It’s time once again to revisit our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, the teenage superhero who shoots a web any size and catches thieves just like flies. A new adventure faces our heroes in Spider-Man: No Way Home as Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) secret identity is revealed to the world. He enlists the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make things right, but when the spell goes wrong, villains from different universes arrive, all of whom have a bone to pick with Spider-Man.
Spider-Man has had a remarkable history in cinema, with Tobey Maguire’s trilogy of films in the 2000s and Andrew Garfield stepping into the web-slinging role for two films in the early 2010s. This is the third film in Tom Holland’s Marvel Cinematic Universe trilogy after Homecoming and Far From Home, and this time around, we have a film that pays tribute to everything that has been set up in the world of Spider-Man for the past 19 years.
This film brings back characters we’ve previously seen in the Spider-Man movies, most notably Alfred Molina reprising his villainous role as Dr. Otto Octavius. He steps back into the character without missing a beat and shares some fantastic scenes with other people in the film, especially the fight scene between Spider-Man and Doc Ock on the bridge. In addition, the movie brings back a few more villains, and the ways writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers bring them back are tremendously satisfying.
No Way Home also marks a significant departure from the first two films in the series. Marvel is known for its high-stakes world-ending threats, but the MCU Spider-Man films have always managed to combine more minor threats with the whimsical nature of being a teenager in high school. The film starts out this way with the return of Peter’s classmates, Flash and Betty, and the focus on Peter’s personal life as he dreams of going to MIT with Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya). But once the inciting incident occurs, everything hits the fan, and the movie takes quite the turn.
This film opens up a massive multiverse of possibilities and takes full advantage of that premise. Peter, Ned, and MJ have an excellent dynamic together, and it’s nice to see MJ as Peter’s girlfriend and a close friend to Ned. It is perhaps even more fun to watch the film’s villains interact as every character’s writing is on point. Even J.K. Simmons returns to his iconic, hilarious role as J. Jonah Jameson for a few scenes that don’t quite elicit the laughs of the Raimi trilogy but work well for the character.
One of the film’s best aspects is Holland, who delivers the best Spider-Man performance of his career. While Holland has previously done an excellent job portraying Peter’s boyish innocence in Homecoming, his character has evolved significantly since then. As a result, his character goes to very dark places that we haven’t seen before, and Holland sells every emotional scene he has.
The movie’s biggest flaw may come from the humor. The first act of the film has many jokes and about half of them land. It can be disappointing how the movie keeps up the MCU tradition of sacrificing serious moments for funny ones. However, when the film gets more serious, it knows how to adjust the tone accordingly while also having fun. The movie’s second half uses humor much more efficiently, having it come out of the dynamic between the characters and not undercutting the movie’s many profound moments.
With the decision to take the series away from Midtown Science High School, Peter is put into fascinating situations. No Way Home hits all the right notes and gives fans what they have been looking for. We have incredible action, especially a classic Mirror Dimension fight with Doctor Strange, and the movie’s ending is pitch-perfect for a Spider-Man film. This is a superhero extravaganza that will not disappoint longtime fans of the web-slinging hero who does whatever a spider can.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
Disclosure: Critic saw the film at a press screening for our Spider-Man: No Way Home review.