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Should I Watch..? 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' (2021)

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Film's poster

Film's poster

What's the big deal?

Spider-Man: No Way Home is an action superhero film initially released in 2021 and is based on the titular character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is a sequel to earlier Spider-Man films Homecoming and Far From Home and sees Peter Parker's identity as Spider-Man become global knowledge and the unimaginable consequences that emerge as Peter tries to find a solution. The film stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei as well as a number of other cast members from previous Spider-Man films including Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe and Jamie Foxx. Directed once again by Jon Watts, the film is seen as a conclusion to a short-lived deal between Sony Pictures (who have the rights to the character) and Marvel for the two companies to produce the films together. The film received a positive reception from critics who praised the film's cast, action sequences, story and direction and the film was also nominated for an Academy Award. It proved to be a huge success at the box office, generating worldwide earnings in excess of $1.9 billion (making it the sixth highest-grossing film in history at the time of writing). The film would be re-released in 2022 with additional scenes previously deleted as The More Fun Stuff Version and this is the version of the film I saw.

Unmissable

What's it about?

With his dying words, Quentin Beck (also known as Mysterio) publicly frames Spider-Man for his murder and reveals his secret identity of Peter Parker to the world. Aghast that his secret is out, Peter rescues MJ from a crowd of onlookers in Times Square and meets his friend Ned before heading home with them to explain all the attention to his guardian Aunt May and Happy Hogan. Amid frantic media attention led by the ever-furious J. Jonah Jameson, the group are interviewed by the Department Of Damage Control who are looking to curtail Peter's vigilantism for good. Thankfully, the charges are soon dropped but as the news of Peter's identity becomes global news, life will never be the same again.

Desperate in his bid to undo the damage, Peter visits his Avengers colleague Doctor Stephen Strange for help. He asks Stephen to cast a spell to make everyone forget who Spider-Man is but the spell becomes corrupted thanks to Peter's interruptions. Strange is able to contain the spell before it gets out of control but the spell has already brought a number of individuals from across the multiverse in to contact with Peter including a number of supervillains who want to exact their own revenge...

Trailer

What's to like?

Spider-Man is probably the most popular Marvel hero of all time and as a tribute, this film serves as a sort-of Avengers-style celebration of Lee's web-slinging superhero and a suitable conclusion to the character's arc within the MCU. The narrative is a well-thought-out tale that opens up all previous Spider-Man films including both the trilogy from Sam Raimi and the two Amazing Spider-Man films. This allows for several characters long-time fans have been missing to come back for a finale encore including Alfred Molina's excellent Otto Octavius and Willem Dafoe's underrated appearance as the Green Goblin. It almost feels like a mad party with everything and everyone related to the franchise roped in for a last hoorah.

Holland, leading the ensemble cast, has grown nicely into the role and is still baby-faced enough to convince us he's a high school student. Zendaya and Batalon provide good support and generate real chemistry between the three of them as well as their more experienced co-stars. The film still has some fabulous effects especially involving some of the more outlandish characters but I also felt that there was a more imaginative direction in terms of the action. The initial clash between Spidey and Octavius on the bridge is great to watch, full of danger and tension and genuinely exciting in a way that many fight scenes struggle to do. What Watt has done brilliantly is not let the CG or story get in the way of the characters who exchange plenty of really funny banter and still find time for development. This is the first MCU film I've seen for a while that felt fun and enjoyable to watch. It isn't too serious like much of Marvel's Phase 4 and is a total joy to watch. This is the best MCU film since Endgame and by some way.

Teaming up the jovial Peter Parker with the overly serious Dr Strange leads to all sorts of complications - not that viewers will mind, of course!

Teaming up the jovial Peter Parker with the overly serious Dr Strange leads to all sorts of complications - not that viewers will mind, of course!

Fun Facts

  • J.K. Simmons, who appears uncredited as J. Jonah Jameson, was gutted after Sam Raimi's series came to an end as he really enjoyed playing the character. When Marvel approached him about reprising the role, he was eager to see how the role would have evolved since he last played the role in 2007's Spider-Man 3 (if you exclude his brief cameo at the end of Far From Home). Simmons was insistent on retaining some aspects of his previous portrayal such as his moustache and cigar.
  • Easter egg spotters will notice a graffiti tag that says 'Ditko' in places like the roof of the school and the side of a FEAST truck. This is an obvious nod to Steve Ditko, the artist who co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee.
  • Another Easter egg is one of the number plates shown during the first fight between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus which reads '63ASM-3'. The first appearance of Doctor Octopus was in issue 3 of The Amazing Spider-Man which was published in 1963.
  • Tom Holland's younger brother, Harry, filmed a brief cameo as a drug dealer that is quickly apprehended by Spider-Man but these scenes were cut for the finished edit. However, they were re-inserted for the extended More Fun Stuff Edition. Other additional scenes included interviews conducted by the Department Of Damage Control, a scene with Aunt May in an elevator with multiple enemies of Spider-Man and a spoken introduction from Holland, Maguire and Garfield thanking the fans for the film's success.
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What's not to like?

Despite not having seen the first edition of the film, I could still largely tell which scenes had been reinserted - not that there are lacking in quality, you understand. While they slow the film's pacing down a touch, they do inject more humour into the film so it seems like a fair trade to me. I also worked hard to avoid as many spoilers as possible which, due to the film's massive success, was harder than I imagined. By now, I expect most viewers will be familiar with all the characters thrown into the film either as a result of audience spoilers or the film's marketing which seemed determined to ruin some of the surprises. But to be honest, I still grinned like Dafoe's Norman Osbourne when Molina's Otto Octavius appeared for the first time as he was the baddie I enjoyed the most before Holland's tenure. I'd also forgotten how good Dafoe was as Osbourne, his swivel-eyed lunacy perfected tailored to the role.

The only thing I didn't really like was the downbeat ending, which felt violently at odds with all the fun and excitement that had gone before it. Imagine watching Avengers Assemble and the film had ended after the brutal murder of Agent Coulson - the ending felt more than a little deflating, even if it is able to explain how the character can still exist in the MCU as well as Sony's own series if they want to. But it's a strange way to close the film out as it spends 95% of its time making sure you're having a blast and the final 5% is spent trying to get you to cry. And while I have been known to cry at some films, none of them have been a superhero flick.

The film somehow manages to tie up all existing Spider-Man films and brings closure for characters such as Doc Ock  that we haven't seen in a long time.

The film somehow manages to tie up all existing Spider-Man films and brings closure for characters such as Doc Ock that we haven't seen in a long time.

Should I watch it?

No Way Home is the undoubted highlight of Phase 4 so far. It's a riotous blast of traditional comic-book fun, bringing Holland's own arc to a close as well as embracing the character's previous cinematic outings to provide a genuinely brilliant experience. If you're a fan of the wall crawler then this is the best film for him by far, even better than Spider-Man 2 which was my previous favourite. And while it might have been intended to close the series, I suspect that we haven't seen the last of Peter Parker just yet. Certainly not, if the box office numbers are anything to go by...

Great For: Spider-Man fans, MCU fans (both casual and die-hard), readers of celebrity gossip mags who can gawk at Holland and Zendaya's chemistry

Not So Great For: anyone who has seen the regular edition may feel short-changed by the More Fun Stuff Edition, very young children, anyone who blubs easily

What else should I watch?

Every now and again, a superhero film comes along and really knocks it out of the park - at least, they have since studios realised that they could be big business. The first one to truly become legendary was Marvel's Avengers Assemble which was a greatest-hits package of Marvel up to that point and was a wonderfully enjoyable counterpoint to Christopher Nolan's excellent-but-very-serious Dark Knight trilogy. Guardians Of The Galaxy is an excellently absurd sci-fi comedy that is as brilliant as it is surprising. And while it definitely isn't a superhero movie by any conventional standard, Joker is a dark and disturbed look at the origins of Batman's iconic nemesis with a career-highlight performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

Unfortunately, commercial success often comes with critical scorn and superhero films still struggle for acceptance among serious cinema fans and filmmakers. In the past, this may have been true - it wasn't until 2008's Iron Man that Marvel began getting things right while Batman Begins in 2005 was the first example to truly set the world alight. Before this, fans had to endure some awful attempts like Daredevil, both Fantastic Four films (characters that still haven't had a decent cinematic outing yet) and the joyless and dumb Punisher movie. Not every film since is a winner, of course, but the days of filming an A-lister in spandex on the cheap have largely disappeared and that's something we can all be grateful for.

Main Cast

ActorRole

Tom Holland

Peter Parker / Spider-Man

Zendaya

Michelle "MJ" Jones-Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch

Dr Stephen Strange

Jacob Batalon

Ned Leeds

Jon Favreau

Harold "Happy" Hogan

Marisa Tomei

Aunt May Parker

Jamie Foxx

Max Dillon / Electro

Alfred Molina

Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus

Willem Dafoe

Norman Osbourne / Green Goblin

Andrew Garfield

Peter Parker / Spider-Man

Tobey Maguire

Peter Parker / Spider-Man

Technical Info

*based on characters created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

DirectorJon Watts

Screenplay

Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers*

Running Time

148 minutes

Release Date (UK)

15th December, 2021

Rating

12A

Genre

Action, Fantasy, Superhero

Academy Award Nominations

Best Visual Effects

© 2022 Benjamin Cox

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