Usually the third film in a trilogy is considered the weakest entry even it it is a solid effort. The latest Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Spider-Man: No Way Home, proves otherwise and is actually the strongest entry.
Given the content of the film, it will be nearly impossible to discuss it without going into not just spoilers, but heavy spoilers. So, to be fair to anyone who has not seen this instant classic, this review will only cover broad generalities with more in-depth analysis to follow some other time. There will be some spoilers but only in the broad sense and covers what was revealed in the trailers.
Spider-Man: No Way Home picks ups immediately after the end of the previous MCU Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home where Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) secret identity of Peter Parker was revealed to the world. The aftermath of the revelation is devastating to Peter and those closest to him like his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).
The loss of privacy and the intrusive nature of the outside world eventually drives Peter to seek magical help from the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He asks Doctor Strange to cast a spell to make the world forget that he is Spider-Man, and the sorcerer agrees to do it. However, during the casting of the spell, Peter distracts Doctor Strange, which causes the spell to be corrupted.
The result is that Spider-Man villains from alternate film universes are brought to the MCU, in other words, the foes from the earlier, non-MCU Spider-Man films. These include Doctor Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Electro/Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), the Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), and the Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
Spider-Man quickly finds out that tackling with the not-quite Sinister Six and his decisions comes with severe consequences that not only imperil him and those around him, but the fabric of the multiverse itself. These developments force him to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility…and sacrifice.
Spider-Man: No Way Home not only manages to stick the landing with the third part of a film trilogy but does it in a way that outshines the previous efforts. Not only is it the best MCU Spider-Man film, but it is also one of the best MCU… and superhero films, period. It is a bit too early to designate how it ranks with the other Spider-Man films, but it is a strong contender for being the best of them.
Everyone involved delivers their best efforts with the film, from the script, directing, production design, effects, and of course, the acting. The film demonstrates how the filmmakers learned from each film to produce the strongest MCU Spider-Man film. A great example of this is Tom Holland, who gives his best performance as the tortured hero. Finally, his character is allowed to grow and mature and stand on his own as a genuine hero. No longer is he the dweeby character who runs around in a high-tech Spider-man suit saying “Gee, Mr. Stark.” Instead Peter Parker matures and develops as he has to deal with his decisions and what they bring. He can no longer rely on the advance tech or support that he received in the other MCU films. Rather, Peter has to use his ingenuity, drive and moral center to guide him during his problems as he is pushed to his emotional and physical limit.
The other actors also convey strong performances and have great onscreen chemisty. This also goes for the actors who reprise their roles from the non-MCU Spider-Man films. Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe are especially great in their roles as their villains are complex and conflicted characters who struggle to understand what has happened to them and how to fit in a new universe.
Unlike the earlier MCU films, Spider-Man: No Way Home is more serious, more mature as it explores how one deals with decisions and accept their consequences, good and bad. Sure, it has it’s fair share of humor, but the film is quite emotional and delivers genuine gut punches, as well as thrilling fist-pumping moments.
On top of all this, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a heartfelt tribute to the character of Spider-Man and his amazing world (pun intended). There are so many references and call backs to previous films (including the non-MCU entries), but they do not go overboard. This film celebrates the other non-MCU Spider-Man films and even redeems their flaws and gets us to look at them in a new light. For the most part, the characters from the other non-MCU films have substantial presences in the film and help drive the narrative. They are not there for glorified cameos. Yet, this is Tom Holland’s film and the film’s emotional center.
In spite of all the many different characters, Spider-Man: No Way Home does not feel crowded or overstuffed, unlike other Spider-Man films that had many villains, yet felt disjointed. It moves breezily and keeps you engaged to the last frame of film. Without giving anything away, the film is a bittersweet conclusion to the latest Spider-Man film trilogy that goes back to the superhero’s roots and harks a new direction for him, which is enough to celebrate the fact that Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios will produce more Spider-Man films.