'Spider-Man: No Way Home' (2021) Review: Peter Problems
The last 2 years have been tension filled for cinemas, and cinema lovers. We’ve all watched with bated breath to see the theatres we spent so many summers in weather the storm of stagnant business. Films have been sold on their ability to deliver a once in a lifetime cinema experience. Titans have battled, Bond came back, and somehow, the Matrix will be resurrected. Now as the year comes to a close, your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has returned to give audiences a reason to go back to the cinemas.
Yet the film’s reunion isn’t quite as romantic. ‘Spider-Man No Way Home’ sees Peter Parker facing the demons of his past. Well, sort of. Demons of Peter Parker, just not the one played so nervously by Tom Holland. How they get there is a mix of Doctor Strange magic, and Peter Parker idiocy. Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx are among the most frequent familiar faces, yet there’s a slight disconnect. It’s fun to see their characters played once again by their original actors, but they can sometimes feel out of place.
The characters shine when the movie plays to their strengths. Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus have some of the film’s most tender moments, carrying with them the sincerity of their original roles. Dafoe and Molina are the scene stealers in the movie, with a special mention to Dafoe for bringing back the terror he gave me at the age of 6. Without the baggage of their villainy to cloud his judgement, Peter opts for pacifism over punches. The conflict is driven by Peter’s unconscionable need to do the right thing, no matter how difficult. ‘No Way Home’ might swing past the development of its plot, but once the pieces are all on the board, it starts to come together brilliantly.
The drama in the film is some of the best yet in a Spider-Man film. Never have the stakes been so well established for both the character and the world they protect. As Peter navigates the world without his precious anonymity, the film plays with the idea of identity. As a man leading two lives, Peter aims to unmask his villains and reveal the goodness within. His quest in the film is noble and leads to some moving character defining moments.
It’s refreshing to see a superhero film that doesn’t revert instantly to a good punch up. While the usual high powered fisticuffs does ensue, it’s entirely a last resort. For most of the movie Peter Parker is on the defensive, making it all the more meaningful when he becomes more aggressive. Thus far Jon Watts and Tom Holland have given the character all of the flair but not so much of the darkness. Don’t get me wrong, Holland has been through some punishment, but nothing seems to ever challenge his cheery disposition. Things change in ‘No Way Home’ giving Holland some of his best material yet as the character.
Part of that is due to the film’s several antagonists. I can’t quite believe it, but for the third time, a Spider-Man sequel has tried to evoke the one vs many spirit of the comic book. Cinematically, Spider-Man facing several foes has never worked out in the audience’s favour. That changes in ‘No Way Home’. Without the burden of backstory, the film instead focuses on the characters and their connection to the main character. For the most part it results in some very satisfying interactions, and some of the best villain moments in the MCU. Otherwise, it feels slightly akin to a very exciting episode of a badly written kids cartoon.
There’s not a single scene in ‘No Way Home’ that’s not compelling. The humour isn’t 100%. Some of the dialogue feels awkward and forced. When it’s coming from characters you’ve wanted to see in conversation for more than a decade, you don’t exactly mind. The things it achieves more than make up for its missteps. After my first viewing, it’s definitely a big screen watch. We’ll see how I feel after the scheduled second, and third, and fourth…
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Note: With the recent restrictions imposed in the fight against Covid-19, cinemas are suffering now more than ever. While I appreciate you reading this review, movies are still incredibly subjective. If you think you might enjoy yourself, I encourage everyone to support the cinema industry as much as they can, and safely enjoy an evening at the movies. Stay safe, and remember, life’s too short for bad movies.