Spider-Man: No Way Home – Overwhelming in a Good Way

Spider-Man No Way Home
How do you even begin to review something as big as Spider-Man: No Way Home? I’m still overwhelmed two days later. It is, quite simply, an eloquent love letter to Spider-Man fans.

I’ve been seeing MCU films in theaters since the franchise began in 2008, but I’ve been watching Marvel films in theaters since X-Men in 2000. It’s been a crucial part of my life for a long time. That said, the opening night Spider-Man: No Way Home crowd has by far been the most excited I’ve seen any audience for any film ever. It was the biggest event when compared to Endgame and I saw that film opening night as well.  

The enthusiasm for Spider-Man: No Way Home was off the charts and I don’t think I’ll ever have a theater experience quite like that again. But I thought the same after Endgame, so who knows. The MCU is constantly raising the bar on itself, and now Sony’s contribution to the franchise pushed it even higher still. I may be surprised by audience reaction again down the line, but it’s going to be a while. This one is going to be the standard to live up to for quite a few years, I think. 

The film tapped into the obvious need for nostalgia, with callbacks to the Raimi films and the Amazing Spider-Man films, but it was so much more than that. The film had soul. It had heart. It had action, and it also had quieter character-focused moments that benefit from our knowledge of the past films, but aren’t entirely dependent on nostalgia either. It had a delicate balance of elements that was incredibly impressive.

For example, knowing the relationship between Norman Osborn and Doc Ock is helpful, but not required. The dialogue and stellar acting talents behind the characters convey what you need to know to enjoy their dynamic. For those of us that already know them and how they relate, though, their interactions are a special treat. Old and new fans could enjoy it on different levels. And, indeed, that dynamic is resonating with fans, spawning discussion and memes across social media.

The lean into the nostalgia also didn’t bury our current cast of characters. Ned, MJ, Happy, and Aunt May all had moments to grow, despite being surrounded by characters with almost twenty years of cinematic history behind them. They weren’t swept into the background in favor of the nostalgia. They were given a solid footing right alongside it.

Spider-Man No Way Home Ned MJ Peter
Ned and MJ in particular had meaningful arcs that impact the overall MCU. I don’t know how these characters are going to fit going forward, but I hope they find a way to make it work. It’s one of the best trios in the MCU and their role in No Way Home does a spectacular job of highlighting that. Ned and MJ had some of the best lines in some of the most crucial scenes, so they were anything but sidelined.

I don’t think being able to balance the nostalgia and the current storyline was an easy task. One of the things that concerned me during the lead-up to the film was that it felt like it was relying too much on nostalgia for excitement. Honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled with that marketing tactic. I was afraid it’d drown out everything else. Thankfully it did not.  

The timing of this film is also incredibly poignant. Many of us have been passing the time during the pandemic dipping into older media. Nostalgia has been comforting for us and a desire to revisit happier pre-pandemic times has been widespread. The film was basically a warm blanket in that regard. But it didn’t sacrifice genuinely exciting plots in favor of that warm comfort. It brought the drama and left me speechless while still feeling like a welcoming hug.

The part that left me the most speechless was the end of the film. I’m not going to spoil that here, but I will say it left me kind of an emotional mess. I genuinely don’t know where they can take their story from here, but it sounds like a Spider-Man 4 is in the works, so they’ve clearly got plans. I may have to take to fan fiction to satisfy my own curiosity, though. I’m, quite simply, too impatient to wait for that. What the heck happens next? I need to know ASAP.

Now while I won’t spoil the end of the film, I feel like I do have to spoil something to continue this conversation. If I don’t, this review is ending here. So…

WARNING: The following paragraphs will contain spoilers about character appearances and casting in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Skip to the heading that begins with “In Conclusion” to bypass spoilers. While this spoiler is pretty much the worst kept secret of the MCU, it’s still best to not read on if you want to be surprised. 

Seriously.

Turn back now. 

You sure you want to continue?

You sure you’re sure?

Alright. 

So let’s talk about Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

They tried their best to keep their appearances a secret, but everyone pretty much already knew. Their best efforts just didn’t prevent the leaks and spoilers from overflowing across the internet. That said, the screaming and applause for each of their entrances was still extremely loud. I don’t think the leaks really took away from the impact too much, and for some it may have elevated the excitement. I prefer a world without leaks, but if I’m in the minority on that, so be it.

They were each in the film a lot more than I thought they would be. I had assumed they would be brief cameos, but they are crucial to the plot. They were in it more than Doctor Strange, which really surprised me. I had assumed Strange would be central and the Peters would be cameos, but it was kind of the opposite. I’m not complaining about that at all, of course, but it was certainly unexpected.

The film even made space for quiet moments among the Peters, which it didn’t really need to do. Andrew and Tobey talking about back pain and helping each other out did nothing for the plot, but everything for characterization. As someone who prefers characterization over plot, this worked for me. It more than worked for me. It tickled that part of my brain that craves writing fanfiction, and that’s always a good sign that something is going to stick with me long term. The relationships among the Peters is going to stick with me more than anything else in the film. 

Andrew in particular felt like he’d finally been given some justice. He’s the only one of the three that doesn’t have a trilogy of his own, and the trauma he endured (up until the conclusion of this film) had by far been the worst due to what happened with Gwen. Not having any follow-up after that made that trauma even more brutal.  

But Andrew’s Peter had a chance to shine here despite it technically being Tom Holland’s film. And he had a chance to work through some of his trauma, which is an incredibly rare gift in superhero films. Usually, the heroes have to dump their trauma and jump back into saving people, but I truly felt he had moments here to heal. I only hope other characters, like Loki (especially Loki), are given similar chances in the MCU. Maybe that’s not important to a lot of fans, but it’s certainly meaningful to me.

This just makes me ache for a third Amazing Spider-Man film even more, though. It’s absolutely possible to do one now that the multiverse is established. I don’t think that’s in the cards though. Perhaps they can pull Andrew’s Peter back into our universe at some point somehow? That’s… also probably not in the cards. This is probably the end of Andrew’s Peter, and I should be grateful we even got this. But I’m going to crave more of it anyway. The character is too emotionally rich to say goodbye to without a fight. 

Basically, I love Andrew and want to see him on my screen as much as possible. His Peter revels in those quiet moments more than the others, and it’s the quiet moments that are the most appealing to me. I mean no shade to Tobey or Tom here. Everyone has a favorite and everyone has their reasons for it. I’m sure other reviews will be equally enthusiastic for Tobey or Tom. My favorite is Andrew and my reasons are the delicacy in which he handles softer intimate moments. Your mileage on that opinion may vary.

But if I want to talk about my favorites, I have to once again put up a spoiler warning. Sorry. I’m fighting for my life trying to talk about this film without spoilers and I’m falling pretty short. Hopefully, the warnings are helping.

WARNING: The following paragraphs contain spoilers for the mid-credit scene. 

My favorite Spider-Man character is Venom. In fact, the only Spider-Man comics I own include him in them. But I was a little worried by that end credit scene in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. 

Do I want Venom in the MCU?

Well, it’s complicated. While the MCU has done decently with my other favorite anti-heroes, Loki and Bucky, Venom still felt a bit too dark for Disney. He eats heads. He has to eat heads. But I also really enjoy the idea of him interacting with the MCU universe a bit. The end credit scene for Venom: Let There Be Carnage seemed to confirm that was going to happen. So how the hell was he going to fit in here?

When the plot of trying to ‘cure’ the villains came up, I grew even more concerned. Eddie and Venom don’t need to be cured. The symbiosis is, oddly enough, good for them both. But as the movie went on and there was no Tom Hardy cameo, I began to wonder if we were going to get him at all. 

Then we were blessed with the mid-credit scene and it was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I wanted more of the Venom and Eddie beach honeymoon and I got it. It didn’t tone them down at all and didn’t force him into the role of a villain in the MCU. It was silly, in-character, and delightful. Thank you for this gift!

Whether that’s it for them in this universe or not, I’m not sure. But this is dipping a bit too far into spoiler territory and I’ve tried to only talk about the spoilers I absolutely needed to for this review. I’ve said more than I planned already.

Let’s wrap up this spoiler talk and bring the folks back in who didn’t want to read those…

In Conclusion, Spider-Man: No Way Home Was Amazing

Welcome back everyone who didn’t want to read the spoilers! But go see the film ASAP, guys, because it’s getting worse and worse every day online. In fact, I can’t guarantee the comments here will be spoiler-free so once you read this review I’d bounce out just to be safe.

Anyway, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a top-tier MCU film. It’s going to be rated highly by both fans and critics alike, and rank at the top of popularity lists for many years to come. The comparisons and measurements to Endgame make sense and I see that being a discussion for a long time as well. It was, to put it succinctly, epic. 

The film I’m looking forward to next is Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness. I only hope it can live up to the new standard that’s been set here. I have a lot of faith in it, but Spider-Man: No Way Home raised the bar for the MCU and we’re going to have to adjust our expectations accordingly.  

I’m still excited anyway, though. With the multiverse blown open like this, anything is possible. And I hope they get really weird with it. Push those limits! Be epic. The possibilities are endless.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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