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Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

Review: written Jan 2022

The popcorn chewing Marvel movie we needed

Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

In the previous Spider-Man movies set in The Avengers universe, it always seemed to me Tom Holland’s character was trying a bit too hard, and his youthfulness, a key Spider-Man characteristic, meant the implied innocence deprived the storyline from reaching its full dramatic potential. With Spider-Man No Way Home, it seems that the character has really come of age, and stepped out from the shadow of The Avengers. This outing felt more mature, both in execution of the story, and the character of Peter Parker himself.

Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

It’s best to come to the story knowing as little as possible, but what it’s safe to know about the story, is that we pick up exactly where the last movie left off, and Peter Parker’s identity as the Spider-Man has been ‘outed’ worldwide. The effect this has on his life and relationships leads him to contact Dr Strange to cast a spell which would help him ‘get his life back to normal’, but of course all does not go according to plan. In fact, the spell ends up unlocking the multiverse, with characters from other universes popping up in this one to dangerous effect.

Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

I’ll be honest and say I was skeptical – the multiverse seems like an unnecessarily complex idea to execute well, and made me think that effects and spectacle would overwhelm smaller dramatic moments and more compelling character arcs. For the most part though, I was wrong. Tom Holland’s performance is spot on, and the story is a character driven one, albeit with multiple cameos and villains from Spider-Mans past. It’s a genuine ‘glad-to-be-back-in-the-cinema’ moment when those cameos start to show up, and the moment of having to save the world in an orgy of special effects denouement that we have come to expect (and dread?) from Marvel movies is converted into a more thrilling and maybe even emotional ending than you might expect. Holland and Zendaya have some genuinely believable chemistry, and even the villains benefit from some performances adding a modicum of depth to what could have been all surface. It’s a testament that the movie mixes a lot of popcorn chewing fun and thrills, mixed with some genuine threat to make the drama work.

For me it’s a step up in performance for the titular webslinger, and a much needed Marvel success after the oddly turgid Eternals. It’s not perfect.. it’s too long, and the effects can still be very “effects-y”.. the physics of a man swinging through streets on webs has never quite looked natural in live action movies, and although an improvement here, it’s not a problem they’ve fixed yet. It’s also clearly revved up for the fans, and if you are not familiar with previous movies you won’t get your buttons pressed in the same way as the Spider-Man acolytes.

Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

That said, this has partly restored my faith in Superhero movies in general, and moved me on the scale of interest from not caring if I see any more, to probably going to see the next one. As such, it’s a considerable achievement, even if it’s not perfect.

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