Synopsis: With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx ,Willem Dafoe, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, J.K. Simmons, Benedict Wong, Paula Newsome
Director: Jon Watts
Running Length: 148 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: At a recent gathering of friends, the talk turned to movies (I only keep the best company, naturally) and we got to discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Aside from a heated debate comparing the movies made within the MCU with those that come from the realm of DC Comics, a few well-rounded film fans expressed a feeling of exhaustion when it came to these extravaganzas, and I can’t say I didn’t agree. Look, I’m plopping my tush into a theater seat as fast as the next person when the newest chapter in the seemingly endless series of interconnected superhero adventures is released but a feeling of sameness has seeped in for a while now. The bright spots are fewer and farther between, so when you look far ahead on the Marvel slate and see films scheduled out literally years in advance there’s less to get wowed about.
That was a discussion I had the Saturday night before I saw Spider-Man: No Way Home. Three nights later I was leaving the screening fighting the urge to skip a little bit back to my car because Sony and Marvel have jointly delivered one of the collective franchise highlights to date. It’s essentially an entertainment package aiming to please without coming off like it’s building a bridge to “what’s next”. Though it certainly is a gateway to…something…it wastes little time with one foot out the door or an eye on the exit sign. Instead, director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers keep the focus on hyper-immediacy which makes this third film featuring Tom Holland (Cherry) as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man the absolute best one yet.
While plot points are discussed below, rest assured there are no spoilers included (anywhere on this page) that have not been already revealed through marketing.
At the end of the previous film, for his final act of treachery Quentin Beck / Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) revealed to the world that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Framed for Beck’s murder, Peter is hauled in with his family and friends by a shadow government agency before being released back to public scrutiny. Assimilating to daily life under the eye of a cruel society based on unfounded judgement is easier said than done, however. Hatching a plan to make the world forget they ever found out his truth, Peter calls on Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Mauritanian) for his assistance, but the spell he orders gets complicated and winds up opening the multiverse, bringing forth everyone that ever knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man. With the multiverse cracked, it allows villains from previous Spider-Man films not starring Holland to enter this realm…Big Baddies Spider-Man will have to track down and send back to where they came from.
It’s always odd when a different actor starts playing a role in an established franchise. The first Spider-Man reboot saw Andrew Garfield take over for Tobey Maguire and I remember thinking at the time how weird it would be to see another actor in the role. It was even more discombobulating when Holland stepped in so rapidly when the Garfield era came quickly to a close. To have elements from the Maguire and Garfield films cross over into this third Holland one was a big risk but it comes off so well, it’s got to have other studios wondering how it could work in their own franchise tentpoles.
What great possibilities this made into reality. Seeing Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina, The Water Man) from Spider-Man 2 appear to greet Holland is one of those movie moments you can really get excited for. I felt the same about O.G. villain Willem Dafoe (Zack Snyder’s Justice League) as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin acting the heck out of his role. Actually, it’s kind of incredible to see all of these legendary foes back together sharing the screen. Even if the two Garfield villains are sort of lame (sorry Jamie Foxx and Rhys Ifans, but thank goodness Paul Giamatti didn’t show up), it’s more than a little thrilling when they’re all standing in the same room.
Most notable in Spider-Man: No Way Home is a true devotion to hitting as many emotional beats as action-heavy ones. For as many spectacular scenes as there are, Watts and his team are willing to give Holland (who has never been better) and equally aces co-stars Zendaya (Malcom & Marie), Marisa Tomei (Frankie), Jon Favreau (The Wolf of Wall Street), and Jacob Batalon (Banana Split) the space they need to deal with some major events that happen during the extended run time. I don’t know if you’ll have a similar experience but darn it if I didn’t get a little misty on a least two separate occasions. Fans that have waited a while for this will be more than pleased with the developments that take place and movie-goers in general who have held back from entering a theater will be sufficiently satiated by the feature.