Spider-Man: No Way Home is my favorite film of the year. And, it’s not even close. This film celebrates three generations of Spider-Man, and it succeeds in every way. For the first time, I do not have a single complaint about the film I’m reviewing. It is perfect in almost every way (aside from one VFX shot error): The characters, the plot, the fan service.
At first look, No Way Home seems like a failed attempt at another Endgame, but the truth is, this was never meant to be an Avengers: Endgame-type movie. It isn’t some big celebration of an entire cinematic universe. It’s a celebration of THREE cinematic universes, and only for Spider-Man. It’s smaller in scale than Endgame, but bigger at the same time. It has a lot of moving pieces, and somehow makes them all work for 2 hours, 28 minutes, and 1 second. I’ll go over all aspects of Spider-Man: No Way Home in my SPOILER-FREE review, down below.
My initial expectations going into this film were extremely high, and I’m happy to say that all those expectations were exceeded. I was blown away by some of the cinematography choices, and by the locations. The Statue of Liberty was the PERFECT place for the final battle, as the Statue represents everything that the Sinister (Five?) were trying to tear down. Michael Giacchino’s score was one of the best I’ve ever heard from an action film, and I was so happy hearing the villains’ themes by Danny Elfman and James Horner.
The cinematography choices in this film were astounding, in a way that Marvel hasn’t done before. Some of the shot and lighting choices are quite unique and visually spectacular. One shot comes to mind, where Peter is swinging along power lines (shown in the trailer briefly), and they do a shot on him vertically, at sunset. The shot is just so pretty, I fell in love with the cinematography at that point forward.
I can’t delve too deep into the details of the score, but it’s placed so well with the film, and every character gets their own special theme. Michael Giacchino’s gonna have to put together at least 3 albums to fit all his soundtrack. Green Goblin’s theme is quite something, and [REDACTED]’s theme…..well, it’s redacted for a reason. Giacchino balances woodwinds with strings perfectly. I used to play bass in a middle school orchestra, so I know how important balancing all these instruments is. Some of the best composers mess up sometimes, and so does Giacchino, but not in this film. In this film, it’s perfection all the way through.
My favorite overall character, and this is one which I would not have said for Homecoming and Far From Home, was Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. Not Spider-Man. At this point, you’re probably confused. How can Spider-Man be different from Peter when they’re the same person? Tom Holland may play both, but Peter Parker is inherently a different character than Spider-Man. Spider-Man would’ve let the villains die. No matter the consequences, Peter would try to help cure the villains.
In all 3 live action versions of Peter, there has been one common denominator: Peter Parker cares. In the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films, we were able to see that side of the character, as those films were definitively SOLO films. We weren’t able to say that for Homecoming and Far From Home, in the former we had Tony Stark/Iron Man, and in the latter Nick Fury (and Mysterio, in a way). While this film features Doctor Strange, it is definitively a Spider-Man film, from start to end. We see a human side of Peter, more vulnerable than he has been in his past two films combined. Fans will fall in love with this character all over again.
Another standout of this film (but will come as less of a surprise), Zendaya’s MJ. Her charisma and charm make for an even better portrayal of MJ than before, and when she shares scenes with Tom Holland, both of their energy feeds into one another, and elevates both their performances. Jacob Batalon’s performance as Ned was also one for the ages. Benedict Cumberbatch, for the main part of the film, just seemed like an annoyed man tired of dealing with Peter’s antics.
Villains & Others
The acting levels of the villains in this film were much better than their past appearances, the only exception being Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock was a GIANT step up from Spider-Man 2, as were Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman, Rhys Ifans’ Lizard, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Other characters that had previously appeared in Marvel projects were also quite good in their roles. And of course, I’ll never get tired of JB Smoove’s Mr. Dell and Martin Starr’s Mr. Harrington, they crack me up every time.
What to say about the script? It’s wonderful. Just wonderful. The script includes so many callbacks to the previous Spider-Man franchises. Like I said, it is a celebration of three generations of Spider-Man, from Tobey Maguire, to Andrew Garfield, to now Tom Holland. I can’t go too deep into detail without spoiling the film, but there are so many fun easter eggs planted throughout the script, which reference other universes, other planets, and other characters/locations/items/events in the MCU itself.
My favorite personal line, though? “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” I teared up when I heard it, and I am so happy that Marvel Studios added it. It wasn’t from Uncle Ben, like in the two previous franchises, but it had the same weight when said, possibly more. The moment when it was said, the circumstances around the quote, everything in the scene felt like it had been building up to that one line, and the question was, would it deliver, and hit home in the same way that Uncle Ben’s line did in the two previous films? The answer: yes.
Just a preview to upcoming awards season, I’ve had multiple people ask me this: Does Spider-Man: No Way Home stand a chance at any Oscars? At first thought, no. No way in hell. It’s a superhero movie, it doesn’t stand a chance. Then I remember the Best Visual Effects category. It has a damn good chance there. Oh right, Best Cinematography. Maybe best Adapted Screenplay as well? Possibly even a nomination for Best Leading Actor & Best Leading Actress?
I also remember that Black Panther was nominated for 11 or so Oscars, and won a bunch of them. I remember that The Academy of Motion Pictures has become much more open-minded recently. Maybe not all the way there, but quite a bit. Maybe No Way Home has a shot at Best Picture? So, at first thought, no, it doesn’t have a chance. Who would pick a superhero film to win Best Picture? But as you think more, you realize that yes, No Way Home does stand a chance, and it has quite good odds.
No Way Home is a fantastic film, that shows just how truly great the MCU can be. It’s by far the best Spider-Man film, with its cinematography, score, acting, and fan service. This is a film that I would see time and time again, truly mesmerizing and heartbreaking. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it as soon as you can, this is not a film you want spoiled for you. It’s a celebration of Spider-Man, and I doubt there is a single viewer who will say it isn’t. Spider-Man: No Way Home swings into theaters on December 17, 2021.