What's Better Than One Spider-Man?
Spider-man: No Way Home
Sony has done a lot of dumb shit with the SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002. property over the years. They over-managed Sam Raimi's Spider-man 3 to the point that he quit doing superhero movies altogether for nearly two decades. They rebooted into the unnecessary The Amazing Spider-man. There was all the failed plans for the "Amazing Spider-verse". Hell, there's everything wrong with Venom: Let There Be Carnage. At the same time, though, Sony did one really smart thing: they teams with Marvel to do a third version of Spider-man in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe..
Say what you will about Sony's own Spider-movies but Marvel knows how to treat their heroes right. They've made very few out-and-out bombs and those films that don't work served as solid learning experiences for the company (like The Incredible Hulk where the lesson was: don't with work Universal on superhero movie). Marvel's first Spider-man film, Homecoming, is absolutely brilliant, a high water mark for the MCU and still one of it's out-and-out best movies. While it's sequel, Spider-man: Far From Home, wasn't as good, there was still enough charm in Marvel's on-screen version of Spidey to make the film watchable.
The whole universe of Spider-man films, though, has certainly been pulled in two directions. Marvel would love to keep a tight grip on Spidey and his stable of characters, but Sony wants to make a big "Spider-verse" so they can play with all their lucrative toys. The deal struck by the two companies allows Sony to do what they do but they can't really use Spider-man in their none MCU films (they can reference, sure, but never use). Marvel, though, now has access to the whole history of Sony's Spider-films, which meant they could play in a multiverse of possibilities while working with Sony, and that's exactly what they did with the third main-line MCU film in the series, Spider-man: No Way Home. Frankly, the film is brilliant.
To put it simply, No Way Home is a love-letter to ons-screen Spider-man. There have been three men to wear the live-action tights -- Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and then current wearer Tom Holland -- and while their films might have been hit or miss at times, all three have their fans. No Way Home shows its love to all the fans of all these Spider-men over the years by bringing all their greatest hits into one single movie. We're going to talk about this movie with spoilers because, frankly, I don't know how you can do otherwise in this case -- the spoilers are the whole meat of the film, and if you've seen the trailers you already know that -- so let's get into the meat of No Way Home.
The movie picks up right where the last film, Far From Home, left off: with the identity of Peter Parker (Holland) revealed to all the world by Mysterio. Framed for Mysterio's death, and all the carnage Mysterio caused in the last film, Spider-man ends up wanted by the feds. While he's eventually cleared of all charges, he and his friends -- M.J. (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) -- are essentially persona non grata everywhere. They can't even get into college because of their connection to Spider-man. So, not seeing any better solution, Peter goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for a special kind of help: he wants to use magic to change time and stop his identity from being revealed. Although Strange couldn't do that, he does think of a way to help: a spell that would make everyone forget Peter was Spider-man. Great!
Except Pete doesn't want everyone to forget, and his constant questions while the spell was performed causes the spell to go haywire. Instead of causing everyone to forget, it causes everyone, for across the multiverse, that knows who Peter is to come to this universe. Suddenly a bunch of villains from every past Spider-Man film appear in this world. That includes: Doc Oc (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Thankfully to help battle these fiends are two additional Spider-men (both Maguire and Garfield). Stopping them isn't enough, though. To set things right, Peter (well, all of them) know they have to cure the villains of what ails them. Otherwise they'll just go back to their own times and die again. Save thee villains, save the world. If only the villains weren't fighting it so hard.
I don't really feel that bad spoiling everyone that's in this movie because, frankly, it was the worst kept secret about the films. Even before it came out rumors were flying about all the actors coming back. Even if you were actively trying to avoid spoilers it was hard to ignore what was going on with the film. I will say, though, even knowing all the people that would be back it didn't ruin the experience for me. That's because this is an absolute love-letter for the fans, a dedication to twenty years of Spidey, done absolutely right.
The interesting thing about this film is how unconventional it is in many ways. Despite having five villains in the film, it doesn't feel overloaded. It works, in large part, because these are villains we've already met before. We know them, we've seen them, so the film doesn't have to take any time establishing each and ever one of their back stories. It trusts us to keep up so it can go off and tell a high-flying story of good and evil. In the process it brings back all the actors from the previous films and manages to find a way to redeem each and every one of them.
In the process it also redeems all the previous Spider-men as well. While Maguire and Garfield were great in their roles they certainly ended their runs on pretty meh films. Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-man 2 are dreadful movies, but I find that because of No Way Home I hate them a fair bit less. This movie serves as a good sequel to both of those movies and allows the grown up Spider-men of those movies to continue their arc, to find some resolution as they move on back to their own worlds.
In the process, it's just great seeing all three of the Spider-men play together. They laugh, they have fun, but they also get to play emotional beats off each other. This movie really could have just been a cavalcade of cameos as it trotted out the whole history of cinematic Spider-man, but instead the movie invests in all three Spideys and let's them work together perfectly. I serious loved what they did with all three Spider-men and I'm absolutely glad now that this film got to do all of this so right.
As for the actual story, well, it's a lot of multiverse cross-over silliness but it works in the context. The fact that Marvel has put in the leg work ahead of time to make this whole multiverse idea work on screen helps a lot. Really, No Way Home benefits so much from all thee leg work done in all the previous movies (and shows) across the Sony-verse and the MCU. Without that this movie would have been an incomprehensible mess. Instead it glides along for two-and-a-half hours having absolute joy playing with all its action figures.
I don't want to say that No Way Home is the best Spider-man movie ever made simply because it couldn't exist without everything that came before. Instead what I will say is that this is the film that redeems so much of what Sony did and makes it into something interesting. This is the culmination of Spider-man and I loved every second of it. Wherever the franchise goes from here (more Tom Holland movies, of course, but there are stirrings of a Raimi-verse Spider-man 4 and perhaps some crossovers with Sony's Spider-verse) Sony and Marvel have proven that at least in their deal together they have Spider-man's best interests at heart.