Here’s your key takeaway regarding Spider-Man: No Way Home — it captures the feeling of seeing the impossible realized.
Set in the weeks and months after Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was outed as Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the film concerns itself with the weight of being Spider-Man in a way not seen since, quite possibly, Spider-Man 2. And as seen in the various trailer and clips, Peter attempts to lighten the load by asking for help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). It does not go well as villains from the previous Spider-Man film cycles invade the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Peter is left to corral them while managing all the other woes of being known as Spider-Man.
The plot might suggest the film is more of a downer — like, say, the last few minutes of 2001’s Spider-Man — but No Way Home is a surprisingly joyous undertaking. Holland and co-stars Zendaya and Jacob Batalon are at the top of their game. Director Jon Watts seamless welds the emotional jeopardy the trio faces with the more cosmic concerns of the Multiverse, Strange’s mystic arts, and even left over emotions from films like Spider-Man and (shockingly) The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
To go any deeper into it would constitute massive spoilers; this is a film best experiences with as little knowledge of it as possible. But in macro sense, No Way Home is the ultimate crossover comic book story. It does things you would not think possible from 20 years of comic book movies, both in terms of action and emotion. It has the epic sweep a comic titled Superman vs Spider-Man or DC vs. Marvel promises. And, man alive, is it epic. But still, No Way Home somehow finds time for all its characters to shine. For some, it offers redemption. For others, it is a reminder of what made the characters great in the first place. It is a truly remarkable accomplishment for big budget movie making and superhero storytelling.
And yet at the center is Peter, MJ (Zendaya), and Ned (Batalon) as this unique team in Spider-Man mythology. There journey provides the spine of every other out-there thing the movie does. Even as characters continue to invade the MCU, the three never get lost in the cosmic shuffle. Which is surprising considering what occurs…
If there is a criticism to be found, it may be in the film’s length. At two hours and twenty-eight minutes, the air dissipates for a brief moment as it nears the third act. The film quickly regains its momentum, but a certain moment will land with a thud until it, like so much else in the movie, is subsequently redeemed.
That is a magic trick, by the way.
Indeed, so much of the film is akin to magic, from the digital de-aging of Alfred Molina to his Doc Ock appearance in Spider-Man 2 to the stunning echoes of other films within and without the Marvel framework. It is amazing capstone to the Marvel experience post-Endgame even if the Phase 4 story is still just beginning. Maybe we needed that level of celebration at this moment or maybe, with the film serving as the 20th Anniversary of Spider-Man movies, it was the stroke of good luck Peter always needed.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.