The first two films featuring Tom Holland as Spider-Man had some serious problems.
Holland’s performance was far too juvenile in the 2017 offering “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Peter Parker has always been an awkward teen but in “Homecoming,” Holland came across more like Opie Taylor than a budding hero.
The biggest failing in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” when it hit theaters in 2019 was the shift of the setting out of New York. More time was spent with the character being a stranger in a strange land than focusing on the battle against evil.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” not only corrects the big problems but also ramps up the commitment to the Marvel Universe, allowed Holland’s Parker to mature slightly and gave him great support with the addition of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). It all adds up to making this latest Spidey tale one of the best of all time,
Peter Parker’s world has been turned upside down after Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) revealed to the world that Parker is really Spider-Man. There isn’t a single moment of Parker trying to deny the accusation but the revealed secret is the driving force of the movie.
The fact his family and friends are suffering from their association with Spider-Man forces Parker to make a dramatic move. He enlists the aid of Doctor Strange to create a spell that will wipe out everyone’s memory that Parker is Spider-Man.
Things go from bad to worse when the spell doesn’t work properly. All it does is bring characters from other universes to one spot. They are both the worst of villains and the best of friends. The only criteria for being lumped into one universe is the person has to know Spider-Man’s secret identity.
This is where talking about the film gets difficult. The trailers for the movie reveal that super villains who show up include the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Fox), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Each of these characters have been introduced in precious Spider-Man movies.
Doctor Strange offers a quick fix to get the bad guys back to their universe but Peter Parker shows a mature humanity and stalls the return in an effort to find a cure for the super villains. It is a decision that will have massive ramifications.
There so much more than can be said in terms of the script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers but even the most guarded mentions have the possibilities of growing into major spoilers. This film is enjoyed to its fullest when seeing it without any extra knowledge.
A major part of why this film is so much better than the previous two falls on Holland. He finally seems comfortable in the role and director Jon Watts (who helmed the previous two Spider-Man movies) shows more confidence in pushing his young actor into tough emotional moments.
Even the romantic relationship between Parker and MJ (Zendaya) has been allowed to grow past the uncomfortable puppy love moments. The trials their connection faces works because the love story has been allowed to grow and develop.
It is safe to say that McKenna and Sommers have done their research into both the Marvel Comics Universe and the Spider-Man films from over the last two decades. That knowledge is best displayed in scenes where the characters are given time to stop and talk. The subject of those conversations must not be spoiled.
The inclusion of Doctor Strange gives the film the last strong anchor it needed. There are very few actors taking on Marvel characters who come close to the way Cumberbatch has slipped into this character. He has found the matching tone to the smugness and command that Doctor Strange displays in the comics.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” didn’t need it because it has so many strong elements but McKenna and Sommers have sprinkled in bits and pieces of the Marvel Universe. Each one is a gift to the loyal fans.
Even without talking about monumental moments in the film, it is easy to say Watts has spun a near perfect cinematic web with this third effort in the “Spider-Man” franchise.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is playing in theaters. It is not a spoiler because by now moviegoers should know not to rush out of the theater when the credits roll.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei, Willem Dafoe.
Director: Jon Watts
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, suggestive comments
Running time: 148 minutes.