[MAJOR SPOILERS for Spider-Man: No Way Home]
“With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”
“Crowd-pleaser” is defined as a thing with great popular appeal. With an 8.6/10 on IMDb, the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) entry Spider-Man: No Way Home is, without a doubt, a crowd-pleaser. The film’s epic ensemble was the subject of immense discussion online, introducing two old iterations of Spider-Man via multiversal shenanigans, played by Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man from 2002-2007) and Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man from 2012-2014). This crossover was monumentally awesome. Their team-up resulted in pure glee; thousands of online clips show No Way Home theaters erupting in cheers when Garfield and Maguire appear. The glee doesn’t dissipate, either. Their dynamic with the MCU Peter, played by Tom Holland, juxtaposed the three personalities fantastically. It was consistently hilarious, and at times emotional. Their final action sequence was excellent, full of fantastic CGI and entertaining fighting. The alternate-universe villains seen in the film’s trailer, as well as some who aren’t, are also beautifully done.
Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus sacrifices himself at the end of Spider-Man 2 to save Maguire’s Parker and his girlfriend MJ, having a change of heart after an evil rampage. In the events of No Way Home, he’s transported to the MCU, where he realizes that he was about to die, going through another reckoning and aiding the Spider-Men in their mission. Alfred Molina’s acting is satisfactory, delivering lines like “hello, Peter” with theatrical gusto and lines like “you’re not Peter Parker” with a wonderfully ostentatious shock in his voice. Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, and especially Jamie Foxx were all competent as the supporting villains of Lizard, Sandman, and Electro respectively. But the unequivocal acting MVP of Spider-Man: No Way Home is Willem DaFoe as Norman Osborn, otherwise known as the Green Goblin. The result of an awry strength enhancer, Osborn developed a homicidal split personality (“Goblin”) culminating in his fight with Maguire’s Peter in the original Spider-Man, indirectly killing himself when Peter dodges the attack. DaFoe’s performance in that film, and even more so in No Way Home, is masterful. Full of creepy innuendos and incredible range, he is an insane man desperate to be cured, contrasted with a monster who is as terrifying as it gets. “Norman’s on sabbatical, honey!” is perhaps the most compellingly sinister delivery of the year – DaFoe captures this complex role perfectly, managing to deliver one of his best performances in a phenomenal career.
However, the best part of No Way Home is easily the way it handles the character of Peter Parker. The film has a coming-of-age arc for Holland’s Parker that is almost masterful in how it matures and perfects the character. The character of Uncle Ben and his demise – “with great power comes great responsibility” has proved a reliable way to develop Parker into a hero in the comics, Maguire’s films, Garfield’s movies, and even other iterations of Spider-Man. Fans were understandably mystified when Ben Parker was completely absent from Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first installment in the MCU Spider-Man trilogy. However, in No Way Home, it is Peter’s Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei) who is killed by the Green Goblin, and tells Peter those six iconic words, setting Peter on a vengeful mission to kill the Goblin. He is stopped in the final act, after Goblin releases the multiversal spell that begins to collapse their universe. Peter realizes that the only way to protect the multiverse is to erase himself from everyone’s memory, and requests that Doctor Strange do so, meaning his girlfriend MJ and best friend Ned no longer know of him. He decides against introducing himself again when he realizes that unbothered by Spider-Man, their lives are far more peaceful and content. Renting an apartment and resuming his vigilantism, Peter becomes the pure Spider-Man fans know and love. Holland’s emotional and layered performance is brilliant; a better arc for the character in No Way Home could not be requested.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be adept at weaving together dozens of comic book properties into one cohesive property. Those who thought the team up in Endgame would be their peak are sorely mistaken; in No Way Home alone we have characters from four different studios in four different decades – the fourth character in question being Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, star of the show Daredevil, appearing as Peter’s lawyer in a single scene. Essentially, the Disney-owned Marvel has tied in both the Netflix-owned Daredevil show (in both No Way Home and their newest show Hawkeye), as well as two different iterations of Spider-Men and half a dozen of their respective villains. And they’ve done so deftly, not skipping a beat of action or dramatic tension. Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, their next film, is set to release in May and bring forth another plethora of comic characters. The MCU is, at this point, a non-stop factory of comic book entertainment. No Way Home is the newest film to come out of the machine, and it is an undeniable success. It is the perfect popcorn movie; fans of Spider-Man will not be disappointed.
My “Rea-ting” (see this for an explanation) for Spider-Man: No Way Home is 7 stars; a pleasant addition to the Marvel canon featuring a deviously wonderful ensemble.