No Way Home review


Jake Needle, Staff Writer

Warning! This review contains spoilers. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man trilogy was starting to resemble the Star Wars sequel trilogy. And, not in a good way. Both trilogies started with a mostly well-received first film (Homecoming, 2017/The Force Awakens, 2015) and then released a highly anticipated, expectation-subverting, fandom-splitting film (Far From Home, 2019/The Last Jedi, 2018). Star Wars attempted to fix this divisiveness by doubling up the fan service for more callbacks and bringing back a villain that they thought was sure to intrigue viewers. Long story short, it didn’t work, and 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker was disliked even more than the Last Jedi. So, when I heard that Far From Home was going to be bringing back at least five previous Spider-Man villains in December of 2021, I was concerned.  

As the film’s release date got closer, my worries that Far From Home would be an overstuffed mess were not improved by the rumors that previous Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would be returning. Raimi fanboys have unconditional love for the Raimi films and think every other Spider-Man movie is garbage and would only become more aggressive by using the film as evidence to support their constant claims that “Tobey is the only good Spider-Man” and “Iron Boy Jr. isn’t a true Spider-Man.” The Garfield fans don’t say a lot, so there wasn’t much outcry from them. The trailers dropped, confirming the rumors of Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman, Lizard, and Electro’s return. Set photos got leaked, and despite Garfield’s protests of his inclusion, the previous web-slingers were indeed coming back . I had my concerns, but I was looking forward to this movie. If anyone could pull off something  challenging, it was Marvel Studios. Opening night, I pulled up to the theater ready to either be disappointed or amazed. Two hours and twenty eight minutes later, I was amazed. 

The movie opens immediately after the post-credit scene of Far From Home, where J. Jonah. Jameson releases the video Mysterio made to frame Peter Parker and reveal Spider-Man’s identity. This immediate pickup, sharp web-swinging, and upbeat music make for a high-intensity opening sequence that perfectly illustrates Peter’s stressed mindset as he tries to hide from the press and make it home with his girlfriend MJ. 

None of the colleges Peter, MJ, and Ned apply to will accept them due to their associations with Spider-Man. If you don’t remember, Mysterio framed him for his murder, and much of the public belives in Mysterio as a hero. In an attempt to fix this, Peter asks Dr. Strange to erase any memory that he is Spider-Man. Unfortunately, a botched spell opens a small rift in the multiverse, and the past, non-MCU villains sneak through. Sandman and Lizard are just there to complete the group. They don’t add a lot to the story but their presence does not at all detract. Electro has much less of his Amazing Spider-Man 2 dubstep theme than I would have liked, but it gives him a chance for a cool redesign, which lends itself to some in-character motive. Doc Ock is portrayed the same way as he was back in 2004, condescending and violent until the influence from his tentacle chip is removed, another example of the villains’ character consistency. But none of them are quite as exciting as Willem Dafoes’ Green Goblin, who gets the spotlight as the main villain of the movie. The Green Goblin unintentionally shows up in a completely different universe, and with his trademark cackle, his first instinct is to screw up Peter Parker’s life as much as possible. As an added bonus, he also has the funniest line in the movie. (“I could go for a burrito.”)

The nostalgia doubles down when Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men appear. Even though everyone knew it was coming, their entrances still drew cheers from the theater. What is most notable about their appearances is how pivotal they were in the movie. “Peter 2” and “Peter 3” help “Peter 1” not only by assisting in creating the villains’ cures, but also sympathize with the sacrifices and difficulties of being Spider-Man. In all honesty, I expected them to show up during the final fight for ten minutes, and was happily surprised by their more pivotal roles. 

I have heard some viewers complain that Aunt May delivering the “Great Responsibility” line is her taking Uncle Ben’s moment. The issue is, that wasn’t an Uncle Ben moment. Peter has already had an Uncle Ben moment. When Aunt May says the “Great Responsibility” line, Peter’s response is “I know.” He’s heard it before. That was an Aunt May moment. Uncle Ben teaches Peter about great responsibility, but Aunt May is the most constant reminder to Peter about the importance of that phrase.  

The most impressive accomplishment of this film is how it preserves balance. Director Jon Watts and the rest of the crew managed to balance the wants of two studios, three generations of Spider-Man fans, and a divisive fanbase. It balances nostalgic characters with new concepts. It balances the removal of Stark tech from Peter to please the fans who disliked it, but does so in such a natural way that I didn’t even realize that was their motivation to remove it until I wrote this sentence. It sets up a more traditional Spider-Man story and tells us that this trilogy wasn’t the MCU Spider-Man trilogy. It was the first MCU Spider-Man trilogy, and it balanced everything it needed to perfectly.

Cover photo credit: GQ