Parker has officially become Spider-Man and gives fans something that they have yet to see in the MCU.
All-New, All-Different Angle
One of the ways that Spider-Man: No Way Home succeeded was by giving the fans what they've always wanted. Spider-Man 4 has a tough job because it feels as though its predecessor managed to hit the pinnacle. The fourth film is in an interesting position, as its ending provides Peter Parker with a blank canvas moving forward.
Doing something completely different from what has come before would allow Spider-Man 4 to not be compared to No Way Home and stand on its own two feet. And what better way to make the next Spider-Man film (and Spider-Man trilogy) feel unique than to completely change how Peter Parker is framed?
The Homecoming trilogy was about Peter learning. What if the next trilogy was about Peter teaching?
Peter Parker has always had a mentor in his MCU solo films, from Tony Stark in Homecoming to Mysterio and Talos' Nick Fury in Far From Home to Doctor Strange and the other web-slingers in No Way Home.
Obviously, Peter Parker is still young, but he has learned so much about being a superhero through his MCU tenure. It is also inevitable that Miles Morales will come along in need of a teacher, so building up to Spidey passing his knowledge down to another Spidey may be a fresh angle that could help to differentiate what's to come from what's come before.
While many admire him in-universe, one aspect missing from the MCU's Spider-Man is his ability to inspire. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's webheads both left great impacts on those around him, particularly the people of New York City. Making Tom Holland's Spider-Man into a mentor would allow him to do just that.
Some plot points from No Way Home could even be used as a springboard for this in Spider-Man 4, such as a potential Daredevil and Spider-Man team-up. The MCU's version of Matt Murdock seems to know a thing or two about superheroing, but perhaps Spidey has a few crimefighting pointers that he can pass on to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.
The symbiote could also be a potential point of conflict for this, possibly altering Peter's personality to change the way people perceive him. Peter may be trying to establish himself as a positive role model or mentor figure only for the symbiote to tarnish that image. J. Jonah Jameson could continue to play into this, too, disparaging Spidey's reputation in spite of the good example he is attempting to lead.
Will Spider-Man 4 Be Better?
The world may have forgotten Peter Parker, but he hasn't forgotten all that he's learned.
That's how Spider-Man 4, and Spider-Man films beyond, can exceed No Way Home: by presenting a Spider-Man in his prime.
It might not be able to bring back past villains or web-slingers, but it doesn't need to. Having a Peter Parker that is more emotionally mature yet burdened by tragedy and sacrifice, prepared to be New York City's protector, and ready to take on a new role going forward establishes a new status quo that will be incredibly exciting to see play out.
Despite everything that the threequel brought to the table, No Way Home's Peter is still a kid. Spider-Man 4 has the benefit of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that feels like he's ready to embrace that title fully and wholeheartedly on his own.
Will Spider-Man 4 be better than No Way Home? It could be.