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Review on “Spider-Man: No Way Home”

January 19, 2022

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” hit theaters on Dec. 17, 2021. With high expectations set for the third installment of Tom Holland’s trilogy, mixed emotions and opinions were curated by the film. Warning, spoilers will be in these stories as senior Delaney Rosenblatt and junior Julia Hubbell emphasize the best and worst components of the film.

A swing and a miss

Let’s be honest. Marvel fanatics and aficionados all have a weakness for compelling Marvel Studios films because of their undeniable likability and nostalgic characters. Unfortunately, the recent “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has weaknesses. 

In order to fully enjoy any other Marvel movie, viewers will only need minimal knowledge of other films. This is not the case for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” as viewers needed to watch both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man movies, as well as “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Doctor Strange” in order to fully understand the plot and overarching concept of the Marvel multiverse. Marvel movies are appealing because viewers can jump into the story and follow along fairly easily, but “No Way Home” strayed from the easily comprehensible plots.

Complex plots inevitably lead to plot holes, which are prominent throughout the movie, the first being when Doc Ock disappears for a large portion of the movie after he is cured by Peter Parker. Norman Osborne, also known as Green Goblin, then gives a compelling speech for the other members of the Sinister Six who attempt to defeat all three Peter Parkers. The newly moral Doc Ock goes with the Sinister Six, leaving viewers to question how well Parker’s initial cure worked. However, when the Sinister Six return to fight the three Spider-Men, Doc Ock helps the trio, making viewers unsure of his true motives. This careless writing takes away from the stunning performance Alfred Molina gives and distracts from the overall plot of the film.

During the first end-credit scene, viewers see Eddie Brock, known for his alien counterpart Venom, asking questions about the Avengers and Thanos, but we assume that Brock and the Sinister Six ended up in the current universe because they all have knowledge that Parker is Spider-Man. An explanation is provided as to why Brock ended up in this universe, because symbiotes have a hive mind, therefore Brock, who is connected with Venom, somehow has the shared knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity. Not only is this a confusing and lackluster explanation, there are other characters whose presence is not explained. In Maguire/Garfield’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, Electro, a villain played by Jamie Foxx, never learned Spider-Man’s true identity, so there is no real explanation as to why he is in the current universe.

Apart from the obvious critiques in the movie, there are many stylistic choices that I disagree with. Aunt May’s death happens way too early, and the entire sequence feels dark and lackluster when compared to other Marvel fight scenes. Yes, May’s death was completely necessary in order to push Parker to become the hero that he needs to be, but killing off such a beloved Marvel character so early in the movie was not a smart idea.

In addition, Parker’s longtime friend and mentor, Happy Hogan, had a minimal part in this film, which is concerning because Hogan is a fan favorite. I felt as if he was pushed to the side, treated as the comic relief, and not featured enough, especially because we do not know when he will return. 

Following the poor writing from previous directors, actors Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church, The Lizard and Sandman respectively, phoned in their performances, having digitally recorded their parts, letting CGI do the rest of the work. Many fans have been wondering why these two villains have such limited screen time. This is because Ifans and Church had scheduling conflicts, so producers reached an agreement, allowing the actors to provide the voice for their characters, without being on set. This provides an explanation as two why both of these villains fall victim to lackluster motivations.

Finally, I detest the idea that “No Way Home” will win the Oscar for Best Picture, or even secure a nomination in the first place. High grossing, blockbuster films like most Marvel films are not usually nominated for Best Picture, let alone win. The only Marvel movie in the entire fifteen year span of films that was nominated was “Black Panther,” which was far superior to “No Way Home” in terms of plot, writing, effects, and performances.

Despite the pitfalls, this film is full of compelling and interesting characters that make the film worth watching. It is a necessary addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and explores the life of the only teenage Avenger. The age and naivety of Spider-Man offers a performance without all of the regular stressors of adult life, but it becomes clear that Parker is maturing. 

With many possible situations coming from the result of Dr. Strange’s final spell, Marvel fans are left unsure about what the future of their favorite friendly neighborhood superhero will be. In fact, the ending of “No Way Home” does not directly set up any future film, with the exception of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which Holland is not expected to star in. This won’t be the last time we see Spider-Man, but maybe he should take a much needed break.

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Great responsibility, great delivery

It is no exaggeration to say that the world has shown a lot of love to “Spider-Man: No Way Home. Spider-Man fans around the world, myself included, flocked to theaters on Dec. 17 to see the third movie in the series. With high hopes for the film’s plot and cameos, there were massive amounts of pressure riding on the film’s success. Surely enough, I strongly believe that not only did this movie exceed expectations, but did so in such a way as to provide fans with what they wanted, while simultaneously developing Spider-Man’s story and leading to a gateway of possibilities to be explored in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Seeing as there are three on screen adaptations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s iconic wall-crawler, fans had been speculating about an on screen Spider-Man crossover for years. As the MCU has evolved, opening up the concept of the multiverse, these once outlandish dreams became more realistic hopes with the announcement of the most recent adaptation. I would be lying if I said that I did not enter the theater crossing my fingers for appearances by both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Though there were leaked set images and other pieces of solid evidence pointing to Maguire and Garfield’s cameos, the feeling I experienced as I watched them emerge on screen can only be described as surreal.

As a fan of Marvel’s Netflix series “Daredevil,” I was also hoping that Peter Parker would find himself in need of some expert legal guidance. Again, this film delivered, intricately incorporating Matt Murdock into the story. While this likely led to slight confusion for movie-goers that had not watched the show, it was a nice nod to fans that had been invested in Murdock and his heroic escapades.

I was also impressed with the movie’s ability to properly develop the plot and characters through such a jam-packed film. I was expecting the plot of the movie to lack in some areas, which would be made up through a series of big cameos. However, this was not the case. Through the scene that caused me many tears, the death of Aunt May, we finally hear Spider-Man’s famous motto uttered to Tom Holland’s Parker: “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” Through the use of this line, combined with the death of Aunt May, it was clear to me that Director John Watts had just made a large distinction from the other two Spider-Man series. An iconic phrase usually uttered by Uncle Ben, a character in which only received roughly 30 minutes of screen time prior to his death, the audience naturally feels more emotionally impacted through May’s death, who had a significant role in the previous two Tom Holland adaptations. More importantly, this line usually signifies the moments in which Parker truly embraces his identity as Spider-Man. For Holland’s Parker, this means that his first two movies should now be viewed in a vastly different light. Through the use of this line, Watts essentially made “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” into Peter’s origin stories. Through his loss and the passing of those iconic words of wisdom, the MCU Peter Parker is now officially prepared to assume the full mantle and responsibility of being Spider-Man.

While there are certainly valid critiques of the film, some of the most common ones seem illogical when looking at the grand scheme of this movie. One of the most frequent complaints I have heard is that it requires viewers to watch many prerequisite films to enjoy it. However, this argument falls through as it disregards the very thing that sets Tom Holland apart from his predecessors: his inclusion in a larger cinematic universe. The Maguire and Garfield Spider-Man adaptations were not a part of the MCU. Holland however, is included in a universe that is beyond his character exclusively. This same critique, said about any other movie in the MCU, is irrelevant. Imagine someone complaining that they have to watch “Avengers: Infinity War” before seeing “Avengers: Endgame.” This movie follows a logical progression of the films that come before it. The only real necessities are the first two films in Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy, and possibly “Doctor Strange” to fully appreciate the “magical” aspect of the film. Viewers are in no way required to watch the other Spider-Man movies to understand this one, but their experience with other adaptations of Parker only helps to enrich their experience.

Overall, this movie faced lots of pressure to deliver, and it did. The cameos satisfied the desires of the audience, while not taking away from the plot or characters they had already spent two films developing. What really set this movie apart, however, was its ability to completely reshape the audience’s perception of the MCU Peter Parker thus far. With a fourth film confirmed and another trilogy allegedly in the works for Holland, I cannot wait to see what becomes of our beloved web-slinger.

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