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Film Review / Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Considering the box office I don't think I even need to brief the plot, I'm pretty sure most of the film-going public has seen this. There is no mistaking that Spider-Man: No Way Home is probably the biggest sensation of the year. Not only does it wind up the Spidey Marvel/Sony crossover franchise, but it draws on the legacy left by the 21st century Spider-mans [you geddit] since Spider-Man of 2002 with ole Tobey. But was it worth it?

Short answer: hell yes.

But it deserves a long answer, too.

Considering the current box office receipts, it basically begs the question: is this just massive nostalgia-bait?

In my opinion, not entirely, but certainly to a degree. I say this as someone who is speaking solely on the movieverse Spidey, and not the comics or animated ones, and who saw all the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films at the cinema (and again in the intervening years), and enjoyed them all (for the most part) for what they were. And it was the same (except I didn't see the Homecoming or Far From Home in the cinema) for Tom Holland's outings as the eponymous webcrawler. I think he did a stellar job with his first outing in Captain America: Civil War, and was different enough from his predecessors (as they were from each other) to keep the character fresh, but I wasn't drawn enough to care about his independent films. Still, I actually enjoyed Homecoming and Far From Home, though Jake Gyllenhaal was the reason I watched the second one, really. But everyone has an opinion on who was/is the best version of Peter Parker/Spiderman, and maybe I'll go into that some other time.

For now, no, I don't think nostalgia was the absolute factor for this film to currently be such a success, but I don't think it hurt. Nor do I think it was a sole cash-grab. I'm not naive to the fact they were obviously going for wallets, all companies are looking at their margins, but it was done too well and too self-aware purely to be a cash-grab. Marvel's released enough of those to identify the difference.

This film could have had Maguire and Garfield and all our fabulous (and not so fabulous) returning villains and still have been a sack of shit, and we'd have heard about it as such. Nostalgia isn't currently helping the Matrix Resurrections (I bloody love The Matrix but I'm not even marginally interested in that) and so it cannot just be the draw of nostalgia. There has to also be the draw of a good story, and with such a variety of bollocks as audiences have been fed for this past decade (at minimum) we were looking for a good romp not shrivelling up beneath endless social justice vomiting, terrible writing and constant virtue signalling. Spider-Man: No Way Home manages to avoid the pitfalls of politicising every single word in its characters' mouths and uses their dialogue and chemistry to instead actually drive the story, not an agenda. In this day and age it's almost a revolutionary act in blockbusters and superhero flicks.

I think what's really nice about having our three Spider-Men in one universe is that they are all so different. Much like the films they're in. Tobey Maguire's wiser, seen-it-all Peter becomes mentor to his alter-egos, and a kind of culmination of how the primary audience might feel about Tobey as "their" first Spidey (as he was mine, at least in this century - I saw The Amazing spide-Man series first). Andrew Garfield's Peter came across as much more nerdy and quirky than in the Amazing... films. I really liked this version of his Parker/Spidey, but it didn't feel like the same character in some places, like the interaction with Ned and MJ when they first met. It's not a flaw, I think Garfield smashed it out of the park, I just think that if we'd seen Peter like this in the Amazing... films they may well have ended up superior to the two released. However, there is also the fact that considering the multiverse happenings, this Peter Parker might not fully be the Peter Parker we saw in Garfield's original outings. This, by the way, is why I can't really stand "multiverse" type storylines as unless well-controlled they literally just allow anything to be written and explained away because of said "multiverse". Anyway, that's by the by.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is not perfect. There's sometimes a little bit too much of this push to make things funny or have puns here there and everywhere, as has been the case since Avengers Assemble, but there aren't too many, and they're not too distracting. There's a short set-up at the start with Peter, MJ and Ned all failing to get into MIT, which isn't actually that bad of a sequence (as I've heard it said from other reviewers), I think it just comes off less interesting against the return of Doc Ock onwards. It is, though, essential, as from the silly decision Peter makes to ask Dr. Strange (who should really know better) to brainwash the world to forget he's Spider-Man, the world's fate is set towards certain destruction, and the culmination of these actions result in the return of Spidey's greatest enemies he's never faced, the death of Aunt May, and the almost death of MJ, one of the best moments in the film, which gave Garfield's Peter a chance at redemption, which he takes wholly and I imagine swept everyone away as he did me.

MJ and Ned are pretty good fun in this one (MJ in particular having been quirksomely overwritten in the previous two) and I liked the chemistry between the Peters and these two. I also really enjoyed Doc Ock, but was especially wowed by how Willem Dafoe just slipped back into Osborn/Goblin like it was only last week when Spider-Man was released. What a legend.

All in all, yes you should see it. It's not perfect, but it's not going to preach to you either. It's good fun, has some great moments and some great scenes, and having three Spedey's on screen at the same time was as awesome as that scene in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where the apes charge in with guns on horses. Feckin' ace.

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