No Way Home reminds us why Spidey is unique among superheroes

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Dec. 16, 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home
In Theatres
4 out of 5

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains a wonder, one side-effect of the end of the Avengers saga is that the new batch of superheroes has been a notch underwhelming — or in the case of Eternals, very underwhelming. It’s partly a craftsmanship issue. But the main problem is there’s no emotional attachment to the heroes. Shang-Chi, for instance, seems fun. But I can’t say I care for him.

This is why Spider-Man: No Way Home feels superior to those offerings. Peter Parker’s character arc is more exciting than the trademark Marvel set-pieces because over the years we’ve come to care for him.

Describing the plot is a spoiler minefield, so I’ll just say No Way Home begins mere seconds after J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) blew Spider-Man’s cover in Far From Home (2019).

Overwhelmed by the attention and the impact on his immediate circle, Peter (Tom Holland, engineered for this role) asks Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make the world forget about his real identity. Never one to back down from a challenge, even when he should, the sorcerer complies. That causes a tear in the multiverse, and villains from the other two Spider-Man sagas begin to pour in.

If you think you know where this is going, you don’t know Peter Parker. No Way Home makes great use of one of his core beliefs: everybody can be saved. Peter’s intrinsic decency puts him at odds with Strange, and makes the climb oh so much harder. The film also leans on a historical truth about Spidey: the bigger the fall, the better the story (see Spider-Man 2).

This is not to say No Way Home is a dour affair. In fact, the opening minutes are in line with the light touch that characterized Homecoming (2017) and most of Far from Home. It’s only after we’ve been suckered into the void that the emotional bombs start falling.

Director Jon Watts hasn’t got enough credit for shepherding Spider-Man through the last three films. The movie that kept coming to mind was The Rise of Skywalker. Faced with the same demands from the studio, fans and franchise, J.J. Abrams failed to deliver. No Way Home is not the subtlest of affairs (watch out for more of J. Jonah channelling Alex Jones), but Watts gets the job done.