Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home is fanfare that goes nowhere

Doc Ock, Green Goblin and more return in a sequel that rewards franchise fealty


SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME  (Jon Watts). 148 minutes. Opens Friday, December 17 in theatres everywhere. Rating: NN


You know in WrestleMania when the matches keep pausing so some starry personality – whether it’s John Cena or the Ultimate Warrior – can unexpectedly run (or dance or skip or hop) out from the wings? That’s what Spider-Man: No Way Home feels like.

The latest laboured movie in Tom Holland’s up-to-this-point winning iteration of the web-slinger is all about webbing characters through multiverse magic from previous iterations of the franchise to deliver fleeting dopamine hits. Familiar faces – some who I thought we agreed we were tired of – make surprise appearances to fanfare that commands excitement and rewards fealty.

You know Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro are back because they’re featured in the trailer. Critics were repeatedly instructed not to spoil the remaining multiverse guests, probably because the movie doesn’t have much else to offer. Like those wrestlers who would work up the crowd by flaunting their own presence, No Way Home is satisfied with itself for just daring to resurrect dated contracts and negotiate new terms to bring all these old players into the MCU ring.

The whole multiverse thing with its alternative dimensions and timelines – which were so brilliantly and joyously plundered in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – is becoming the Marvel Studios strategy to reset and renew our subscriptions to the brand. So we can expect a whole lot more like this to come, which is too bad because I was genuinely enjoying the Spidey movies.

As Peter Parker and MJ, Tom Holland and Zendaya bring such fresh energy and charisma to familiar roles. They pick up exactly where they left off in the previous instalment, Far From Home, swinging through the Manhattan skyline just as J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, serving as the first of many retconned franchise players) reveals Spider-Man’s secret identity and begins an alt-right-like campaign painting the friendly neighbourhood hero as a public enemy.

No Way Home’s best moments are in the early goings, as Holland’s Peter and Zendaya’s MJ try to steal some away some alone time and seek normalcy while the whole world is watching. Considering their own celebrity wattage, this is obviously a performance these actors can easily shrink into. To rectify matters, Parker seeks out his mystical Avengers buddy Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). The latter conjures a spell to make people forget that Parker is Spidey. The spell backfires and cracks open the multiverse.

What follows beyond the typical dimly lit and incoherent action sequences are admittedly cute and vacuous little sketches where Holland, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned get to interact with an older generation of actors that have meddled with these superhero tights before. The actors make it agreeable if not memorable. But the movie struggles to figure out what to do with them beyond dropping in recognizable lines and references to make fans nod in recognition, as if looking backwards is somehow going to move this story forward.

There is a heavy serving of force-fed emotional weight when Peter decides to help the tourist villains with their cognitive or emotional issues. But that very quaint approach doesn’t muster up any commitment or feeling. Spider-Man doesn’t exactly have the time to talk through people’s problems and develop empathetic connections in this over-crowded two-and-a-half-hour circus. Instead, his solution is programming some Tony Stark technology to produce instant bad guy cures in gas, elixir and microchip form. Gratification at the push of a button is the best we could expect from the shiny new brand, really.

Dimension-hopping bad guy assemblage, heavy doses of nostalgia and ugly CGI grandeur is nothing new in the MCU. But it’s light years detached from what makes the best Spider-Man movies so affectionately fun. They’re not about the fanfare. They’re about a charmingly humble superhero carrying a backpack.

@justsayrad

Brand Voices

14 responses to “Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home is fanfare that goes nowhere”

  1. You don’t know shit and are not a super hero fan. Stay away from them next time and I bet you’re a buzzkill at parties

  2. Hey Radheyan, this review will one day be looked back upon as similar to the ones that suggested Back To The Future was not a good film….WAY off the mark, hence the 97% of your colleagues who disagree with you. But you are young so take comfort in knowing you still have time to turn things around 🙂

    MAX

  3. You compare J. Jonah Jameson to the alt-right, but it’s the extreme left that likes to dox people. The rest of your review may have had substance but your infusion of politics into the conversation made it a non-starter. Go review West Side Story or something like that. The Summer or, in this case, Christmas blockbuster isn’t made for your special kind of deconstruction.

  4. “Force-fed emotional weight” is the statement of an individual who chose not to pay attention during Homecoming, Infinity War, Endgame and Far From Home.

    You had PLENTY of time to know this Peter inside and out, with numerous character beats, and now we are seeing a conclusion piece act as, well, a conclusion piece. I shouldn’t have to define what a conclusion piece is, but it seems you need help in that regard. You see, a conclusion piece rides on what was previously established and developed, and then uses that motivation to explore new adventures and ya know what I’m just gonna stop there because your intelligence doesn’t deserve the attention I’m giving you.

  5. Are you kidding me? So once again, Spider-boy has to rely on Stark tech to save the day? No need to watch this now – this Iron Man Jr. crap ruined the essence of Spider-Man for me already. This just seals the deal.

  6. since far from home was nothing but crap i will wait to read the reviews and i mean all of them i mainly think tom Holland is a crappy spider man with an iron man suit and who rarely has spidey sense i will wait and might see it when the dvd comes out lets hope the hype is worth it not like it ever is for most movies

  7. I stopped right at a headline. Fanfare couldn’t possibly “go anywhere”, it can call to something, announce something but as a musical instrument it’s lacking legs. The rest of the review is a mash of a wokenisms and a middle school level essays.

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