Based on the comic series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man: No Way Home revolves around the titular character/Peter Parker who deals with the events following some incidents in Europe as his identity had been exposed where he turns to Doctor Steven Strange for help where they had unknowingly opened the multi-verse where other villains from other universes go after Parker. Directed by Jon Watts and screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the film is an exploration of a young man who had become a pariah following a series of lies where he hopes to keep his real identity a secret only to open a multi-verse where other villains who battled different versions of Spider-Man are going after with Tom Holland reprising his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Steven Strange. Also starring Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Benedict Wong, J.K. Simmons, J.B. Smoove, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Hannibal Burress, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, and Willem Dafoe. Spider-Man: No Way Home is an enthralling and heart-wrenching film from Jon Watts.
The film picks up where its predecessor left off where Peter Parker’s identity as Spider-Man has been unveiled leading to him to trouble where he turns to Doctor Strange for help only for the spell be botched by Parker leading to the opening of the multi-verse where other villains from other universes try to kill Parker. It is a film about this young man who is just trying to finish his senior year in high school and go to MIT but his friends are affected by their chances as they too know about Parker’s identity as does his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Parker feels responsible as he wants to be a normal person where he asks Doctor Strange in casting a spell that would allow the world to forget that he’s Spider-Man yet there’s people he cares about that still wants him to know that he’s Spider-Man. The film’s screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers is ambitious in terms of not just the idea of the multiverse and the many foes that Parker has to deal with but also in themes of responsibility and redemption.
Past films about Spider-Man did involve multiple villains in different iterations where they often become bloated and messy but McKenna and Sommers manage to find a structure but know when not to do too much. The first act is about Parker dealing with his identity being known as he is seen by many as a murderer with the Daily Bugle leading the charge as its reporter J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) instigating the matter which makes Parker’s life worse but also affect the chances of his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and their friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) to go to MIT. He goes to Doctor Strange who is dealing with issues at his home as well as the fact that he’s no longer the Sorcerer Supreme due to being blipped as Wong (Benedict Wong) is now filling that role. The second act is about Doctor Strange’s botched spell and what got unleashed in these villains that all want to kill Parker but they all realize that he’s not the Parker they’re going after. Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Dr. Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Curt Connors/the Lizard (Rhys Ifans), Flint Marko/the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) all have issues as Doctor Strange manages to traps them in the hope of sending them back to their universes but Parker realizes that they’re fated to die as he hopes he can help them as the script manages to show that these men weren’t villains from the start but rather men who made mistakes or were slighted in some way.
It does play into the theme of redemption as it relates to a scene where Osborn in his lost state meets with May knowing that he is mentally-unbalanced as it allows Parker this idea of wanting to help him with Ned and MJ’s help though Doctor Strange does have valid concerns for not wanting to. Parker’s actions in trying to help is what leads to this third act as it doesn’t just play into the theme of responsibility but also how to overcome guilt as it does lead into more ideas of a multiverse and how those from other universes would help Parker.
Jon Watts’ direction is definitely grand in scope and in setting up the multiverse but it is also grounded in this human story of a kid that is a superhero but is aware of what he can do but also knowing that he can do more. While it is shot mainly in Atlanta at the Pinewood Studios in Duluth, GA as Queens and parts of New York City with some additional shots in the New York City area. Watts does manage to make the city a character in the film from the opening scene in Times Square where Parker’s identity as Spider-Man is revealed where he and MJ run from the authorities as it has some amazing scenes of Spider-Man and MJ swinging to avoid the news and such as the usage of close-ups and hand-held cameras add to that chaos. Watts would also keep things grounded for some of the humorous and dramatic scenes with close-ups and medium shots such as Happy, May, MJ, Ned, and Parker all being interrogated by the FBI as May and Parker would lose their home and move in at Happy’s apartment with the AI mini-crane that Tony Stark created. There are bits of humor that Watts put in as it play into the interactions between characters but also in how it plays into some of the absurdity of the multiverse.
There are also some wide shots to play into some of the fights such as Parker’s first interaction with Dillon where Parker unexpectedly gets help from Marko of all people as it really showcases a lot of the complexities into the people Parker is dealing with. Especially as Dr. Octavius, Osborn, Dillon, Dr. Connors, and Marko are all different villains who do have issues with Spider-Man in their respective universes but they also learn about their own fates as it definitely adds a lot of dramatic weight. The sequence of Strange and Parker fighting over an object that Strange created to send the villains back to their respective universes is among one of the most surreal as it play into Strange’s pessimism against Parker’s own belief about second chances for these men as his experiment would show that even people who lost their way can be redeemed.
Yet, this idea would be challenged once again for its third act where Watts showcase not just some intensely dark moments that Parker has to face but also the outcome and how it affects those around him. Even as there are those who feel that they either couldn’t be redeemed or are eager to want something more rather than go back to who they used to be. It would play into the film’s climax where Watts does create this grand moment that has a lot of callbacks to the other Spider-Man films but also an aftermath that is about responsibility and what Parker had to do for himself and for those he cares for. Overall, Watts crafts a rapturous yet emotionally-investing film about a young man trying to reclaim his identity as well as take action for his own mistakes and help those who had been lost in their own rage.
Cinematographer Mauro Fiore does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of vibrant colors for a few scenes at night including the usage of red and blue lights help broaden a mood for those exterior scenes at night along with the natural approach to scenes in the day. Editors Leigh Folsom Boyd and Jeffrey Ford do excellent work with the editing as it is stylish with its usage of jump-cuts, fast-cuts, and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action as well as some straightforward cuts for some of the dramatic moments. Production designer Darren Gilford, with supervising art director David Scott plus set decorators Rosemary Brandenburg and Emmanuelle Hoessly, does amazing work with the look of the Sanctum Sanctorum and its basement as well as the look of Happy’s apartment and the design of the Statue of Liberty for the film’s climax. Costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays does fantastic work with the costumes in the different designs of the Spider-Man suits including the Iron-Spider suit with its nanotech as well as some the casual clothing from the other characters including some of May’s stylish clothing.
Special effects supervisor Daniel Sudick, along with visual effects supervisors Kelly Port and Chris Waegner, do wonderful work with the visual effects in the design of Octavius’ claws, some of Electro’s powers, the look of the Lizard, and other visual effects as it does have an air of realism and a lot of detail into the villains but also in the overall presentation during the film’s climax. Sound designers Chris Diebold, Tony Lamberti, and Ken McGill, with sound editor Steve Ticknor, do superb work in the sound as it play into some of the sound effects in Spider-Man’s web shooters as well as some of the weapons the villains have as well as other objects in the film. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is incredible as it is a major highlight of the film with its bombastic orchestral score but also some soaring themes involving strings that include some of its quieter moments while music supervisor Dave Jordan creates a soundtrack that features themes from other Spider-Man films by Hans Zimmer, James Horner, and Danny Elfman as well as music from Talking Heads, De La Soul, Odyssey, Liquid Liquid, the Beastie Boys, and Antonio Vivaldi.
The casting by Sarah Finn and Chris Zaragoza is marvelous as it features notable small roles from Angourie Rice as classmate/school reporter Betty Brant, Hannibal Burress as the gym teacher who is convinced that Parker is a murderer, J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr in their respective roles as Parker’s teachers Julius Dell and Roger Harrington who side with him, Paula Newsome as a MIT administrator Parker is trying to meet for Ned and MJ, Arian Moayed as a government official who interrogates Parker and his friends/associates, Mary Rivera as Ned’s Lola who has a hilarious interaction with a couple of characters in a key scene, Tony Revolori as classmate Flash Thompson who tries to use Parker to sell a book as a way to suck up to Parker while sporting a hilarious new look, and Benedict Wong as Wong who warns Strange about the spell he is to cast as he is trying to clean-up the Sanctum Sanctorium and do his duties as the Sorcerer Supreme. Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church are terrific in their respective roles as Dr. Curt Connors/the Lizard and Flint Marko/the Sandman as two villains who aren’t sure about Parker’s plans with Dr. Connors being unwilling to be cured and Marko unsure if he can be redeemed.
J.K. Simmons is fantastic as J. Jonah Jameson as the host of the controversial news organization The Daily Bugle who is convinced that Spider-Man is a villain as he spreads a lot of fake news and is willing to incriminate Spider-Man any way he can. Jon Favreau is excellent as Happy Hogan as the head of security for Starks Industries who helps out Parker and May while letting him live at his apartment as he is in love with May. Marisa Tomei is amazing as Parker’s aunt May as she is someone who is aware of what is going on as well as what Parker is trying to do knowing that these men aren’t bad while giving her nephew some important lessons on responsibility knowing that he is just trying to redeem himself. Jamie Foxx is brilliant as Max Dillon/Electro as a former Oscorp engineer who is given electric powers where his arrival gives him a more normal look as he has his own issues while is intrigued by the idea of having more power to use. Jacob Batalon is incredible as Ned Leeds as Parker’s best friend who is trying to help him in figuring things out as well as being one of the few who knew about Parker’s identity.
Zendaya is remarkable as MJ who is Parker’s girlfriend who is one of the few that knows his identity as she is also aware of what he’s doing while also making some funny comments including some towards Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Doctor Steve Strange as a master of the mystic arts who agrees to help Parker while dealing with the severity of the spell he created as he is also unconvinced that the villains in the universe can change. Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe are phenomenal in their respective roles as Doctor Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus and Dr. Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin as two villains who both have issues with Spider-Man as the former is someone who is the first to realize something is up while is unconvinced that he can be cured while the latter is more convinced despite his bipolar personality where he acts evil as both Molina and Dafoe bring a lot more nuances to their characters as well as showcase why they were among the best villains in the Spider-Man film series.
Finally, there’s Tom Holland in a spectacular performance in the titular role/Peter Parker as the young superhero who deals with the consequences of his actions as he tries to fix them only to make things worse while wanting to do what he can to help everyone. Holland adds this maturity to a character that is in transition from being a young man to becoming an adult as he deals with his actions but also what he has to do to be a hero as it is his best performance as the famed web-slinger.
Spider-Man: Now Way Home is a sensational film from Jon Watts that features a tremendous leading performance from Tom Holland. Along with an ensemble cast for the ages, dazzling visuals, a mesmerizing music score, themes on responsibility and redemption, and action set pieces including an unforgettable climax that manages to do so much more in its grand scale. The film isn’t just one of the best entries in the Spider-Man film series and its related franchises but also a superhero film that isn’t afraid to tackle major themes while also being ambitious with a story that is grounded in reality and its exploration of human nature. In the end, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a spectacular film from Jon Watts.
Jon Watts Films: (Clown (2014 film)) – Cop Car
Spider-Man Films: Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 - The Amazing Spider-Man - The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse - (Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse)
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - Spider-Man: Far from Home
Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Thor: Love and Thunder – Werewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Phase Five: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – The Marvels - The Marvels – (Deadpool 3) - (Captain America: Brave New World)
Phase 6: (Thunderbolts) – (Blade (2024 film)) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) – (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) – (Avengers: Secret Wars)
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