NOTE: Sony/Columbia did not screen this film for critics in my market.
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (hereafter simply referred to as “NO WAY HOME”) is directed by Jon Watts. It stars an ensemble cast of actors (to avoid any surprises and spoilers I’m not naming any of the cast members the way I usually do in reviews). It’s the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Following his battle with Mysterio in Europe, Peter Parker’s secret identity to the world as Spider-Man was revealed all over the world’s airwaves, putting him and his friends in a difficult situation with uncertain futures. Peter appeals to Doctor Strange, wanting everyone’s memories of his secret identities erased, but the spell backfires, splitting open the multiverse allowing many people from alternate universes with Spider-Man in them to come through. How will our young webcrawler deal with this multidimensional threat?
I’m seriously loving Tom Holland as Spider-Man; he’s brilliantly captured the character’s youth, charisma, and more dramatic side, bringing something unique and appealing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, Sony/Columbia had already had two prior live-action Spider-Man universes, and due to Marvel Studios’ arrangement with Sony/Columbia to use Spider-Man and the associated characters, they must have felt it would be the time to take full advantage of this, making a Spidey threequel that threw in everything but the kitchen sink. With so much being thrown in, I feared this film would make the same overplotting and cramming mistakes of Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 3 or Marc Webb’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. But lovers of their Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man need not fear; NO WAY HOME perfectly balances character development, action, and drama as none of those earlier “finale” installments could. It’s packed with fan service and plenty for the fans to enjoy, but being a fan myself, I didn’t mind that at all.
The cast of NO WAY HOME is impressive through and through, though do to my usual “no spoilers” policy, I won’t go about naming who and what all is in the movie. But I’m happy to say that the studios here have assembled many of the best actors from the current MCU and past Spider-Man films. What’s truly impressive is that this film succeeds where those “finale” installments from Sony/Columbia’s two past live action cracks at Spidey failed. This time around, despite a larger character count, the writing, direction, and pacing are strong. What’s really surprising is that we actually get more sympathetic takes on many of these characters, including the bad ones. This makes for some intriguing drama on top of the action, redeeming characters who might not have gotten all the support and fleshing out they did in their respective previous universes. There are moments here that hit hard, and it’s all expertly crafted.
What’s truly impressive here is the fact that the movie gets top marks in nearly every area. Yes, some elements of the story could’ve used some work, and the way that much of what’s in the movie is set into motion gets underway is a bit silly and juvenile, and some characters motivations and actions are a bit unclear at times. The chemistry between everyone and the hard-hitting dramatic moments make this one of Spidey’s greatest adventures on the big screen. That everything is cranked up to 11 here at no expense of drama and character development is a must. Yes, there’s fan service galore. But there are some dramatic tear-jerking moments coupled with amazing action sequences that rank among the MCU’s best. It doesn’t hurt that it does a solid job setting further future events for the MCU into motion while still working as a self-contained film, the thing the last installments in the previous two live-action Sony/Columbia movies couldn’t do.
The movie’s not perfect, with a few too many plot points and some other familiar faces from the older movies I wish I’d seen surface, but the problems here are ultimately minor. That the MCU could unite all these cast members and still keep the movie full of depth, drama, and action without feeling too bloated is a miracle unto itself. Fans of Spider-Man and the MCU shouldn’t be disappointed with what NO WAY HOME brings. Very highly recommended!