I really disliked Spider-Man Far From Home. The whole thing with him inheriting Stark tech was too much. And where was Pepper in this? She was in control of the company but not the tech? Mysterio was not a mystery at all, no matter how hard they tried. The acts are a mess because you know after the big confrontation that it’s only act 2 so nothing is really solved or real. Peter makes a really stupid choice and then it ended horribly.
So No Way Home could only do better than that. The nice thing is it not only does better, it makes up for a some flaws in the earlier film. It’s also a long movie and so a lot happens. While the movie mostly flows smoothly, I feel the need to review it in pieces.
It picks up right where Far From Home leaves off. And the first section is choppy and dour. they try to link the clips together and it’s logical but it’s still a bunch of small snippets flinging together with fast, swoopy directing that feels more like a comic book movie than another of the other Spider-Man or Marvel films have. It’s also focused on the unsavory result of Mysterio revealing his identity and portraying him as a villain. They try to lighten it with a bit of humor but it’s not terribly effective and overall the opening is not fun, not terribly interesting and not especially well done.
Once Peter goes to Dr. Strange things start working. The directing settles down, the story is a mix of serious and funny and it feels more like the first Spider-Man movie. Peter and Dr. Strange continue their amusing banter from the Infinity movies and its nice to see their connection in the aftermath of all that. And while Dr. Strange makes a few bad choices, in the context of him dealing with a child they make sense. This is also the movie where the adorable Peter Parker grows up.
When the multiverse characters start showing up there’s a bit of fun with them figuring out they’re in a new place and this is not their Spider-Man. It gives us a chance to see these characters in a new light as they’re thrown into circumstances other than their origin story or a singular intent to destroy Spider-Man. I think they’re actually likable in this film when I didn’t like them much in their original films. Part of this is a difference in style. Marvel has always taken a more authentic, almost realistic approach to extreme and unrealistic characters where the Sony movies were intentionally campy.
All that aside, the directing was very decent (except for the beginning). The writing deftly weaves action and humor together. All the characters work out so much of the movies that have come before and sets up new possibilities in the Marvel universe. Tom Holland is superb as always. Superb. And he’s surrounded by so many other characters where the actors are given a chance to portray them with a sense of realism that is refreshing and even rewarding. In a way it makes earlier films better.