In the golden age of comic book movies, it is rare to see a project reach the levels of hype to be considered an "event". The most recent, Avengers Infinity War & Endgame, Zack Snyder's Justice League, and maybe Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker if that counts. What each has in common is that they are all the end of an era; movies that fans have been waiting for. Spider-Man: No Way Home enters that class of hype while being the only one to center around one character: Spider-Man.
The journey to this movie has been fueled by rumors, leaks, cameos, and a pandemic delay schedule that allowed all of those factors to burn as bright as they could. The trailers broke records and warranted events of their own. And the promise was a film that brought three generations of Spider-Man fans together.
The moment that is Spider-Man: No Way Home will be looked on as one of the biggest fandom experiences of all time. Endgame had every Marvel character imaginable. The Snyder Cut was the El Dorado of comic book movies. And The Rise of Skywalker was the final chapter on Hollywood's biggest popcorn franchise.
But No Way Home got into the ring with those goliaths and stood toe-to-toe with the biggest movies of all time, all while focusing on an awkward kid from Queens: Peter Parker, your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
A Spoiler-Free Review of Spider-Man: No Way Home
Tom Holland as Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man)
For all of the big and exciting Multiversal aspects of this movie that fueled the promotional fire, this is a story about Peter Parker. Tom Holland's sixth MCU entry as Spider-Man comes with the emotional weight that allows the actor to become even more beloved than he already is.
The performance by Holland in the biggest and smallest moments of this movie puts him in the race for best comic book movie performance of all time. Relentless emotional moments for this character while still maintaining that Spidey charm.
When the protagonist has this type of range done so well in a movie featuring Multiversal dimensional travel and web-slinging WHIZ BANG, the floor gets pretty high. Even if the biggest elements of this movie get stripped away, the Peter Parker story at the center of it is something special.
Friends of Spider-Man
The critics' rule of thumb is that a comic book movie is only as good as its villain. Given so many of them revolve around good vs evil, that is a true statement. But often times, a superhero is only as good as their supporting cast. Spider-Man: No Way Home brings back the trio of MJ (Zendaya), Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) to bring out the best of Peter Parker at every turn.
While MJ is certainly the romantic core of this movie, Zendaya's character also provides a touchstone of reality for Peter that allows him to see the ramifications of his lifestyle more clearly than ever before. The chemistry between Zendaya and Holland grabs every seat in the audience while these characters work through the ups and downs of a superhero relationship.
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds is the standout comedic presence throughout the film, bringing that vintage Spider-Man humor in with ease. Leeds continues his role as the guy in the chair, allowing fans to put themselves in the movie through a character that is simply happy to be here.
And Marisa Tomei gives her most inspired performance yet as Aunt May. The moral compass for Peter Parker brings the heart to the character as we have never seen it before. Aunt May has always been one of the most important elements to the Spider-Man franchise for decades and it has never been focused on like it was in No Way Home.
Spider-Man Cannot Save Everyone
Going into this movie, many fans are going to look at the leaks and rumors and fan theories and expect this movie to be a multiversal joy ride that is built to serve the Spider-Man fan in all of us. And sometimes that is exactly what it is.
But the majority of this film is surrounded by the idea of second chances and sacrifice.
In more ways than one, a light is shined on Peter Parker's decision to decide between doing what is right, doing what is best for his loved ones, and what it truly means to be Spider-Man. The common fan is going to show up for Spider-Man swinging through the multiverse and fighting a bunch of bad guys, but they will stay for the emotional story being told every step of the way.
With a plot this relentless with not only emotion but also multiversal exploration, there are leaps to be made. As there is so much happening around this core Peter Parker story, certain elements of the fantastic side of this movie are breezed by more quickly than some critics would prefer.
But No Way Home undoubtedly makes up for any dips in storytelling with payoff moments that make everything worth it.
The Multiverse Is In Madness
Any "dip" in the story is most certainly revolved around the multiverse of it all. Doctor Strange returns to the MCU to provide a magical element to Peter's problems that allow for fever dream fan fiction to come to life. Suspension of disbelief is required, and that should come to no shock to anyone who buys a ticket.
With the world built by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the magical side of things is a tool that can be used to tell the most outrageous stories a writer can think of. When the rules and foundation have been as grounded as the MCU has made them (see Doctor Strange), movies featuring these characters and concepts are able to use them in a more liberal way.
The multiverse is a classic comic book vehicle to bring characters together for moments in time. The villains being re-introduced into the Spider-Man world are here because magic allows them to be. It is most certainly fan service to a certain degree but done in a way that does serve the story, which provides a rare comfortable harness to suspend your disbelief in.
A Sinister Group of Villains
The aforementioned villains are brought into this movie with excitement and impact. The trailers and TV spots have put great focus on the aesthetic of these returning foes and the movie does the same. Seeing these characters return and brought into the MCU is the thread pulling on every heart of Spider-Man fans everywhere.
Some villains are used as major players in the story while others are put in supporting roles to round out the weight of the situation. The ones who shine, shine brighter than their previous iterations ever have. The relationship between these villains and each other, along with their relationship with Peter Parker, brings 20 years of filmmaking together in one web-slinging epic.
The Surprises of Spider-Man: No Way Home
This movie has been more hyper-analyzed than any comic book movie that came before it. The leaks, the rumors, and the fan theories have given this movie a sense of predictability that hasn't been seen since Endgame. And for those who don't remember, Endgame shook a lot of those predictions in the first 20 minutes.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has twists and turns that the most in-touch fan will not see coming. It also has fan-service moments that will make the anti-cape movie critics roll their eyes. But the majority of movie-goers will likely agree that this movie does an excellent job of drawing the line between giving exactly what fans want while keeping them on their toes.
Magic With A Kick
The action in this movie has as much range as the performance Tom Holland gives. Giant CGI set pieces allow Spider-Man to swing in ways hitherto undreamt of, while the one-on-one battles bring an emotional weight to every punch, much like the Captain America franchise.
This blend of big and small action is a perfect meta-reflection of this movie. It gives you the full range of outcomes for a Spider-Man story.
The villains in particular provide amazing popcorn fun every time they are on screen. Upgrades from modern-day movie-making and the hyper-tech world of the MCU give fans a second chance with some of their most beloved bad guys in action.
Once again, the emotion of this movie is non-stop and that carries through to the punches, kicks, and blasts of the experience as well.
Get Your Popcorn Ready
This is by far the biggest Spider-Man movie ever made. The cast already ensures that superlative, but the production behind them backs it up. Jon Watts has a ton of movie on his hands as director and manages to juggle the scope of the story, the emotional core of the characters, and the bombastic nature of the threequel entry all at the same time.
Music and themes are such an important part of the Spider-Man movie legacy. Michael Giacchino does an incredible job, providing an auditory support system for the feelings you feel throughout this journey.
The weight of the film is greatly supported in not only the performances on screen, but the details of the production as well.
Tapping Into Your Spidey-Sense
The word "emotion" is peppered throughout this review and others, as that is one of the biggest takeaways of this movie. What happens from A to B, which characters show up and why, and even the action-packed scenes of the movie often take a back seat to how much this movie, and these characters, make fans feel.
From the jumping out of your seat excitement to the sink in your seat heartbreak, this movie has everything twice over. Audiences will leave theaters with simultaneous smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes for what they just experienced.
Many movies bring the heat with twists and turns, blockbuster action, and cheer-inducing moments, but very few are able to bring all of those things while constantly raising the stakes and impact of the movie.
What makes Spider-Man and Peter Parker one of the greatest fictional characters of all time is the overarching theme that fans have grasped over the years: For Spider-Man to win, Peter Parker has to lose, and vice versa.
No Spider-Man movie drives that sentiment home more than Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The Endgame of Spider-Man Movies
This movie is both something fans never thought was possible, and also something they have wanted throughout their fandom. This movie is both everything audiences expect and also something they never saw coming. This movie, at the end of the day, is the ultimate Spider-Man experience.
Flawless? No. It takes as many big swings as any comic book movie that came before it, and while it connects on most, it does miss on a few. But what makes this movie special is that for every negative, there are AT LEAST 2 major positives right behind it.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a love letter to Spider-Man, Spider-Man fans, and the creative duo of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. This is a story about what it means to be Peter Parker. What it means to be Spider-Man. And what it means to be a kid given great power, and the responsibility that comes with it.
There is a reason this character is universally beloved. There is a reason Spider-Man is in the conversation for the greatest hero of all time. Those reasons can be found in this epic finale to the Homecoming Trilogy.
Thank you Spider-Man.