WARNING: Contains spoilers (but nothing we didn’t really know already)
As I said in my review of Eternals, what more could the MCU offer or do to top the end of Phase Three? Well, in the highly anticipated and much-talked about Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marvel Studios outdoes itself again. The third film revolving around this universe’s Peter Parker has stirred up just as much – if not even more – excitement and speculation than Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame did, maybe even more than the two of them combined.
No Way Home follows on directly from the twist revealed at the end of Far From Home when Mysterio warped reality to tell the world that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and framed him for his death. This turns the friendly neighbourhood vigilante turned world-saving superhero into a wanted criminal. People are divided in their opinion of him, but most want him caught and punished – although many are literally within touching distance of him and do nothing. The news is having a knock on effect for MJ, Ned, Aunt May and Happy, who are also hounded and it prevents the three friends from being accepted into MIT. So, in a flash of dumb inspiration, Parker asks Doctor Strange for help.
With the Time Stone no longer in his possession Strange can’t do what Peter wants him to do – turn back time. But in what is also a flash of dumb inspiration, he thinks about using a spell to make people forget about it all. Wong, now the Sorcerer Supreme, advises against it but basically lets it happen anyway… okay… Cue the ensuing chaos when the spell goes awry thanks to Spider-Man interrupting several times, but said chaos is not realised until after Doctor Strange thinks he has managed to contain it.
As we know, several villains from other parallel universes start arriving, not knowing where they are but believing they are still fighting Peter Parker/Spider-Man in their own universe. The five who appear are Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), Norman Oscorp, a.k.a. Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) from the original trilogy that starred Tobey Maguire. Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx), and Lizard/Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) from the two The Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield also appear.
In yet another flash of dumb inspiration after speaking and sympathising with Osborn, Parker thinks he can help the villains before sending them back to their respective universes and they are torn between wanting that help or cure so they don’t die when they return and simply distrusting him. Strange, however, is of course against this idea and wants to send them back straight away to face their fate. Oh, what a tangled web of spells they’ve woven! Whose idea prevails? Well, I think the answer is obvious. It may go awry again, but it further proves the humanity of Peter Parker. Despite still clearly being very naive and despite the villains he has faced before making it quite clear you should think twice about helping or trusting others since he only just met them, at least his heart is still in the right place as he believes it’s the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, MJ and Ned find two surprises while searching and waiting for Peter to turn up safely. Ned has somehow managed to create magical portals after he confides in his friends that he sometimes has tingling feelings in his fingers and that subplot is surely one that will be further explored in the future of MCU.
No Way Home continues to extend the concept of the multiverse that was introduced in Loki while marrying and paying homage to or referencing the previous film versions of Spider-Man, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. If any “this or that” superhero rivalry could contend with the age old DC vs. Marvel debate it’s the “which Spider-Man is your favourite?” – far more so than “which Avenger is the strongest?” This film may not quash the heavily contested question and continue to fan the flames of fierce fandom but it will almost certainly satisfy fans of all three film series.
With about triple the amount of action we’ve already seen so far across this universe’s first two Spider-Man films, about as much conflicting brain power in the form of all the doctors, scientists and intelligent, nerdy teenagers as brawn power, a lot of geeky jokes and comical one-liners, and a fair few emotional shocks and surprises, No Way Home quite easily spins and shoots its way near the top in terms of Marvel film rankings. And it definitely makes it to the top of the list of all the live-action Spider-Man films. Spider-Man also continues to make me sure of why he is one of my all-time favourite superheroes.
While the so-called “Sinister Six” (the top six villains Spider-Man faces in the comics who form a group – Octavius, Vulture, Electro, Mysterio, Sandman and Kraven the Hunter) didn’t actually appear in the film as fan theories had hoped due to knowing there would be at least five in it, this is not to say other villains he comes across won’t pop up in at least one of three more films Tom Holland has recently signed up for. Vulture could have reappeared as he was only jailed in Homecoming (but wouldn’t have fit in with the multiverse idea they were going for) and Kraven makes a cameo appearance in the end credits of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (but a third film was sadly cancelled), so could have originally been a potential villain in No Way Home.
That aside, Spider-Man: No Way Home proves Marvel’s ability to continue to show why there is no way they can be beaten on plot twists and turns that not only affect one film but potentially affect several down the line. For example, we can expect the consequences of Strange messing with the multiverse to be potentially next level dangerous in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness film. What will Wong say about it? How will Wanda be involved in it and will she be the key to fixing it or making it worse? Although several scenes and subplots open up questions and plant Easter eggs that will be answered and explored in future films and possibly TV shows, at least some of the characters from the first two Spider-Man film series are given some closure as they come full circle. No Way Home exhilarates and emotes in ways that only Marvel know how when it comes to action films.