MJ (Zendaya) has a saying in Spider-Man: No Way Home that went something like this: “You should anticipate being disappointed, so you never feel disappointed.” Disappointment is the worst conceivable conclusion for the young individuals hoping to get into MIT. It also appeared as though the producers of No Way Home were scared of making their audience disappointed. Fans definitely expected exactly what a Spider-Man movie in the multiverse should be and also determined what they wanted to watch, and as a result, they would be completely disappointed if their expectations were not met. Sony is keen on making as much profit as possible from this follow-up part, so they would gladly give the audience what they desired. However, successful storytelling is not always about offering your audience what they like, but sometimes giving them what they truly need, even if it leads to extending their expectations. That’s the reason why Spider-Man: No Way Home mostly seems like low-quality fan fiction—an attempt to remake earlier adventures into something more enjoyable. Is it pleasing? Yes, of course, it’s totally different from the pleasant feeling of consuming a lot of sugar, but you don’t feel great thereafter.
Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) disclosed at the ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home that Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) was actually Spider-Man. While Peter is uncomfortably exonerated of murdering Mysterio (the entire thing doesn’t make any sense, and the first half of the film’s narrative is chaos), the world now understands he’s Spider-Man and somehow suspects him as possibly a murderer. Peter wishes the world to return to the way it was when his secret was not revealed, so he comes to Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and requests for the time to be reversed. Strange claims he can’t do it anymore, but he can cast a spell that makes everyone forget Peter is Spider-Man (messing with people’s memory sounds extremely wrong, and the film doesn’t address this). Strange admits that he no longer can do it and suggest casting a spell that makes people forget who Spider-Man is (trying to mess with memories of people sounds extremely wrong, and the film doesn’t develop this idea by any chance). Throughout the spell cast, however, Peter continues interrupting individuals who want to know his secret, causing the spell to go haywire and unlock the multi-universe to permit in other people who know Spider-Man is Peter Parker. This means the returns of several villains from the Spiderverse, including Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) from Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, as well as including the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films.
Far From Home proves that Sony and Marvel discovering a way to make these movies is a fantastic commercial triumph, Spider-Man as a character has had a tough time. Tom Holland succeeds in portraying the character with his charming points and overall he understands how to play up the geeky markers of a young Peter Parker. He’s also greatly aided by his ability to bounce ideas off MJ and Ned (Jacob Batolon). But Holland has played Spider-Man five times already, and I can’t tell you how much he’s changed or what propels him through these adventures because the MCU Spider-Man is whatever distinct movie requires of him. To put it differently, you could watch No Way Home without having seen Homecoming or Far From Home and miss nothing crucial about Peter as a character. He doesn’t mature between films more than he has a new battle, one that usually outshines his own stakes.
His fight in No Way Home is focused on the “with great power comes great responsibility” story, which is odd considering Captain America: Civil War suggests that Peter had already comprehended that lesson through Uncle Ben’s death. In this film, Peter is willing to abdicate his obligation if it means sending the supervillains back to their own universes, even if it seems that they’ll die (also, not much sense is made by the multiversal aspects, so don’t try to figure it out; these characters know each other, but they do not come from the same point in a timeline, and what really counts here is that they got the whole bunch of characters included in this movie). Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is the one who teaches the lesson of a second opportunity for everyone (a strange thing once again to express to Peter, who opted to preserve the life of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), someone who repeatedly attempted to kill him and knew his actual identity.) So Peter decides to “heal” the six supervillains and then send them home to avoid death.
This is when No Way Home really settles into a groove from a storyline viewpoint, and I can’t refute that it’s entertaining to watch these baddies interact with one another. Watching Willem Dafoe plays his role as Green Goblin, a character he hasn’t performed since 2004 (unless you include his appearance in Spider-Man 2) and gives it his all is genuinely compelling. Nobody here feels like they’re working for money, and the film is a lot of fun when it’s just placing all the people in a space and having them show interaction with one other. However, the concept that Peter feels driven to “rescue” them is unfounded since, once again, the MCU is a fictitious universe in ưhich Peter Parker isn’t rooted in anything. He cares about the people around him, but nothing thus far suggests that Peter feels compelled to save supervillains, especially since he is not likely that upset over the death of Mysterio. Not so much do I think Peter would be uninterested as it is a dramatic contradiction in the way he’s illustrated throughout this sequence.
You can also imply the filmmaker isn’t sure what to do with Doctor Strange since it appears a lot more at ease when he’s not in the film. Audiences rarely witness any chemistry between Cumberbatch and Holland, and Strange appears to be there to aid the plot’s machinations rather than disclose anything about his connection with Peter or how Peter thinks about him. Sure, this isn’t a film about Strange, but he’s essentially more than unimportant. He’s either casting magic or in a major set-piece when he battles Peter in the mirror space, which is possibly evaluated as the film’s best action moment.
“How can you state that?” you might wonder. “How can you claim it’s better than the ending scene with both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield?” We’ll talk about those characters in a second later, but it’s straightforward to say that because it’s the one action scene that appears to be quite innovative and visually appealing compared with others. I was also uncertain about director Jon Watts, but No Way Home confirms that he is a thoroughly dull filmmaker to me. I get that Marvel has a signature aesthetic, but no rule says their films have to be alike dishwater. His shot designs are confusing, and the pacing appears to be meant to get to the next scene rather than nail any emotional moment. His approach to No Way Home shouts, “This will happen.” The point is that he can get away with it because he has Maguire and Garfield on his side. Despite what you think of their films, people enjoyed the actors who played Peter Parker and Spider-Man so they will go insane when such characters appear on the screen. It almost feels like a prize for anybody who has gone through a series of Spider-Man films, with the bonus of seeing Holland, Garfield, and Maguire together on the same screen and bounce off each other in No Way Home. It’s undeniable that it’s entertaining. They’re pleasant in these positions, but there’ll be no “and then” to their participation in No Way Home other than to convey the message of “With great power comes great responsibility” and that they also had to experience rage and grief. That’s not a horrible page to take from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it’s more appropriate for Spider-Man’s debut film, not his sixth appearance (or third if you only calculate the movies in which Holland is the lead).
I’m certain this review comes out as curmudgeonly. After all, I’ve conceded that the movie is entertaining. It gives the public what they desire, and I’m sure there will be a lot of applause when such characters from prior Spider-Man films appear in No Way Home. Is this, however, all that movies are meant to be? Is it simply acknowledging the thing? More than that, excellent films are about great narratives, and No Way Home isn’t much about great storytelling as it is about assembling a cast of actors fans recognize playing roles that viewers caught them in before. The success of Into the Spider-Verse proves that the strategy of “multiple Spider-Men” can still produce a remarkable film, but Spider-Verse makes an important attribute to why Spider-Man is an iconic hero who is so much meaning to numerous people. No Way Home’s sole purpose is to have the viewer nod and grin at the things they recognize before the film concludes with all of the characters forgetting that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. No Way Home’s sole purpose is to have the viewer nod and grin at the things they recall from prior movies before the film concludes with all of the people forgetting that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
Why did the filmmakers let the film conclude in this sort of way? Is it a main point of Peter needing to be cautious about what he wishes for, and this is everything he had to learn in this film? No, it’s a consideration in terms of business since Sony, Marvel, and Tom Holland haven’t determined what the character’s future holds. That’s not a satisfactory ending because No Way Home was never intended to be a satisfying Spider-Man plot. It substitutes quantity for quality, yet quantity can not be tolerated sometimes. It’s likely the most Spider-Man movie, which some people confound with “greatest.” But, in fact, Spider-Man: No Way Home is simply “just fine.”