‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is a feat of nostalgia

Marvel’s latest film smoothly interweaves the past and the present together

Marvel’s latest film smoothly interweaves the past and the present together. Photo | Marvel Studios

Marvel Entertainment’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the third Spider-Man movie starring Tom Holland. Directed by Jon Watts, the film was released in theaters on Dec. 17 and immediately shattered box office records, securing the best domestic pandemic opening with $260 million at theaters. The film trailed behind Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1 million), also giving it the title of second best domestic opening of all time.

The film extends the storyline from the preceding movie, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” where it showcases the chaos after Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals Spider-Man’s true identity as Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The footage, paired with a doctored voice recording, frames Spider-Man for Mysterio’s accidental death, creating tremendous public animosity towards the now-identified superhero and his friends and family. 

In an attempt to revert the damage, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) agrees to cast a spell that makes everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. While casting it, however, Doctor Strange loses control of the spell and is forced to contain it, only for it to backfire and drag in those who know Spider-Man’s identity from every universe.

Supervillains Electro, Sandman and The Lizard prepare for battle at the Statue of Liberty. Photo | Marvel Studios

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a picture of nostalgia for those who have been following the superhero since the first Marvel movie starring Spider-Man in 2002 starring Tobey Maguire. The film features villains from each multiverse — a collection of coexisting universes with separate timelines — even those who died in their respective storylines, such as Doctor Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina) and Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). Played by the same actors as much as two decades later, the presence of these villains is simultaneously a reunion and a crossover.

The film’s references and parallels to past Spider-Man movies through the repetition of iconic phrases and scenes — such as Parker’s hands-on fight with the Green Goblin — add to the wave of nostalgia that washes over the entire film. 

Video | Marvel Studios

Watts exhibits an impressive integration of past villains while keeping a similar dynamic present from previous movies. He takes classic supervillains and depicts them in this iteration of Holland’s Spider-Man while maintaining the charm signature to Parker and his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). The blend of comedy and serious moments is well-executed — from the banter between villains and heroes to Osborn (Green Goblin) pocketing donuts in the background. These moments improve the structure of the film, seamlessly integrating the different universes and time periods. 

The action cinematography follows the traditional Marvel film — spectacular, but not too flashy, a perfect combination that lets the audience immerse themselves into the scene. The CGI cogently showcases the villains’ powers, an improvement from previous movies that gives the audience a more riveting cinematic experience. The advanced film technology compared to older Spider-Man movies also allows for more extravagant shots that captures the essence of each recurring character without changing the core of their abilities.

For those who haven’t wandered the previous multiverses, however, the cameos are underwhelming. The film presumes that the audience is familiar with the numerous recurring villains, as some are introduced even without a name or have their backstories briefly summarized within a sentence of dialogue. Additionally, the storyline distribution between the villains was uneven, some a mere side note while the emphasis between the others constantly shifted, leaving little content for the audience to truly feel connected to. 

Another major drawback is that the initial spell that brought in villains from the multiverse had arbitrary parameters that added a confusing layer to the film, creating unexplainable plot holes as to who could be brought in through the breach. Other muddled details also challenge the degree that Marvel was able to achieve such an ambitious idea.

Marvel covers relatively new ground in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” with the breach of the multiverse, but still maintains the lighthearted exchanges and spectacular fight scenes signature to a Spider-Man film. Although numerous characters from the multiverse create discrepant holes in the storyline, the plot’s novelty outweighs its execution. The introduction of a multiverse crossover opens up new possibilities for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spider-Man franchise to further explore, leaving Marvel fans excited for what the studio has in store for them next. 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars