With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man. (from IMDB)
Spider-Man has had a unique presence on the big screen for the past 19 years. Starting in 2002 with the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man, with Tobey Maguire in the red tights, the Marvel superhero was given a wider appeal than ever, swinging his way into homes around the globe. Fast forward now to the present, and we have the third entry in a new series of Spidey films, which are set within the much larger cinematic world known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or “MCU” for short). The MCU introduced us to Tom Holland as the webbed wonder in 2016 when he joined Iron Man’s team in Captain America: Civil War. Then, in 2017, we got the first full-length Tom Holland-led Spidey film, Homecoming, which set up his own story and cemented his presence in the MCU. In 2018, he joined the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War, before the work of Thanos erased him from existence. He fatefully returned in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, which brought back the “blipped” people, who had been erased by Thanos, five years later. Also in 2019, we were treated to the first story to follow Endgame with the second Holland Spider-Man movie, Far From Home. In it, Peter Parker is wrestling with how he fits into the world after the loss of his mentor, Iron Man, and what this means for him as a teenage superhero. The film ends with a cliffhanger as his secret identity is revealed to the world as not only Peter Parker, but as the murderer of Mysterio, which just wasn’t true. The latest entry into the Spider-Man world is Spider-Man: No Way Home, which opens immediately after the events of Far From Home, showing the fallout of Peter Parker being exposed to the world.
It’s tough to discuss what Spider-Man: No Way Home is about without any spoilers, but I will try to only touch on things that have been revealed in the trailers for the film. (So if you even avoided the trailers, then I suggest skipping my review and going to see it!) As Peter struggles with being outed as Spider-Man, with the world split on whether or not he is a hero or a murderer, Peter is finding it very difficult to move on with his life. When he finds it greatly affecting his friends and family’s lives as well, he seeks out the help of Doctor Strange to make the world forget Peter is Spider-Man. Strange reluctantly decides to assist and, while casting a spell to make everyone forget his secret identity, Peter accidentally disrupts the spell. As a result, the multiverse is opened and villains from other worlds who know Peter Parker is Spider-Man start to come through. This unusual circumstance allows for familiar faces from previous Spider-Man movies (previously not linked to the MCU) to return, like Doc Ock and Green Goblin — actors and characters that appeared in the other Spider-Man films that starred Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the title character. The end result is a fun, thrilling and mind-blowing experience that fans of the Spidey films will especially appreciate.
I don’t think you will have needed to see any of the other Spidey films to appreciate what Spider-Man: No Way Home attempts, but those who have will get the most out of it for sure. In concept, it may seem hokey — and exploring the multiverse on TV hasn’t always worked, like in the DC Comics TV series — but in execution here, it’s brilliant. No Way Home builds off of stories that came before and puts a new spin on it in a very “What If?” sort of way. Having the original actors reprise their roles also makes it work especially well and fun to watch. It’s surreal, but at this point in the MCU, the events of the Avengers films and Doctor Strange make this seem pretty possible (in this fictional world, at least). All of the characters we care about from Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies also return, and thankfully characters that maybe got too much screen time in previous entries (like Flash Thompson, for example), are utilized far more sparingly (in a good way). Director Jon Watts seems to really have figured out what fans want in these films, and he delivers. I have made it clear before that I’m not much of a Zendaya fan, and I haven’t really liked her turn as MJ in these movies (save for the latter half of Far From Home), but he’s finally likable this time around. Zendaya gives her a much sweeter and grounded performance, and it finally works. I also liked Jacob Batalon’s Ned a lot more this time, too. Holland, once again, is a great Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and he really goes above and beyond with his performance this time. He’s a solid actor, and he definitely brings it in No Way Home.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a fun and thrilling film, with action scenes that just tickle the fandom for Spidey fans. The fight between Doc Ock and Spider-Man that is teased on the bridge in the trailer is brilliant and filled with unique and clever moments. This can be said for most of the action sequences, and Spider-Man: No Way Home continues to wow and surprise as it unfolds. But Watts isn’t satisfied with just eye-popping visuals and fun moments; he brings lots of emotion and heart into the story, too. The Spider-Man films have always dealt with great cost and loss, and Holland’s Spidey is not above such a lesson (as evidenced before by the loss of Iron Man). While the previous film series’ have gotten pretty dark and violent at times, Spider-Man: No Way Home touches on this, but holds back from graphic visuals or overtly frightening scenes. I will say that Dafoe’s Goblin gets pretty intense at times, and younger ones may certainly find him unsettling, but I’d also say he’s probably no more disturbing than he was in the pretty violent 2002 film where his character made its debut. Still, No Way Home has some weighty and emotional moments, despite it also offering quite a bit of fan service (in a good way, that is).
The content is about the same as the other Holland-fronted Spider-Man movies. There’s the third consecutive use of an unfinished “What the f—“, but it seems a little softer this time than what’s heard at the end of Far From Home (it’s a recap of that scene shown at the start of Spider-Man: No Way Home). There are about 5 uses of the “S” word (2 of them being Strange’s “Scooby-Doo this cr*p” line from the trailer, but the “S” word instead of “cr*p”), and 1 muttered use of “g*dd*mn” from a villain, with a handful of other uses of “Oh my G-d” and its variations as exclamations, and several uses of the “a” word. There aren’t any graphically bloody visuals, although Peter’s face gets pretty beat up and bloody during the last half or so of the movie. We also watch a character die in a lengthy and emotional sequence (and we see them lying dead with their eyes open a couple times), but the only blood shown is on another character’s hand. Otherwise, there is a great deal of superhero violence, but it is seldom bloody or graphic.
I’ll stop there as not to spoil anything further for Spider-Man: No Way Home. I had an absolute blast seeing it in IMAX with a room full of clearly diehard Spider-Man fans, and it was one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in recent years (maybe since Endgame?). It’s a solid MCU effort and one of the top tier entries into the series. While my first viewing is clearly a very positive one, I am curious to see how it holds up to repeat viewings, but I have a feeling it’ll do quite well. Oh, and if you’re wondering about extra scenes: The mid-credits scene is an interesting setup for a potential future villain, while the post-credits scene isn’t really a scene, but a trailer for the next Doctor Strange film, releasing in early 2022.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/17/21)
DVD Special Features Review
Spider-Man: No Way Home, the biggest movie of 2021, is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray or DVD, as well as through all digital retailers. For some reason, Sony sent us the DVD, so the special features are pretty limited on this release. The standard-definition digital copy that comes with the DVD also has zero bonus features, leaving the two extras on the DVD disc the only extras DVD buyers will get. The picture, on both the DVD and SD digital copy, is passable, but the colors aren’t very vibrant, and there’s a distinct lack of clarity. If you’re a movie quality snob (like myself), you’ll want to steer clear of any DVD release. And if you’ve yet to make the jump to high definition viewing, I implore you to finally do it. (You’ll thank me later.) Spider-Man: No Way Home is too great a movie to watch in anything but the highest video quality, so it seems counter-productive for media to receive anything but the best, but I digress…
The two little bonus features on the DVD are the following:
A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland (6:16) – Here, Tom talks about getting the role, and we get a quick glimpse at his audition tapes. Director Jon Watts talks about his own growing experience as a director of these three movies, too. They talk about how this movie is about Peter Parker growing into becoming truly Spider-MAN, and not just a kid. Tobey and Andrew talk about Tom’s Spider-Man and have nothing but glowing things to say about the latest Spider-Man actor. Benedict Cumberbatch and Alfred Molina also reflect on working with Tom. Holland makes it sound like his future as Spider-Man is very uncertain, and considers this movie possibly the end of his tenure as the webbed hero. (1 unfinished “What the f—” from the opening of the movie.)
Graduation Day (7:07) continues the sentiment of growing up and maturing. The cast talk about their experiences joining the series in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and how they’ve grown as characters and real-life friends over the past five years. We see a few more audition tapes from Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, and everyone talks about just how emotional this third entry is. (1 “bad a**” from a scene, and 1 “d*ck”)
Otherwise, here’s a list of the extras on the other formats:
4K ULTRA HD, BLU-RAY™, AND DIGITAL
- Bloopers & Gag Reel
- Alternate Reality Easter Eggs
- 7 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
- Action Choreography Across the Multiverse
- A Multiverse of Miscreants
- A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland
- Enter Strange
- Graduation Day
- Realities Collide, Spiders Unite
- Weaving Jon Watt’s Web
- 2 Special Panels:
- The Sinister Summit – Villains Panel: Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx sit down for a roundtable discussion of their sinister characters.
- A Meeting of the Spiders – Heroes Panel: The Heroic Spider heroes sit down for a roundtable discussion on Peter, Stunts, and skintight suits.
- 3 Stories From The Daily Bugle
- Spider-Menace Strikes Again
- Spider Sycophant
- Web of Lies
- 2 Stunt Scenes Previsualization
- Apartment Fight
- Shield Fight
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/15/22)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: As Peter (dressed as Spider-Man) and MJ race back to his home, Happy and May hear them make a sound in his room and then hear their voices in a panic saying something like “What are we going to do?!” or something and Peter asking MJ to help him out of his costume, which sounds like they’re possibly getting “romantic” behind the door. The adults then open the door to find Peter getting out of his suit and standing there in just his boxers with MJ helping him. They quickly try to explain they weren’t “doing” anything, and in all the commotion of the various characters talking over each other, Aunt May makes a comment about needing to talk to him about sex.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 incomplete “What the f—,” 5 “S” words, 1 “g*dd*mn,” 8 “a” words, 4 “h*ll,” 1 “d*mn,” 3 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “Oh G-d,” 2 “G-d”; Dr. Strange has a mug that says “Oh, for fox sake” with a picture of a cartoon fox standing in for the word “fox.”
Alcohol/Drugs: A man is drunk, drinking at a bar in the mid-credits scene.
Blood/Gore: Two characters have blood on their hands and faces after an explosion. A person then touches another wounded person and finds blood on their hand, meaning the wounded person is seriously injured; Peter has lots of bloody wounds on his face for most of the last act of the film; Doctor Strange has a bloody cut on the side of his face in one scene, and later we see it as a dried pair of scratches on his face; MJ has a small bloody cut above her eyebrow
Violence: Peter and MJ swing through the streets of New York to evade helicopters, police, and onlookers (much to MJ’s horror); Doc Ock attacks a bridge full of people and starts throwing cars and debris around, while attacking Spider-Man. Spidey then struggles to save a falling car and its passengers in a couple situations, while also trying to defend himself from Doc Ock’s tentacles; A bomb from the Goblin goes off on the bridge; Doctor Strange and Spidey fight through the streets of NY as they try to get an item from each other; A fight in a forest involves two villains and Spider-Man; A man attacks a couple people and then causes cars to explode outside a building. He then throws a bomb into the building, causing another explosion, and hits a person with an object that mortally wounds them. We then see a person die in an emotional sequence; A big fight sequence breaks out at the Statue of Liberty that involves multiple villains; A character punches a man in the face repeatedly and then nearly stabs them to death before being stopped by another person; A character is impaled with a blade (but appears to survive), and other superhero action.