When was the last time you remember cheering, clapping and whooping in the movie hall while watching a Marvel movie? Black Widow (oops we missed that in the movie halls)? Shang Chi: The Legend of Ten Rings (maybe a few wows and a few chuckles)? Eternals (Yaaaaawwwwn!)?
Nope, it was that time in Avengers: Endgame when Captain America caught Thor’s hammer (I just cheered in my head a little again), and before that, when Thor made his entry in Avengers: Infinity War.
When was the last time you felt choked up at a Marvel film? Yep, same answer.
After a year of an unnecessary prequel, a charming and decent new entry, and an over-ambitious snooze fest, Marvel has finally slung it back in swing with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Which is, without any doubt, an absolute blast. Especially for Spidey fans.
I mean look at what Spider-Man is up against. And I don’t just mean the consequences of his identity reveal at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home for friends and family (no, it is not just the MIT rejections). He also ends up fighting the Sinister S… dammit, I mean Frightening Five (make that Sinister Six film happen, now!) – all the Spider-Man villains from across the multiverse!
So here are all the rah-rahs (engaging extreme measures to avoid spoilers, but swing on at your own risk):
- The first clue into how much of a surprise (or rather surprises) this film would dish up comes pretty early on in the film as Peter and his friends try to deal with the legal fallout of the world finding out he is Spider-Man, and being framed for Mysterio’s death. Every superhero needs a la**** and sometimes that la**** has better reflexes than the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Woohoo! About time!
- Man, it is good to see Benedict Cumberbatch back on screen as Doctor Strange doing things with his hands (just making spells and opening portals I mean, you dirty-minded scoundrels!). But, the best part about him in the movie is he is not there to sell the film or solve Peter’s problems. His role is to make some impossible plot points seem plausible and to maintain continuity for the bigger cinematic universe. He doesn’t steal the show from Spider-Man, even once, and is more of a grumpy minder than the problem-solving father figure that Tony Stark was.
- That first appearance of Doc Ock on the bridge (shut your gob, you’ve seen the trailers and Marvel had announced the names of the actors who are playing villains in the film)! It is just delightful to see the mighty Alfred Molina as the villain from our favourite Spider-Man film before Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and well, now, No Way Home. Yes, he has come looking for Peter Parker and no, he isn’t sure what to do when he finds out that this Peter is not the one who destroyed his reactor. No, none of the villains of the past remember that they d**d.
- Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is still, hands down, the best villain of the Spider-Man multiverse. The aplomb with which Dafoe plays the split personality changing from the confused and helpless scientist to the evil mastermind is still as chilling almost 20 years later. And no one brings out the biggest dilemma within Peter the way the Green Goblin does. Is it worth doing the right thing if it costs you too much or is it better to take the simple way out?
- Talking about doing the right thing, this version of Spider-Man takes a different approach to dealing with the villains coming out of the crack in the multiverse. It makes Aunt May happy (well, it’s her idea in the first place), frustrates Doctor Strange and doesn’t involve making shawarma out of the villains. Who says only heroes can get do-overs?
- That incredible LSD-ridden fight sequence between ****** ******* and Spider-Man in the Mirror Realm where Peter gets to show off not just his reflexes but also the best part of himself… his brain! Math over ma*** any day.
- While the fight sequences with the villains are satisfying, if sometimes confusing when all of them are being fought together, it is when they are confined in the “dungeons of a wizard” and comparing notes with each other that they are at their most enjoyable. Everyone gets time to shine, even Lizard and Sandman.
- Aunt May delivers ‘the’ dialogue. But then she does an ***** ***. It’s just too soon. We are not ready for it.
- MJ and Ned are a delight throughout the film, adding moments of levity even as they take on more responsibility. Never have side characters felt more necessary. They are not there for just hoots and laughs (though they give us plenty), they are important in the course of things as well. There is a reason Doctor Strange allows them into the Sanctum Sanctorum to “Scooby Doo the crap out of this”. Oh and Ned has magical tingles and he can open *******!
- The last fight sequence is straight out of any MCU finale with incredible CGI that is sometimes confusing, especially if there is more than one superhero in the **** costume, but it also has an Endgame-like moment that if it doesn’t have you on your feet and whooping then you are no Spidey fan. Web shooter tech, back problems, saving the girl (finally), closing loose ends… woohoo!
Make no mistake, whatever has crawled out of the crack in the multiverse, this film belongs to Tom Holland as Spider-Man. The friendly neighbourhood boy whose solo films have all been about the awkward kid trying to figure out being a superhero while dealing with being a high school student, buttressed by known faces from the MCU, does some growing up and deals with much darker emotions and difficult decisions in this film. And Holland proves he is up to the challenge, delivering an incredible performance that gives this film an emotional heft that the previous ones lacked. We sincerely hope he is not hanging up his webslingers.