(The following review CONTAINS SPOILERS for Spider-Man: No Way Home.)
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a celebration of the wallcrawler’s entire cinematic history. Catering to old and new Spidey fans alike, it respects what came before whilst also going in its own new direction.
Set directly after Far From Home’s shocking twist ending, Peter finds himself in a world where everyone knows that he is Spider-Man. This makes his life a nightmare, resulting in him seeking Doctor Strange’s help. This has multiverse-shaking consequences, dragging familiar faces from across Spider-Man’s previous cinematic incarnations into the MCU.
The performances are amazing, with everyone involved being at the top of their game. Tom Holland gives his best portrayal to date. Peter genuinely grows as a character, being forced to deal with the impact he has on those around him and face real consequences. Zendaya is an excellent MJ, giving the movie a proper emotional grounding, whilst Jacob Batalon’s Ned continues to shine as comic relief. Benedict Cumberbatch also defies the overdone mentor role of this trilogy, being reluctantly pulled into Peter’s mess.
However, where this movie really excels is its villains. Willem Dafoe once again proves himself to be the ultimate comic-book antagonist as the Green Goblin and is demented to the point of being terrifying. Alfred Molina returning as the cold, calculated Doc Ock is a sight for sore eyes. Jamie Foxx redeems himself with a much better take on Electro, giving both himself and the character the moment they deserved. Finally, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman and Rhys Ifans’ Lizard are also back, though their roles have been reduced.
Whilst nostalgia of course plays a large role in the movie, it is utilised in a way that isn’t overbearing. Besides the occasional wink to the audience, everything contributes to the story in a meaningful way. Each villain feels well-rounded and expanded upon in a refreshing way. Unlike the bloated Spider-Man 3, the large cast of villains feels developed instead of being a detriment to the experience.
And then there’s the big one- the return of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. This is undeniably a dream come true for everyone who loves the live-action Spider-Man movies. “Who is the best Spider-Man?” is a question still heavily argued about to this day. To see all three on screen at once is a truly unprecedented event in cinematic history. Much like the villains, they surprisingly contribute to the plot of the film. Seeing the three generations of Spider-Men interact made for some of the funniest laughs, but also some of the most emotionally powerful moments of the whole film. There are also some long-awaited resolutions to past character arcs that brought a tear to my eye.
Spider-Man: No Way Home did the impossible. It could have been an overstuffed, manipulative, soulless mess that cashed in on the fandom. However, instead of collapsing under its own weight, it delivers a heartfelt ode to everything that makes Spider-Man spectacular. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me cheer. And most of all, it made me happy.