Spider-Man: No Way Home has been in theaters for a few weeks now, and needless to say, it’s doing well. It’s already become one of the biggest films of all time.
It’s not like people didn’t see this coming. With Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe returning, alongside previous Spider-Men Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, Sony and Marvel Studios had a record-breaking movie the moment the first words of the script were typed.
But has it lived up to its reputation? Critics and fans have seemingly loved it so far, but most of those thoughts are stuck behind a spoiler-free barrier.
With the film having been out and Marvel Studios themselves openly talking about spoilers, it’s about time to dive deep into what No Way Home has to offer—classified secrets and all.
The Astonishing Spider-Man
Tom Holland has always been an amazing Spider-Man, but his performance this time around completely knocked it out of the park. The range that the actor has was on full display.
No Way Home gives him the space to showcase that he’s more than just a well-timed comedic actor; he excels in it all. The dramatic and intensely emotional moments hit harder than ever before, thanks to Holland’s phenomenal performance.
This film nailed what it means to be Peter Parker, and more importantly, Spider-Man. Looking back at it all, the Home trilogy perfectly lays out that foundation.
By the end of No Way Home, fans have a quintessential Spider-Man within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many might think the ending too bleak, but it captures the sacrifices Peter has to make to be the hero he is—making selfless choices that Spider-Man could make.
Spider-Suits, and the Varying VFX
When it comes to his looks, this film continues the unique trend of having Spidey cycle through various outfits; all supported by the plot. The Iron Spider, Upgraded Suit, Inverse Upgraded Suit, the Integrated Suit, and classic red and blue all make an appearance.
The Upgraded Suit has been a personal favorite, so in my book, none of them reached that height. The Inverse one was interesting but was almost always presented in dodgy CGI, so it never got the time to shine. The Integrated Suit was a nice moment with Doc Ock but ultimately didn’t add to the suit it was “upgrading.”
As mentioned with the Inverse suit, the CGI work in the film is both fantastic and questionable. With studios contracting out different scenes to various VFX companies, this is bound to happen—the inconsistent quality was evident on more than one occasion.
There’s the Mirror Dimension sequence which, for the most part, looks astonishing, perfectly encapsulating the wonder and awe of the entire idea. Then there are the power line sequences, where the entire fake backdrop sticks out, and Spider-Man himself is, notably, entirely CGI.
This is far from the only example in the film, but it’s a shame they couldn’t even out the quality by the movie’s release. It happens quite often, but sadly, that doesn’t mean it gets a pass.
The Age of Andrew Garfield
The resident MCU Spider-Man wasn’t the only Spider-Person in the film. Thanks to Ned’s handy sling ring, the world got to see what they’ve all been clamoring for: the return of icons.
The first through the portal was none other than Andrew Garfield himself. Those big white eyes are recognizable anywhere, and seeing him unmask was a moment many theater-going fans will remember forever.
It’s not an unpopular opinion to say that Andrew Garfield completely stole the show. He nailed every scene he was in. It was clear how the actor was thrilled to be back in the red and blue spandex.
After all, his character’s journey didn’t have the best stopping point; where Maguire’s was a far cleaner cut, last time fans saw Garfield’s Peter Parker, he had just lost Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy.
Here he serves as a sort of dark mirror to Tom Holland’s Peter and a warning about the rage that can come with great loss. The writers perfectly utilized where Peter 3 is in his life to service Holland’s Spider-Man.
Garfield’s own character wasn’t left behind, though. It felt cathartic watching him see the two other Spider-Men, and how their lives have come together. Even better was the angle of him always wanting brothers—perfection.
Also incredible? The movie gave him one of the best MCU moments to date: saving MJ. It was one of the most emotional moments of the film and served as the redemption that not only he had wanted for himself but audiences as well.
Fingers crossed that Sony sees all the praise and gives Garfield some more time to shine.
Tobey Maguire, the Youth Pastor
Like Garfield, it was surreal seeing Tobey Maguire onscreen again as Peter Parker. While the other two are young and spry, Peter 2 was the older and wiser of the bunch.
As great as it was to have him back, Maguire’s performance mostly felt phoned in. It wasn’t bad by any means, but generally speaking, it wasn’t notable either—especially when next to Andrew Garfield, who was giving it his all.
Maguire had at least one moment to truly shine, and it was one of Holland’s biggest: keeping him from making the same mistake he made back in Spider-Man. Making their standoff completely silent was an excellent choice; it did more than any verbal exchange could.
It’s a shame that stronger positive words can’t be thrown his way, but hopefully, this is just a warm-up for him, and any potential return might get some more out of him.
Seeing all three of them interact was terrific. Sure, on paper, Marvel definitely got a little self-indulgent with their fan service. They were absolutely relishing it.
While that might not be good for some people, as it generally isn’t a great habit for stories, it worked so perfectly in this package that it’s hard to complain. Given all the other work the film did before their arrival, it felt like they earned it.
Seeing the three of them huddle up and then sprint off into their trio web-slinging sequence will be quoted as one of the most iconic comic book movie moments for years to come.
What’s even more impressive is how the visual effects, and every other creative behind the scenes, were able to make it clear as to which Spider-Man was on screen at any given time. From their costume, gaits, and even smart editing—the entire logistical nightmare was perfectly navigated.
The Returning Villains
The previous Spider-Men are not the only ones returning to the fold. The first to note is Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, who feels like he never left the screen in the first place. It was great to see those four mechanical arms again; even better to see them go up against the Iron Spider outfit.
Marvel Studios finding a situation for Doc Ock to fight Spider-Man while retaining his journey in Spider-Man 2 was fascinating to watch. Finally seeing the poor doctor cured and then team up with the other Spider-Men is something fans would never have thought they’d see in their lifetime.
Then there’s Willen Dafoe’s Green Goblin. The actor hasn’t missed a beat and is just as disgustingly evil as ever. Many are already campaigning for him to be recognized at the Oscars for his performance—he’d definitely deserve it.
As great as his role in the story was, it’s a little sad the villain didn’t have much to do in the final act. Yes, his scene with Tom on the fallen shield was great, but that was mainly for Peter and not so much for Goblin. It also would have been awesome to see Norman interact with Tobey Maguire, but sadly that never came to pass.
Jamie Foxx’s Electro was also great, adding his own flair to the group dynamic. This felt like a different Electro than what fans saw in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it worked better this time around. Foxx immediately felt more comfortable as the character while still retaining the core elements of the villain audiences previously saw. Having him eventually get the Arc Reactor was a great MCU touch.
As for Sandman and Lizard, they were just kind of there—which worked. The film was already stuffed, and audiences already had what they needed to understand the characters. They didn’t need any complex storylines on top of everything going on.
Seeing all of the villains team up and then go against three generations of Spider-Men will likely never fail to amaze, even with dozens of re-watches.
With Great Power, Comes Aunt May
The most impressive thing about Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May in this film is how much ground the movie makes up for when it comes to her character. In both Homecoming and Far From Home, she doesn’t get to do much; even her interactions with Peter are kept to a minimum.
Here, however, she truly gets to shine. Her performance was above and beyond her best yet. Tomei also gets the privilege of being responsible for truly evolving Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.
Her insistence on him not pushing aside problems perfectly set up and played towards the film’s themes––and also laid the foundation for the most significant evolution of MCU’s Spidey to date. She even had the honor of saying the most important words that Peter will ever hear in his life.
Some may be disappointed, mad even, how the famous “responsibility” line is said by Aunt May instead of Uncle Ben. It’s understandable to feel that way; Ben’s involvement in Peter’s life has always been one of those immovable backstory elements of the character.
Here, however, it just makes sense; and it helps that the whole thing was perfectly orchestrated.
It was sad not to have a single mention of Peter 1’s Uncle Ben, especially given how easy that would have been. But with how little he’s been involved, it may have felt odd in this story to put so much weight on someone audiences have never seen or spent time within the MCU—even through Holland’s Spidey.
This isn’t to say that Uncle Ben never existed or influenced Peter to become Spider-Man. Civil War has plenty of allusions towards Ben and how he may have still been a significant contributing factor in Holland’s early days as the hero. Maybe fans will get to see more of him in Spider-Man: Freshman Year.
Much like Aunt May, Zendaya’s MJ got more time to have material with proper substance than ever before. This time, we also got to properly see her dynamic with Tom Holland’s Peter.
In the previous two films, the story framed their potential relationship via Peter’s crush. So MJ never got a chance to express her side, and No Way Home does a wonderful job of giving her the time of day.
Their final goodbye was a fantastic performance by Zendaya and had an emotional weight not yet expressed by the character before. Another standout moment from the actor was when she met the other Peter Parkers. Even better was seeing her subtle hand guiding Holland’s grieving hero in the right direction when they were on the rooftop.
The Guy in the Chair
As for Ned, he’s had plenty of time to shine in previous movies. While he doesn’t reach the heights that Zendaya does, this time around, audiences get to see his dynamic play out with both MJ and Peter; and it was a thrill to watch.
Jacob Batalon’s performance has never stood out on its own, and that doesn’t change much here. But, his character does get something quite interesting: magic.
On paper, giving Ned the ability to use the sling ring doesn’t sound like a good idea. Surprisingly, however, it worked perfectly in the film and strangely never felt out of place.
It was a fun, natural way of aligning the pieces on the board so that Ned could summon the Spider-Men everyone was waiting for.
Doctor Strange and his Box
Many worried Benedict Cumberbatch’s role in the movie would take away from Spider-Man’s story, which is a common complaint every time it’s announced that a major MCU character will co-star.
That was far from the case here, as his role in the proceedings felt extremely organic. Even better was how naturally the character was able to exit and reenter the story, as not to overshadow Peter himself.
It was also great to see these Multiversal beings, who had never seen magic, take in everything happening. From Ock’s birthday party jokes to Garfield’s astonishment of the String theory—it all played a perfect foil in the story.
Many thought that Strange casting the spell was uncharacteristic, but what’s in the film paints a very different picture. Everything he does is very in line with his character; his arrogance never went away, so his assumed ability to handle such a powerful spell was the product of an inflated ego—which makes sense, seeing as he basically saved all of existence.
As for the spell cast at the end, there’s undoubtedly some logic that needs to be worked out in the future. What exactly will Strange remember about Spider-Man? Did he not in mad tell wonder why he was hovering above the Statue of Liberty?
At least it was neat seeing all of the classic Spider-Man villains in the sky. Hopefully, one day they’ll all get their chance to shine.
The Subtle, Yet Fantastic, Score
The music in No Way Home was simply incredible. The scores by Michael Giachinno in the previous Spider-Man films have always been excellent, but this time it elevates to another level.
Of course, it helps to have access to two previous franchises and their iconic themes. But what Giachinno does with them is amazing, weaving them seamlessly with the action taking place on the screen.
The best part is how he rarely blares the themes. Instead, he takes a more subtle approach, which pays off phenomenally well. Hearing Andrew Garfield’s track quietly in the background as he vocalizes his astonishment or doing the same for Tobey Maguire as he casually steps into the MCU.
It would have been an easy choice to blast those iconic scores for an audience reaction—but instead, Giachinno made the smart move by toning it down, which led to it hitting even harder.
That’s not to say he doesn’t create anything original this time around. In fact, “Exit Through the Lobby” (and its follow-up “A Doom With a View” will likely be one of the most recognizable and notable themes attached to Spider-Man; it hits hard every time.
The Logic in it All
Despite all of this (mostly) gushing praise, there were some logistical questions that held it down from being as close to perfect as anything can get.
For one, where were all of the apartment building residents as everything got demolished? It was very noticeable to see how no one was panicking and evacuating this apartment build which was getting demolished. One assumption is that Happy owned the whole building, but there wasn’t any throwaway line to back the theory up—so audiences are left filling the gaps.
Also, why did Lizard do a one-two combo with Goblin? It felt like there was a pow-wow between the two offscreen that might have been missed.
One of the bigger ones is how Electro should not have been there in the first place. At no point in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does Max learn that Peter is Spidey. Harry doesn’t even know until Electro is already out of the picture.
There are thin excuses that can be made. Electro could have heard Harry while absorbing the grid just before his death; he also could simply be a slightly different variant. The point is, it’s a shame that the audience has to work to make the thin argument in the first place.
Spider-Man’s Legacy Hits Its Highest Note
While it’s hard to admit it’s not a perfect film, there is so much phenomenal work within Spider-Man: No Way Home that is more than enough to make one forget about the flaws.
There are some clear logistical gaps that audiences have to make excuses for, and pacing in the first half of the film is a little wonky—but at the same time, Tom Holland gives the performance of his career as Peter Parker. The story perfectly showcases how the character ticks and what makes Spider-Man the hero he is.
The emotional elements of the film are simply astonishing and are stronger than they’ve ever been before when it comes to Spider-Man movies. The dark ending may be a hard one to swallow, but it’s a respectable move to express the seriousness of the stakes in play—similar to how both Infinity War and Endgame didn’t back away from the consequences of Thanos’ quest.
No Way Home is an incredible celebration of the entire Spider-Man legacy. Bringing back old faces was far more than nostalgic fanservice; it helped the MCU’s Peter Parker become the most faithful adaptation of the character yet.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is playing in theaters worldwide.