Saturday 18 December 2021

Film Review: Spider-Man – No Way Home

Peter Parker unleashes multiversal mayhem in Jon Watts' third Spider-Man film, No Way Home

Look, let's cut to the chase here; Spider-Man: No Way Home is great. So great, in fact, that it is easily the best of the quote/unquote Holland trilogy. Why it's the best is hard to talk about, given that what Marvel has crammed into the trailers is only a fraction of the actual story. And if you've somehow managed to avoid the trailers, I recommend you continue to do so – the less you know about this one beforehand, the better. 

In saying that, here's a brief synopsis; after every man and his dog learns about Spider-Man's secret identity, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) seeks the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), asking him to reverse the reveal. However, there's a hitch: to undo the damage, everyone – including his friends and family – must forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Strange's spell goes awry, and the universe starts to warp and bend as foes from far away (Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin etcetera) arrive, seeking Peter's demise.

That's the first act of No Way Home; from there, the plot goes to some wild and unexpected places. Tom Holland, now in his sixth appearance as Spider-Man in as many years (!), continues to soar – this is genuinely his best Marvel performance to date. There's a lot of ground for Holland to cover, from the trademark Spidey levity to some more emotional beats that are surprisingly dark. 

So the film is an effective vehicle for both the actor and the character; in reviving villains from as far back as Sam Raimi's 2002 original, No Way Home is a playful and propulsive homage to the canon of former Spider-Men. Molina and Dafoe aren't just here for decoration either; this isn't some passing cameo for brownie points. Dafoe in particular is wonderfully animated as both the wizened Norman Osborn and the wicked Green Goblin. 

No Way Home is loaded with incident and intrigue; so much so, that it simply doesn't work as a standalone. It's a sequel to Homecoming and No Way Home; a continuation of the wider Marvel canon; and a tribute to both Raimi and Webb's films. That it aces all three is a testament to its ambition and its execution. 

If the film comes unstuck at any point, it's that there's a lot of plot to churn through. Rather than being driven by character, the film is propelled by its hefty plot – and the need to take all of its heroes and villains from point A to point B in a satisfying way.

Some may bemoan the complicated, interlocking nature of No Way Home – if you're not up to speed on Spidey or the wider Marvel universe, this film is really not for you. As rewarding and joyous as it is, I do find myself yearning for a simpler time, when Spidey was worried about making rent and getting good grades, instead of magical spells that rip the universe asunder. 

Which is why the final 10 to 15 minutes is so good. After all the punches have been thrown, No Way Home returns to its core cast – Holland's Peter, Zendaya's MJ and Jacob Batalon's Ned – for a denouement that preferences heart and character instead of clunky plot. 

The Verdict: 8/10

Spider-Man: No Way Home swings for the fences and for the most part makes it stick. It captures the moment by remixing Spider-Man lore and sliding it into the broader Marvel context. Your mileage may vary on the fan service, but there's no denying that No Way Home knows what people want and it damn sure delivers on that promise.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas across Australia now.

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