WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
The hype for this movie was real. For months, fans theorised long and hard about what it would include. How would Peter Parker (Tom Holland) deal with the fact that his identity was revealed at the end of the last Spider-Man movie, Far From Home (2019)?
How many villains from previous Spider-Man movies would appear, as teased in the trailers? Would previous iterations of Spider-Man appear, namely the versions portrayed by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield?
There were so many questions, and so much expectation. The team at Marvel and Sony studios not only succeeded in answering those questions and living up to the hype, they created the greatest Spider-Man movie of all time.
Holland is the stand-out
Before talking about how great it was to see characters return from previous Spider-Man movies, it is important to mention that this movie absolutely belongs to Tom Holland.
No Way Home is the third installment in the ‘Homecoming’ trilogy, and marks Holland’s sixth appearance in the inter-connected Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
This movie intelligently explores the aftermath of the earth-shattering public revelation that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. In the comics, Peter’s anonymity is central to his character – whenever his identity is revealed, things always go wrong.
Following the revelation, Peter and his friends are refused entry into college, and his family is threatened with jail. Holland manages to convey the overwhelming anxiety that would naturally come with such events, while retaining the youthful sense of humour that comes with the character.
On top of this, Peter and his loved ones face abuse on a daily basis. He decides to pay a visit to the sorcerer Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and asks him to cast a spell to make everyone forget his identity.
In typical Peter Parker fashion, he messes up his chance at a fresh start by asking Strange mid-spell to keep his identity known to a select few people: his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon).
This tampers with the multiverse, meaning people who knew Peter as Spider-Man from other universes are drawn into the MCU. This includes villains from previous Spider-Man movies, including Doc Oc (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Hayden-Church) and the Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
Strange orders Peter to round up the multiversal villains to send them back to their own respective timelines. Instead, he comes up with the brilliant idea of engaging with the villains in an attempt to cure them before they are returned to their universe, where they would be killed.
Holland’s performances as Peter Parker in previous movies have been great, but it is notable how much he embodied the role in this movie. In No Way Home, he shows his ability to act on a par with veteran actors such as Cumberbatch and Molina, but still remain the focal point of the film.
As Peter’s love interest, MJ, Zendaya also comes into her own. Zendaya’s MJ does not appear as a mere supporting character. Her contributions matter, and Zendya adds depth to every scene she is in. She is not just the typical plot device that the girlfriends of superheroes often are.
Together, Holland and Zendaya are magic. The chemistry from their real-life relationship plays out convincingly on screen, upping the stakes throughout the movie as Peter and MJ tackle the multiverse crisis side by side.
Celebration of cinema
It is great to see Dafoe and Molina reprising their villainous roles almost twenty years on from their first appearances. These legendary actors understand their assignments, as they both add even more depth to their characters all these years later.
In another movie, the plot – at times – might have felt weak. This is possibly one of the only movies where that does not matter. Ned Leeds, Peter’s best friend, all of a sudden has the ability to use Doctor Strange’s magic to open portals and summon people.
But because the people he summoned are Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men, that does not matter as it’s something that would happen in the Spider-Man comics. After all, this is a comic book movie about (three) boys who were bitten by spiders and swing around New York fighting bad guys – we cannot always expect perfect logic.
Seeing Holland, Maguire and Garfield all on screen portraying their versions of Spider-Man is a sight to behold, and no doubt goes down as one of the most legendary moments in superhero cinema. Their chemistry is electric, particularly between the older Spider-Men, Garfield and Maguire.
Their jokes together are genuinely funny, and feel true to each version of the character. At one point, Garfield’s Spider-Man looks at the two other Spider-Men mid-battle and shouts that he had he always wanted brothers. He then goes on to tell them that he loves them just moments after meeting them.
Their action scenes together work better than any of us could have imagined. In fact, the final battle, a perennial problem for superhero movies, is expertly executed. The chemistry between the three Spider-Men as they tackle their arch-nemeses radiates off the screen.
The ensemble of Spider-Men also gives us some some gut-wrenching moments. There is one scene where all three bond over how much they miss the people they have lost and how being Spider-Man is a responsibility to those people, rather than a choice.
This allows the older Spider-Men to act as mentors for Holland’s Peter Parker, guiding him through the very raw grief of losing his beloved aunt May.
Ultimately, this movie succeeds because it showcases Holland’s Peter Parker as the character we have come to know and love. In the previous MCU Spider-Man movies, Parker has been living in the shadow of Tony Stark and the Avengers.
From the off, he had everything: use of Stark technology, help from the Avengers and even the girl he wanted. It never really felt like he had lost anything – something which is central to the Peter Parker character.
At the end of this movie, every single person in the world forgets that he exists, which reverses Strange’s prior spell. Holland’s Peter Parker is left with no parents, no Uncle Ben or aunt May, no Ned and no MJ. He moves into an apartment on his own and does the only thing he can – be Spider-Man.
In this universe, Peter Parker is given almost everything, only for it to be taken away. That is the true genius of this movie, and ultimately, makes it feel like the truest iteration of the character. That, along with the fact it successfully combines three generations of cinema, makes No Way Home the greatest Spider-Man movie of all time.