Spider-Man: No Way Home (Review): My Favourite Film of 2021

For those who’ve been critical of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man tenure thus far, I believe you’re in for a treat. Read on for my thoughts about No Way Home

Oh boy, did this movie worry me! Everything about it seemed destined for failure: Sony and Marvel repeating mistakes which took down TWO previous Spider-Man franchises, the seeming adaptation of Spider-Man’s worst ever story (“One More Day”) and a level of hype within the fanbase that could almost assuredly never be met… I was wrong.

No Way Home is the Avengers: Endgame of Spider-Man movies in that it might not be the BEST Spidey movie I’ve ever seen, but damned if it’s not one of the most satisfying.

WARNING: I’ll be discussing stuff shown in the trailers. So if you want to stay 100% spoiler free click off now. Sorry to see you go…

Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up after the events of Far From Home: Peter Parker’s identity is public knowledge, and said public believes he’s a murderer. Peter may be able to handle the hurdles which arise, but his friends and family see their lives ruined as well. In a desperate attempt to make life easier for his loved ones, Peter contacts Doctor Strange to form a spell: make the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But said spell goes wrong and yadda yadda yadda– villains from across the multiverse show up to plague Peter’s life further.

“You know who THIS is right?”– The marketing team (probably)

People have been theorizing about this film for years. I tend to keep current on all movie news, so most of these theories were top of mind when I entered the theatre. Somehow No Way Home still managed to surprise me! So, if you’re one of those treasured people who haven’t bought into the rumor mill– good on you! I hope you enjoy this film all the more. Your expectations are sure to be lower than many people’s (mine included).

One of the biggest points of conjecture (and this is one last warning to those who haven’t seen the trailers) are the returning villains from previous Spider-Man films, including Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman, The Lizard, and Electro– all played by their original actors. The smart thing about this movie is that, if you’ve somehow never seen the old Spider-Man films, you ought not to be too lost. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has never faced these guys before either, so he’s just as confused as any newcomer would be. And I believe their personalities are handled well enough to understand their shticks. That said: the plot hits harder if you’re aware of these villains’ stories already (from the old movies). The exposition may be good but it can only bear so much burden for the plot.

I’m also pleased to report that No Way Home doesn’t screw up the legacy for any of these returning villains. It actually enhances their stories (some more than others)! I was worried Marvel may cash in on my childhood nostalgia then turn the characters into MCU-ified versions of the bad guys I grew up with. They were definitely a tad more humorous but still maintained their three dimensional personalities. And in doing so they became some of the MCU’s best villains, as well as iconic comic book baddies from years past.

Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro were the clear standouts. Both brought gravitas to their parts and came with compelling motivations. Electro in particular managed a redemption from his oft-derided appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He might even be better remembered for this film in the long run! And Dafoe hasn’t lost that manic energy which turned his Goblin into an all-time great cinema villain. He brings a gleeful insanity and genuine sense of danger to the film (which the MCU often lacks). Importantly they (and the others) have solid dynamics with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker!

Electro receives an upgraded look!

Branching off the villain talk, I wanna discuss some of the action. There are multiple fantastic sequences in this movie! I appreciate how Spidey is forced to switch up his fighting styles throughout the film depending on whom he’s facing. That kept each sequence fresh and kept tension high. A notable hand-to-hand sequence may be one of the MCU’s finest moments.

And how was the plot? No Way Home is one of the most original superhero films I’ve ever seen. They went in a refreshing direction. It seems novel that NWH’s biggest conflict is about the consequences of morality. It’s not a basic “villains are trying to destroy the world, so they obviously must be stopped” story. NWH goes deeper than that. It questions the moral high ground of those who’d trade certain lives to save others, and WHY merely stopping bad people doesn’t make for a good hero. If anything: it’s partially a critique on other MCU heroes up to this point, and a celebration of why Spider-Man is one of the most popular fictional characters of all time.

All this said– the film doesn’t lose the “Home” trilogy’s charm or humor. There’s plenty of laughs and heart to be found alongside the more serious philosophies. NWH maintained a good tonal balance though. I haven’t liked every Marvel movie this year but I see they’re learning from many years of criticism. The MCU used to undercut good drama with humour to an annoying degree. No Way Home is still guilty of this at times, but they let the most dramatic moments breathe.

NWH has a HUGE cast! I’m amazed Director Jon Watts balanced them so well. That said– don’t expect many of Tom Holland’s supporting cast (like Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, or Peter’s teacher Mr Dell) to have big roles. They were glorified cameos. Maybe that’ll disappoint some people but, as much as I enjoyed the MCU’s fleshed out high school world, NWH has too much on its plate to worry about those characters.

Doctor Strange casting a spell which totally won’t go wrong at all…

Ned (Jacob Batalon) features quite a bit, though doesn’t receive a meaningful arc. He’s the comic relief, as he’s always been– still happy to be Spider-Man’s “guy in the chair”. Once again– that’s OK considering what this film did with its main characters.

Maybe you’re wondering how Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was? Steven (or “Sir”, as Spider-Man) may have easily been an overpowering presence. Afterall, he’s another Avenger. And it’s not like the MCU Spider-Man is a stranger to mentor-figures butting in on his plots. Thankfully Strange was used the perfect amount. His presence was integral to the story yet he didn’t overstay his welcome.

Now for the big two: MJ and Spidey himself… Zendaya’s MJ features a tonne of character growth in NWH. After years of defensive sarcasm, she expresses a healthy amount of vulnerability. Her relationship with Peter has helped her growth as a person (and the reverse is true as well). MJ also proves her independence in multiple sequences where she logically questions Spider-man’s choices and does what she believes to be right. In short: she feels more like an adult now, and less like a moody teenager. Zendaya’s performance is incredible! She’s only grown on me with each movie. And her chemistry with Tom Holland is amazing.

Zendaya looks proud of herself for a job well done

Tom Holland has been my favourite all-around Spidey since Far From Home and he continues to improve with each outing. Holland’s performance in No Way Home blew me away! He’s one of few actors who always makes me empathize with his characters.

What’s more is that Peter Parker is finally the driving force in his own movie! His decisions and mistakes are his own, and he must face the consequences without being bailed out. In short: there’s a LOT more “Spider-man” moments than I’ve ever seen from him. And it just felt right. It’s hard to describe the feeling– but something about Holland’s tenure finally clicked into place here.

In many ways, this feels like the origin story Holland’s Spidey never received. THAT’S how much like Spider-Man I felt he became. He’s no longer “Iron Boy Junior”, as some fans have mocked in the past. Peter Parker has matured and at long last come into his own. And who is that person? Utterly selfless, no matter the cost; a man driven by love, though he may be surrounded by pain; and believes in life, even when life means chaos.

His story comes to a head in a fantastic third act sequence! Usually this is where I start to tune out of these movies but this time I was riveted. The conflict was built up so well and the stakes so high, I became emotionally invested in the conclusion. And, gee was it satisfying!

I loved the film, though I had a few nitpicks… For one: the first act was relatively weak. There was a tonne of exposition, the plot felt rushed (to wrap up events from the last film), and they seemed to be cramming a LOT into the film. The first act appeared to be the film I feared No Way Home was going to be… But the web of plot takes a good shape about half an hour in, and trapped my investment like a fly.

An unnecessary suit… But I’m sure it’ll sell toys!

This is more of a complaint for all the MCU Spider-Man films, but I still dislike how his suits look on camera… I know for a fact there’s a real costume which Tom Holland wears. Yet he always looks like bad CGI to me. Sometimes it probably IS just bad CGI, though that doesn’t excuse the rest of the time it looks fake.

And, speaking of suits, it remains annoying how often Spider-Man changes outfits for toy sales. Peter Parker goes through about 5 suits in this film alone! Some of these suits I like more than others (and there’s a few cool easter eggs with them) but the MCU needs to cool it. Stop coming up with BS reasons to change Spidey’s look and freaking stick with a style!

No Way Home isn’t perfect, yet somehow meets its lofty expectations and then some. It’s easily one of my favourite movies of the year, and one of the best live-action superhero flicks ever made! We get a lot of these things nowadays but this was something special to me.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a film you need to Watch ASAP.

Do you enjoy Marvel cracking open the multiverse, or are things getting too complicated now? What did you think of Spider-Man: No Way Home? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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