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If your Spidey senses are on high alert, do know this review will not go into any detail surrounding events or plot details otherwise unseen in the trailers.
Marvel devotees are in for a field day with the latest Spidey blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home (SM: NWH).
Good times and big feels are a go in Jon Watts closure of the ‘Home’ trilogy, with the danger ante upped courtesy of a slew of returning faces thought otherwise belonging to other adaptations.
Following the events of Far from Home, the revealing of Spider-Man’s secret identity as a high-school student named Peter Parker (Tom Holland) – brought to you by a facts-adjacent news conglomerate known as The Daily Bugle (J.K. Simmons in all his blustering glory) – brings the boyish web-slinger’s world to a standstill.
Facing the tremors of the big reveal, in particular feeling the effects it has had on girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and bestie Ned (Jacob Batalon), Parker seeks out the assistance of the magical Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to reverse his newfound infamy. Of course, Strange’s spell does not go according to plan, with the ensuing fallout resulting in the collision of past Spidey villains, including Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
Spidey and friends must now do their darndest to address their little multidimensional snafu, taking them on a journey of heart and mind; a mainstay of Spider-Man thematics.
From here on out, this review will not go into any additional plot details. Given it is a Marvel film, Easter eggs and setup become part of its addictive formula, with SM: NWH falling in line to pave the way for future MCU installments. This, however, does not prevent SM: NWH from being somewhat of a singular escapade, with Watts and the team creating an emotionally charged pleaser that exists in the present. It is however unfortunate that the Holland series of films have never allowed Spidey to exist outside of the broader MCU, with surrogate mentor figures in Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and, to a lesser degree, Dr Strange failing to ground Peter like he has been in other adaptations. His stories kowtow to others.
You can be assured with a Peter Parker Spider-Man film that you will receive a few things: an unassuming science geek from Queens trying to make his relationships work while dealing with the burden of his powers. The film rides on the endearing nature of its lead, with Holland once again proving an apt fit for the iconic blue-and-red suited web-shooter. Watts’ and the team have imbued upon SM: NWH a self-aware disposition, coming to life in punchy humour that permeates throughout. It is a touch disappointing to see that the film’s collaborators do continue to divulge into Parker’s identity issues as opposed to branching out into new territory.
The film offers plenty of big action sequences, with the initial fisticuffs between Spidey and Doc Ock being the standout. That said, there is little to distinguish these brawls from other fare (no matter how sweeping and grand Michael Giacchino’s score tells you they are).
Working with an established set of characters, performances across the board remain consistent with previous films. Dafoe’s live wire Goblin deserves the same acclaim as those who have played The Joker. There is great chemistry between the film’s leads, even if there is a nauseating overreliance on the adorkable Ned to push the funny’s. The increased participation of supporting characters is refreshing, with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) promoted from shooing away romantic interests to carrying the emotional weight of the film. While not falling guilty to the same villain problem that Spider-Man 3 had (and the movie cops more scorn than it deserves), the abundance of villains, while offering solid menace, does short-change a few (particularly the expensive animated ones) in terms of character investment.
Where the film does find its stride is in the manner Parker tackles the broader issue at hand. Parker has been one of the better representations of promoting anti-violence amongst the slew of spandex-clad supers. His intentions have, for the most part, been to serve the community (even if they do subscribe to the contentious notion of taking the law into one’s own hands). Politics aside, it is nice to see how Parker addresses trouble in No Way Home, with its presentation being one of the best examples of the famous ‘With great power…’ line brought to life on-screen.
There is more to No Way Home than the promise of its rumours (you know the ones). It is another romp in the MCU cannon that is empowered by a dynamite cast and a strong sense of heart, even if it relies a little too much on familiarity. The saying goes that you can ‘go hard or go home.’
In the case of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it goes hard.
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