Spider-Man No Way Home Review (No Spoilers) by Matt John
If you haven't seen the blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home, be sure to check out Matt John's in-depth and spoiler free review!
(This review will not have any spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, but will be going over material included in the trailers)
After pulling off what many thought would be the impossible, we all knew that Marvel's next goal was to keep the good times coming as they started from the ground up again with their next big baddie. But, unfortunately, doing so will mean they'll be trying to catch lightning in a bottle a second time, which is going to be even harder to do given the following issues:
1. People watched movies with C-list Marvel heroes like Ant-Man and Dr. Strange because they wanted to see how they connected to the OG Avengers. Now, that's virtually no longer an option, so how much longer will they remain committed to this cinematic universe?
2. Because these films plan to build an overarching storyline, the movies centered around the individual superheroes are usually self-contained stories. Hence, nothing all that consequential happens in them, making the newest installments seem repetitive and bland that watching one after the other feels like a chore.
Now luckily, Marvel still currently has a big enough audience that they can release movies with even lesser-known supes than they did a mere half a decade ago, like Shang-Chi and The Eternals, and their fanbase will see them. However, whether they're received well or not, if these films continue to follow the same self-contained formula that Marvel has used for over a decade now with their stand-alone films, there will come the point where even their most diehard fans will lose all interest. For that same reason, Marvel had a lot riding on Spider-Man: No Way Home.
In the past, Marvel did not have to depend on Spider-Man's already established popularity to keep its' audience's interest because The Avengers was already a popular enough franchise that Spider-Man's presence was an added bonus. As a result, audiences weren't necessarily intrigued by the prospect of watching yet another film installment of the wall-crawler, but rather by Marvel's take on him.
At the time, the MCU didn't have to take any risks with their Spider-Man movies since their next two Avengers installments came right after Homecoming and right before Far From Home. Infinity War and Endgame were basically a safety net. Because those films are now firmly in the past, that safety net is no longer there.
So, if Marvel was going to keep its audience for the foreseeable future, they needed to show that they were taking it to the next level with the A-list supes they still had. That meant no more playing it safe with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Kid. Spider-Man: No Way Home being an improvement from its predecessors did not feel like a request from the audience at this point, but rather, more like a demand. And what did we get from No Way Home? To put it simply, this is the best stand-alone movie Marvel has made since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It's tough to talk about this movie without delving into massive spoilers. However, since we want you to go into the movie without knowing any info past what you've hopefully seen in the trailers - if you've avoided spoilers from the internet with the influence it has now, you deserve a medal - let's just cut right to the chase. No Way Home is the best MCU film they've made simply because it does something that not many stand-alone MCU films (especially not the Spider-Man solo films) do nowadays. The main character's actions have consequences that lead to long-term ripple effects with his life.
The best way to start this off is to compare this installment to Spider-Man's previous solo outings.
Let the record show that neither Homecoming nor Far From Home are bad movies. Marvel approached these two films like they were coming-of-age stories. As far as storytelling goes, they're executed pretty darn well. That starts with the lead. Tom Holland gives believable performances as a new kid learning the ropes of heroism. He also has memorable antagonists to deal with, which was not Marvel's forte previously. But above all else, Peter learns a valuable lesson in both movies - that heroism is not about the power you have, but the will to act and that if he truly wants to be a hero, he no longer has the privilege of a normal life.
And yet, it felt like was something was missing from both movies. The problem as a whole can be summed up in three words: lack of consequences. With the exception of Far From Home's ending, the stories felt largely inconsequential on Peter's life overall. Perhaps that was inevitable, seeing how Spider-Man was now a cog in a massive cinematic universe. But, at the same time, that makes both movies seem arguably disposable, which makes it feel like they didn't fully capture the essence of Spider-Man. This was especially troubling knowing that the two previous Spider-Man movie franchises exclusively run by Sony had major ramifications in all of its installments - both good and bad - for its titular character.
That brings us to No Way Home. After watching Spider-Man's latest solo film, it appears that Marvel listened to its fans when they complained that his previous two movies, while not bad, felt like they were playing it too safe. This installment had much bigger ambitions, and with those ambitions came risks. So while Peter does learn an important lesson much like he previously did, the difference is that this time, the lesson comes from the ramifications of his choices. In so doing, the MCU finally captured what Spider-Man is about. Not partially. Not for the most part. Entirely.
Here's another contrast between No Way Home and its predecessors: the villains. Again, neither the Vulture nor Mysterio were bad villains, and even though they are Spider-Man's enemies in the comics, they felt more like Tony Stark's enemies in the movies. Because of Tony's demons, Peter had to clean up his idol's mess. Thankfully, that wasn't the case this time. This go-round, the villains are there because of Peter's choices. He may not have meant to do so, but Peter is directly responsible for the conflict this time. This time, it's his fault.
Because of that, his sense of heroism gets put to the test. Not because he wants to impress his idol or because he wants to court the girl he likes, but because his sense of right and wrong comes into question. Even when presented with easy shortcuts, Peter opts against them because he realizes they will lead to ramifications that he's not comfortable with because they're wrong. However, in so doing, taking the tougher route leads to potentially even worse ramifications. So, without giving anything away, it's not only Peter who suffers greatly from the choices he makes.
It can't be emphasized enough that this is up there with Marvel's darkest films. That's a welcome change of pace for a franchise routinely criticized for being a little too comedic with their movies. That's another element of this movie that stood out in a good way. Even though it has a much darker tone than what we've usually seen from Marvel, there are still quite a few good jokes here without there feeling like an overabundance. Of course, since Marvel has been relying on Whedonisms since the first Avengers installment, there have been times where the comedy they use feels inappropriate at times. Sure, the joke could be funny in those instances, but it felt like it was intruding on the moment rather than adding to it.
No Way Home manages to take the good sense of humor from the two previous Spider-Man films and blend it in with a story that was uncharacteristically noir for an MCU film that both the comedic and tragic tones go hand in hand with each other. So much so that viewers may ask themselves, Is Marvel… evolving?!
On the one hand, they have incorporated philosophy into some of their previous films. Just not too often. This movie calls various morals into question, such as, if you have the option to help someone who would otherwise be doomed, despite knowing that they've committed bad deeds in the past, would you take that option? Also, even if you have a moral code of right and wrong, how far can that code be pushed until it's reached its breaking point? And would you do if you hit that breaking point? These questions are what makes this movie so memorable.
Now, with all that said, is everything in this movie perfect? Not by a longshot. Everything that unfolds from Far From Home gets mostly resolved pretty abruptly. The motivations for the villains flip on a dime. The rules that this movie establishes with the multiverse aren't explained that well. It can get messy. Because they finally nailed everything about Spider-Man's character as a whole, those issues are easy to overlook.
That is, of course, because the acting in this movie is superb. Willem Dafoe is terrifying in his return as the Green Goblin. Alfred Molina picks up right where he left off 17 years ago as Dr. Octopus. Jaimee Foxx's return as Electro was much more enjoyable and coherent than his last outing. That's just to name a few. However, Tom Holland deserves a special shout-out. This movie demanded much more from him than Homecoming or Far From Home did, and he delivered. To summarize, you definitely feel like the kid we met five years ago is not the same character we leave off with after all that he's learned.
So you might be wondering, what did everyone's favorite wall-crawler (arguably) take from this adventure? Well, the lesson that Peter learns is that, in the end, the best choice will always be, for better or worse, the right choice. That lesson, which goes hand in hand with the themes of this story, is what makes Spider-Man: No Way Home easily the best Spider-Man movie the MCU has ever put out.
However, whether or not this is the best Spider-Man movie ever made depends on who you ask. When the topic of the best Spider-Man movie ever comes up, the usual suspects are along the lines of Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. They set the bar for how to execute everyone's favorite wall-crawler on the big screen properly. But then again, perhaps the goal of this movie wasn't to be the best Spider-Man movie ever made.
Its primary objectives were to be the best Spider-Man movie in the MCU (check) and one of the best stand-alone films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (check). They achieved both, which, in so doing, gives a glimmer of hope both for Spider-Man's future in the MCU and the MCU's future period.
The best way to put it is this. As corny as this will most definitely sound, Homecoming and Far From Home felt like Spider-Boy films. No Way Home feels like the MCU's first Spider-Man film because it finally echoes what Spider-Man has always been about - that with great power must also come great responsibility.
PS - We are definitely getting a live-action Miles Morales movie not too long from now. Book it.