This review is spoiler free.
There was always a concern at the back of this cynical Spidey fan’s mind that No Way Home could never deliver. 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse had already set foot into multiverse territory and that film was just about as perfect a Spider-Man movie as you can possibly get – why try and do the same thing again in live action, and especially in a film that is already fit to burst under the weight of ongoing storylines and characters? To Sony and director Jon Watts‘ credit though, Spider-Man: No Way Home just about manages to pull it all off in truly spectacular fashion, wisely eschewing the more obvious tendencies and tropes in favour of something much more meaningful and true to the heart of the character.
When last we left poor Peter Parker (Tom Holland), he’d not only been publicly outed as Spider-Man but also accused of murder. No Way Home picks up right where the last film left off, and uses this big revelation as a catalyst for a magical delve into the multiverse, as Peter comes face to face with a number of enemies from various alternate dimensions after a disastrous encounter with fellow Avenger Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Tasked with tracking down and stopping this ‘Sinister Quintet’ before they wreck havoc in this world, Peter is soon faced with a number of difficult moral choices…
You’d be forgiven for thinking that synopsis sounds rather like a mere excuse for a few crowd-pleasing cameos. But key to the success of No Way Home is how it wisely keeps the focus firmly on the main characters throughout, ensuring that the film never nosedives into overindulgent fan service. The script by writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers balances the usual humour and spectacle with more heavier themes then the previous films allowed, and the result is a more mature (though never maudlin) Spider-Man tale that puts character development and emotional stakes at the forefront of the action.
It’s this approach that truly lifts the film above previous outings, championing the core aspects that have made Spider-Man stories so resonant for almost sixty years – love, self-sacrifice, resilience and responsibility. The MCU Spider-Man films have dallied with these before but have oft-times become too distracted with the wider MCU world and shifted the focus away from what makes Peter such a pure and brilliant character in his own right. No Way Home massively course corrects on this front and is all the better for it, especially as it gives Tom Holland the opportunity to really flex and deliver a truly quintessential Peter Parker performance here.
There’s so much to talk about but not much we can say beyond how perfectly paced the film is, how it delivers on (almost) everything it promises, and how utterly stunning it all looks. Every performance is superb, but particularly mention must go to those of series mainstays like Zendaya and Marisa Tomei, who are gifted with much more substantial material than they’ve been previously been afforded in other Spidey films. The appearances from the non-MCU characters are also a joy to behold – Alfred Molina is a delightful presence throughout as Doc Ock, Jamie Foxx is clearly having a blast as Electro and Willem Dafoe reminds us why his Green Goblin is still the definitive Spidey screen villain, as he veers between both his pitiful and insane personas at the drop of a Pumpkin Bomb.
Spider-Man: No Way Home succeeds in so many ways, but especially in the way it elegantly brings closure to various elements from across the current Spider-Man film franchise, whilst simultaneously setting the ongoing story up for a promising new direction. Amidst all the stunning action scenes, CGI battles and mind-bending confrontations, there’s a deep and meaningful story at No Way Home‘s core, one that imbues the film with genuine heart and emotional power that goes beyond anything we could have foreseen from the marketing. Truly, it is amazing, it is spectacular and is the ultimate in every regard.