Review: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a web of nostalgia

Courtesy / Marvel Entertainment

Courtesy / Marvel Entertainment

Zack Goodrow, Editor-in-Chief

As one of the most popular superheroes in the world, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was also going to be a commercial success. The film has already grossed over $1.16 billion. While a typical Spidey adventure featuring a brand-new villain would be profitable, “No Way Home” is acclaimed for its integration of several former actors in charters from previous Spider-Man series. 

The new Spider-Man film follows the typical Marvel format; dynamic action-sequences, clever one-liners and interactions between characters and villains from other series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This formula has been extremely successful for the MCU as the franchise led into the final Avengers movie. Several years later, the blueprint has run dry and “No Way Home” brings a superb idea to revitalize it. 

Integrating the likes of Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx to reprise their former roles makes this movie fresh and it’s extremely well done. “No Way Home” is a distinguished and entertaining film that is easily one of the best movies of 2021. 

The action sequences are tense, and the cinematography is stunning–particularly when the audience sees three different Spider-Man battling together for the first time. The acting is tremendous. Dafoe steals the show as Norman Osborn with his devious monologues and devious laughs. Maguire portrays an older, more mature Peter Parker in perfect fashion and Garfield portrays a young man who has learned from his mistakes and has grown past them. Every performance in this film seems true to their characters. 

The best parts of the film are seeing these diverse performances for the colossal number of actors in the movie. I found myself uninterested in the overall plot and more on what character was going to be introduced next. I was uninvolved with Peter’s (Tom Holland) relationship with MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). I was more interested in seeing Maguire finally battling Dafoe again after 19 years. 

While these parts of the movie make it satisfying to watch and be engaged in, the rest of the movie–mostly the extreme plot holes and scenarios–suffer just to justify bringing in all these former characters. 

After Peter’s identity as Spider-Man is revealed, he and his friends face their biggest challenge to date; getting accepted into MIT. After Peter, MJ and Ned are rejected because of their association with superhero antics, Peter asks Doctor Strange to do some moronic spell that will make everyone in the world forget that Peter is Spider-Man. As predicted, this spell goes terribly wrong. 

This is the center point of the story–not getting into the same college as his friends–despite the fact that Peter is literally Spider-Man, he can concoct outlandish formulas to cure villains’ powers, he’s really good at geometry and that he’s close friends with the director of Stark Industries (where he could probably get a job without having a degree). 

Another issue with this story is that only select characters from the franchise reappear. If anyone who knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man appears, where’s the various actors who played Uncle Ben and Aunt May? Where’s Emma Stone? Where’s Michael Keaton as Vulture? Where’s Kristen Dunst as Mary Jane? Where’s Topher Grace as Venom? 

The fact that none of these characters are present shows exactly what this movie is: fan service. Scenes with returning actors from the franchise are action sequences filled with banter, and resolve some of old plotlines. It would have been exciting to see Stone back and get rescued by Garfield after he failed in their movie, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Without Stone returning, this plot line will never be resolved, unlike other characters in the series. 

Peter’s immature shenanigans and uninspired decision to try to cure all these new villains is motivated by the fact that if they’re returned to their own world, it will be at the exact moment they die–yes, you read that obscene plot point correctly. This leads to the death of someone dear to Peter and an ambiguous ending to the film that leads Peter down a new path. 

With the arrival of all these other Spider-Men and villains, Holland’s Peter Parker is snapped with the character’s progression as a hero. It’s satisfying to see Maguire and Garfield after several years and see how they’ve grown as men, but that’s not the case for Holland. This is an issue with several of these newer Marvel movies as it’s hard to identify and see growth in a single character and these movies have just become an actor salad. 

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is an entertaining film filled with excellent acting, nostalgia, magnificent action sequences and an astonishing idea to bring in former franchise characters. This is nothing that’s been done in the MCU before, despite several of these characters being portrayed in other movies. 

This film is one of the best of 2021 and one of the best in the MCU. Despite the critical acclaim and record-breaking profits, this film presents a challenge for Disney and Marvel. What are they going to do next? They’ve brought an innovative ideal to their now bland formula to make a hit. Returning to the same equation will be disappointing to fans and movie-goers after their expectations have risen. Whatever comes after “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will be the true test for the future success of the MCU.