Spider-Man: No Way Home

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Spider-Man: No Way Home
"The film maintains an excellent blend of the domestic and the dramatic" | Photo: Disney

Multiverses can get messy, not just for superheroes but for filmmakers who dabble with them. Fortunately, writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers keep a firm grip on all their various plot webs as young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) - in the spotlight after his true identity has been revealed to the world - tries to cope with the everyday pressures of trying to get into the college of his choice.

A bid to 'reset' the world with a spot of magic goes awry - but not before Benedict Cumberbatch gets plenty of good one-liners as Doctor Strange - and an assortment of super-villains slip through into Peter's world (Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans all reprising their roads from previous incarnations of the franchise as Green Goblin, Electro, Doc Oc, Sandman and Lizard, respectively).

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Although superhero films hinge a lot on doubling - the two identities of the good/bad guys and good versus evil - here the writers and director Jon Watts have their fun in triplicate, right down to the end credits rolling to Three Is A Magic Number. This is a trilogy after all, and the friendship triangle of Peter, MJ (Zendaya) and best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) provides a solid teenage cornerstone for the film, although tripling also occurs in other fun ways that are too spoilery to discuss. As with the recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife, there's a lot of nostalgia being woven in here but it feels much more part of the story rather than simple fan service.

Watts maintains an excellent blend of the domestic and the dramatic, so we still care about Peter, the teenager, concerned with the everyday anxieties of getting into college in between having to stop the various bad guys destroying the world. There is a lot packed in here, but because the script gives it a solid anchor in the already established relationships, there's never a sense of things running out of control and, although there are some heavier moments, Watts avoids the ponderousness that has cropped up elsewhere in the MCU. There's a sense of a Shakespearean sweep rather than a melodramatic wallow, as themes such as nobility in the face of tragedy surface. There's also an interesting line in the potential for redemption and rehabilitation rather than the more familiar 'kill the bad guy before he kills us' emphasis.

The cast also help to root the film in reality, with Peter and MJ's relationship as believable as ever (no doubt helped by the fact that Holland and Zendaya date in real life), while Marisa Tomei, as Aunt May, reminds us how criminal it is that she doesn't get more big screen roles. Even the multiple endings, so often a slog, feel justified because we genuinely care about each of the characters and want to see how their arc wraps up.

Self-contained enough not to need you to have seen every last one of the preceding films to appreciate it but offering all the trimmings for those who have, this is an emotionally satisfying end to the trilogy that has more than just spider-webbing tricks up its sleeve.

Reviewed on: 16 Dec 2021
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Spider-Man: No Way Home packshot
Peter's attempts to make the world forget him help villains fall into his world from elsewhere in the Multiverse.

Director: Jon Watts

Writer: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, based on the characters created by Stan Lee

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei

Year: 2021

Runtime: 148 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Iceland

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