Editor’s Note: This review contains heavy spoilers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Like the character’s namesake, almost everything about “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is spectacular; from developing the lore, the characters and Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, the film does it all.
As someone that grew up collecting and reading comics, nothing was more fantastic to see than the epic final battle that took place in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” And while some of Marvel’s other “Phase 4” projects have been solid, such as “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Disney+’s “Loki”, nothing quite came close to that awestruck feeling I had when watching “Endgame.”
So when “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was revealed, I was extremely excited as actors like Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx were announced to be reprising their roles from older Spider-Man movies. The hype train on this film continued to accelerate all the way to release, as evidenced by the shocking $668.7 million domestic box office earnings thus far. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” delivered on the hype and offered a moviegoing experience I hadn’t felt since “Endgame.”
Let’s start with what helped build the hype: the cameos and role reprisals. Dafoe’s Green Goblin from Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” (2002) is always touted as one of the best on-screen supervillains of all time and somehow Dafoe managed to build on that character in this movie. Dafoe’s acting is by far the best from a comic-book movie in the last year, and his Green Goblin becomes even more menacing in the film, demented smile and all.
Molina’s Doctor Octopus from Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is another fan-favorite villain and, like Dafoe, Molina manages to build on a character he portrayed all those years ago. I won’t completely spoil it, but there’s a moment near the end of the film involving Molina and another actor that will warm the heart of any comic-book fan.
Foxx rounds out the main villainous trio, though his portrayal of Electro in Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), was much less adored by fans, even Foxx himself. However, Foxx had more input on his character this go around and absolutely redeems the character.
There are some other returning villains including Rhys Ifans’ Lizard and Thomas Haden’s Sandman, but neither character does much to stand out. This is one of the main weaknesses of the film as you can tell that Marvel just reused shots of Haden’s Sandman from Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” (2007). And then there’s the case of a certain Marvel-Netflix superhero returning in cameo fashion (something I predicted long ago, no flex intended), which got everyone in the theater amped up.
Of course, you can’t have Raimi’s and Webb’s villains without also including the Spider-Men that made the magic happen. Part of the reason that “No Way Home” had hype surrounding it was the incessant rumors and subsequent denials by studio execs and the actors themselves that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would return to reprise their respective roles as Spider-Man.
Maguire and Garfield are in fact in the film, playing pivotal roles in the movie’s final act. “No Way Home” is at its absolute peak when it features all three Spider-Men on camera, with their dialogue shining bright. There’s a shocking moment midway through the film that Holland’s character has to deal with and Maguire and Garfield excellently portray their emotions as they attempt to console the younger web-slinger.
The inclusion of Maguire and Garfield also subsequently makes their respective Spider-Man movies even better by adding more depth to their characters. Not to mention that theaters went wild when the characters were revealed on-screen one at a time.
One of the other things I enjoyed about this film is the fact that, unlike many other Marvel movies, this is a dark film. There’s no happy ending here and the biggest tragedy in the film comes as a total surprise and pushes Tom Holland’s character into new territories unexplored by the Spider-Men before him. And when “Spider-Man: No Way Home” does commit to jokes, it doesn’t overly rely on in-your-face humor, oftentimes it succeeds by going for a more subtle approach through the dialogue of its biggest stars.
By doing this, and having Holland’s Spider-Man deal with a tragedy, we will finally see one of the bigger complaints about the character addressed in future films. Holland’s Spider-Man has continuously been criticized for not being developed as an individual since so many of his scenes depended on the existence of other characters, primarily Robert Downey Jr. 's Iron Man. But now, as Spider-Man swings through the snowy streets of New York City in the final moments of the film, audiences finally get a sense of individuality that they haven’t gotten from Holland yet, and one that will be sure to get fans back in their seats for the inevitable sequel trilogy.
Despite a hefty runtime, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” doesn’t feel bloated at all. It’s a rollercoaster from start to finish and had a chokehold on my attention all the way through. It’s one of the better comic-book movie adaptations and is absolutely worth your while.