Spider-Man: No Way Home
The latest Spider-Man film finally explores the multi-verse concept
The Tom Holland Spider-Man movies have proven to be incredibly fun and engaging. They have dug into the fact that their protagonist is a teenager with a relish that the previous Spider-Man iterations seemed to skim over. However, given the hectic progression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the ending of the last film Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Peter Parker is now forced out of the comforts of his high school world.
In Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Peter Parker’s (Holland) identity as Spider-Man has been revealed to the world at large. In an effort to stave off the pressures from the public and authorities, Peter goes to fellow MCU superhero Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and asks for a dubious and complex spell that would make people forget his secret identity. Inevitably the spell goes wrong and instead opens a rift into parallel universes were villains of alternate versions of Peter Parker are spilled out into our world.
The concept of the multi-verse within superhero franchises has been steadily teased throughout Hollywood. It seems to be the natural progression after the creation of cinematic universes, to play around with crossing over other IP that studios own. This was done to great effect in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), and is being constantly hinted at in other Marvel projects. Over at Warner Brothers this seems to be the rumored path for their Flash film currently filming.
Jon Watts returns to the director’s chair after helming the previous two Holland spider outings. He continues to imbue a sense of innocence, joy, and genuine goodness in his take of Spider-Man that reminds viewers of what made this character so endearing in the first place. However, as the narrative begins to get more complex with the cosmic intertwining, Watts never loses sight of his character journey. No Way Home is very much Peter Parker’s painful and confusing transition into adulthood. It is when the film is able to focus on these character moments, in small interactions between Peter, his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) that the film truly comes to life.
The resulting clash of parallel universes is incredibly fun to watch, but can prove to be unruly. Just as with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) No Way Home is overstuffed with villains to an exhausting degree. Watts does his best to try and give each of his actors moments to shine (and with the likes of Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina at his disposal who can blame him), but unfortunately it can feel like many of these opponents are brought into the film simply for the sake of an homage than in servicing the story. As a result, having Spider-Man chase down all these varied villains can lend the film the aura of a video game instead, where we are slowly facing bosses and leveling up to the next one in redundant fashion.
Holland’s take on both Spider-Man and Peter Parker continues to be my favorite of all the previous performers. The British actor consistently shows his sense of range, but also the innate morality and goodness within his character. No Way Home certainly demands much more from the actor in a dramatic sense, and he delivers in a way that makes me excited for the character’s potential in future films.
In the end, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a film that carried an enormous load of expectations. It had the duty of progressing its character while also delivering a bigger spectacle. In both these fronts it solidly succeeds, and it seems a bit harsh to be blaming some shameless fan service when you’re simply having such a good time.