As one era ends, another begins. The tale of the MCU Spider-Man has been long critiqued as being but an extension of Tony Stark and other superheroes, and often only seen as a side character to other protagonist heavyweights. However, this movie has veritably changed Tom Holland's Spider-Man, and his position in the Marvel Cinematic Universe henceforth. I have to say, narrative-wise, No Way Home beats out the Infinity Saga in terms of just how much I was captivated by the storyline, though perhaps it's because I'm very much an enjoyer of the Spider-Man series. With that out of the way, let's get into the specifics of why I believe No Way Home treads new ground whilst solidifying old foundations of everyone's favorite Neighborhood Hero.
The story of No Way Home is perhaps Marvel's first major exploration into their Multiverse concept beyond the Infinity Saga's conclusion. Villains from across different timelines and dimensions have arrived in Spider-Man's world and have begun causing terror and chaos, the result of Peter Parker and Doctor Strange's desperate bid to reverse the world's knowledge of Peter's secret identity, something that Mysterio revealed in his last moments of spite during the last movie. These villains all hearken from other Spider-Man movies. The dastardly Norman Osborne, once more given justice by the unceasingly talented Willem DaFoe. Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, Jaime Foxx's Electro, Rhys Ifans's Lizard, and Thomas Haden Church's Sandman. All come together to form the unofficial 'Sinister Six', though as the post-credits scene reveals, the sixth member, Venom, dissipated back into his own universe before he could probably introduce himself.
There are many highlights this movie contains, from Spiderman's bond with Doctor Strange turning into a short-lived rivalry as the both of them contend with each other over how these newly-arrived villains should be treated, to the comedic small-talk the antagonists themselves hold with each other (most pertinently being Doctor Octopus and Goblin's discussion, ultimately leading to Goblin once more becoming dominant in Osborne's mind). However, the undoubtable shining appeal of this movie is embodied with the return of Andrew Garfield and Tobey McGuire's Spider-Men. The theater erupted into haughty cheers upon their arrival, and I couldn't frankly blame them. Many believed that Tobey and Andrew should return to someday reprise their roles, subsumed with the strident belief that Andrew was given a poor script to work with, and thus his talents were never given the proper limelight they deserved. This movie fixes that and more, giving the Spidermen time to bond, which ultimately is the therapeutic wonder that this movie capitalizes on to become the forefront of the MCU's Phase 4, if not the MCU entirely.
The Spidermen's interactions are gold in many ways. They are witty, talented, funny, yet also emotionally investing, as each of them understands what the other is going through on an intrapersonal level that no other individual could hope to comprehend. This is why scenes such as Tobey feeling heartbroken over the lack of a love in his life, to Andrew feeling vindicated after saving MJ (his home universe's wasn't so lucky), were such powerful scenes to bear witness towards. It was practically unreal. On this scale, I am unsure if differing timelines and continuities of the same media franchise have ever collided so well with each other as they did in No Way Home. To watch it all unfold was perfect. But the best part?
Neither Tobey nor Andrew overshadowed Tom Holland's Peter. Instead, they played off his strengths and weaknesses. Whether it was discussing the intricacies of their web-shooting or simply sharing their deepest experiences and emotionally supporting each other, the chemistry these actors had with each other was utterly unbelievable. I frankly wish the movie ended differently, so that we could get more scenes, hell, another movie entirely of just these three Spider-Men engaging in a variety of antics. But No Way Home provided more than enough. And, ultimately, it does succeed in fulfilling what it sets out to do, that being to enshrine Peter as a hero of his own in the most conclusive way possible. Unfortunately, the movie's climax involves Strange casting a spell that forces everyone, including the Avengers Peter has fought alongside, his girlfriend, and his best friend to forget about his existence entirely. As far as they understand, Peter has never existed, and only his identity of Spider-Man perseveres. This is further encapsulated as Peter goes to remind MJ and Ned after the movie ends, but realizes they are safer and happier without him, and thus embarks on a new path of loneliness, with his only solace being the identity of the quip-cracking vigilante Spider-Man.
What a tragic end, right? I highly recommend this movie, and I will certainly be watching and reviewing all the other Spider-Man films, MCU or not, as No Way Home has inspired me to do. 10/10.