Spider-Man: No Way Home is like an incredibly decadent cake. At times a little messy, others a little cumbersome, some viewers might wonder if it’s all a little too much and a little too rich. And the answer is no. It feels like an unexpected Avengers: Endgame moment in the franchise, but for a broader fanbase spanning multiple decades, films and comic books. Where Endgame was a culmination of 10 years of universe building by one studio, that rewarded both die-hards and general fans, No Way Home takes that framework and turns the dial up as high it will allow. resulting in an incredibly satisfying (and maybe best) entry into the Tom Holland Spider-verse.
Following the events of Far From Home, everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has had his secret identity revealed to the world. Now part celebrity / part public enemy number one, Peter has become all too aware of the dangers of leading a double life as a world saving Avenger and high school student. Enlisting the help of one Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Parker attempts to erase the collective knowledge of his identity. But when the spell goes awry thanks to Pete’s unwillingness to let go of both sides of his life, it tears a hole in the multiverse, resulting in some very familiar visitors wreaking havoc on Peter’s life.
Much like Peter Parker / Spider-Man, there is a duality to this film that’s really driving it. The first is its fan service. I don’t want to say exactly how much of it is served up for our viewing enjoyment, but I will say that long time fans (and maybe even newer more casual viewers) will self combust in excitement once the credits roll. Much like Endgame, it does feel like the filmmakers were listening intently, and have delivered in such a way that is a joy to behold. The second is giving the film actual emotional stakes. The past two films in the Homecoming trilogy, as fun as they are, never really explored what made Peter put on the mask in the first place. In an effort to separate itself from previous iterations, there have been allusions to his origins, but with the express intent of having the audience fill in the gaps. Here, though, director Jon Watts, Feige and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers dive right into what makes Spidey tick, allowing for Holland to dig deep into the character and move the needle beyond just another entry in a superhero trilogy.
Given the marketing for No Way Home, I don’t think I’m spoiling the film by saying having past foes return from multiple universes is such a treat, with some standing out more than others. While it is fun to watch Alfred Molina reprise his role as Doc Ock, it’s Willem Dafoe who steals the show almost whole cloth. He wears the character of the Green Goblin / Norman Osborne like a glove, making him a little more dangerous than even the Raimi films were able to achieve. Overall, there’s a unique dynamic at play when it comes to the villains. It goes beyond the idea that the hero makes the villain, and instead focuses on the idea on what happens when the hero cares about the villain, beyond the battle of good vs. evil. It makes for some surprising moments in the films quieter segments and might make you look at past films a little differently.
Spider-Man: No Way Home goes beyond what Spidey fans were clamouring for.. After the Infinity Saga, one had to ask how do you elevate the stakes when you snap half of all life out of existence. By cracking open the multiverse like a pinata and letting the inhabitants of other Spider-verses tumble out, with the added layer of emotional heft, Marvel have managed to deliver an intense crowd pleaser that is going to blow the roof off whatever cinema you view it in. You’re only challenge is avoiding the internet and the spoilers that lurk within.