Spider-Man No Way Home


Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

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.


spoilers of the mildly obvious sort »
Aunt May dies. And I both get it and dislike it. I get that it’s part of the Spider-Man lore. A core part of the character that’s covered in retelling after retelling is Uncle Ben’s death when this parental, guiding figure bestows a sense of responsibility on him. The moment is pretty well done, as far as these things go. It feels both new and obvious at the same time. And it’s the moment that thrusts this character into manhood in a way that transforms the character. In so many ways, it works.

And yet, I also wish it hadn’t have happened. It’s sad and Aunt May is pretty cool in this version. I wish they hadn’t gone down the same well for the transformation. That they could have found a different way, one that doesn’t mean losing a key character. I wish that this moment could live in his backstory the way being bitten by the spider does in this version rather than living in this film.

oh wait, kinda also spoilers »
When both of the other two Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) show up it’s pretty fun. Having the villains crossover is one level of exciting. Having not one but both versions of Spider-Man also appear is a whole other level. And the way it’s done is funny, smooth and exciting. It creates the opportunity to delve into the character in interesting ways as the three explore similarities and differences. Here, Aunt May’s death is important because it’s one of the binding links between them. They’ve all known this kind of loss and the two others can help our Peter through it. Again, it works and well. There’s also some great humor with all three together (and some that falls flat).
fine also spoilers about the ending but with an important point »
Here’s the thing about the ending, though. Peter walks into the bakery all ready to tell MJ and Ned the truth, just as he promised them he would. And then he decides not to. It’s portrayed as another sacrifice, one done out of love and a desire to protect his friends.

Here’s the thing though, it’s manipulative and controlling, however heartwarming they paint the scene.

By denying them the truth, he makes their choice for them rather than giving them the respect to make choices for themselves. He doesn’t allow them to decide what risk and danger they are or are not willing to accept. He doesn’t grant them the opportunity to make their own decision about whether they want him in their lives or knowing the danger that comes with it.

We make decisions for children to protect them because they are incapable of fully understanding the consequences and so deciding for themselves.

When you do it for an adult you undermine their intelligence and disrespect their capability and you steal their agency.

It happens all the time in movies and tv shows and this scene is done with a particular warmth and charm that Tom Holland almost can’t help but bring to the moment. But it’s still not cool. Peter deserves a better moment as a character and his friends deserve better from him.

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.


December 17, 2021 | Review | this post contains affiliate links