Spider-man: No Way Home is playing now in cinemas nationwide.
The challenge Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers set themselves for No Way Home was nothing short of monolithic; after all, it is not only the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man journey but every Spider-Man film to date. To re-open old doors and take inspiration from them requires a level of respect but also confidence in adding to the legacy born over several incarnations and reboots; with the level of character involvement on display and the challenge of providing a satisfying finale for all, we could have ended up with another Spider-Man 3. However, thankfully, Jon Watts steers away from the mistakes of the past and delivers what is undoubtedly the best Spider-Man film to date.
Following the chaotic reveal in Far From Home, Peter (Tom Holland) finds himself engulfed by legal battles and the instant justice of public opinion due to his supposed involvement in the death of Mysterio. Peter’s lawyer can solve half of the conundrum, but that hasn’t stopped the public from treating him as a pariah, alongside MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). Here the opening thirty minutes of Spider-Man: No Way Home offers us a very different Spider-Man journey with a compelling story of Peter’s struggles in dealing with the worldwide consequences of his unmasked identity.
What makes this compelling lies in Peter’s struggle and his battle to carry the weight of public opinion. MJ, Ned and Peter find themselves rejected from M.I.T. while media hunts gain ground through outlets such as The Daily Bugle, fronted by the ever-hilarious J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons.) However, it’s Peter’s dodgy deal with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that expands No Way Home beyond the intimate confines of its opening story. The result is an inter-versal invitation that opens the door to a series of villains from the Raimi and Webb universe, including, Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), and of course – Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin.
It’s clear that our past villains are ecstatic to be back, and this is especially the case for Foxx and Dafoe. Electro carries a dry, comical wit that provides us with some of the film’s finest jokes. Meanwhile, Ifans energy alongside the rest of the cast is superb, bouncing off quips and remarks with a hilariously disarming silver-spoon accent. In many ways, Spider-Man: No Way Home recontextualises the villain’s story from every Spider-Man outing in a delightful commemoration of twenty cinematic years. For some, it’s the return from evil to good, while for others, it’s the undoing of the ailments that afflict them. It’s one of the most ambitious stories Marvel Studios have dared to tell, and it’s masterfully done.
The villains’ shared interactions also demonstrate McKenna and Sommers’ thoughtful realisation of the relationships that sit between them. They’re crucial in bringing one another up to speed on their fates and how the world grew beyond them. The result is a delightfully sharp narrative journey bathed in genuine on-screen chemistry. But although we may have a sinister cavalcade of malevolent men, make no mistake, this is Green Goblin’s film. Dafoe feels like he never stepped away from the role, and he is as terrifyingly gripping as in 2002. Dafoe will always be the definitive Green Goblin.
This is a revenge story for the Goblin twice over, first for his untimely demise and second for Peter’s attempts to ‘fix’ him. There’s a screaming rage that lurks just beneath the surface of Osborn, and we see that fully unleashed in the film’s darkest moments. Part of Dafoe’s charm is that he gives himself over entirely to Norman Osborn and clearly is having the utmost fun playing such a Machiavellian figure. Giving Tom Holland such a formidable adversary in the form of Dafoe’s Goblin allows Spider-Man: No Way Home to give itself over to darkness, something rarely embraced in the MCU. Here Tom Holland’s performance is undoubtedly a career-defining triumph, as Peter’s vulnerability is exposed. No Way Home is rooted in the sacrifice and responsibility of Spider-Man as Peter is gradually torn apart – his pain and his suffering unbearable as it festers and threatens to poison him with rage and vengeance. It’s shocking to see the Spider-Man who fought Thanos and saved the universe, pulverised by the Goblin.
What’s different to Holland’s previous outings as Spider-Man is the presence of a true villain, purely motivated by a need to kill and cause suffering rather than a pragmatic or selfish drive. It’s evident that Peter underestimates the Goblin, or perhaps overestimates himself – and that’s one of the biggest mistakes a teenager can make. Holland is hauntingly beautiful as he displays an intimate vulnerability by portraying an increasingly broken Peter – his voice and body quivering from the colossal weight of trying desperately to save everyone. However, he is ultimately fighting a losing battle against himself.
Ultimately, there’s so much I could say about Spider-Man: No Way Home. After all, it is, without a doubt, the ultimate celebration of Spider-Man and Peter Parker, as it weaves the past and the present together. With so many moving parts and outstanding actors, this could’ve gone wrong at any moment. But through the creative force of nature that is Jon Watts, the genius minds of Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, and of course the now-legendary Parker himself, Tom Holland, No Way Home is one of the greatest comic-book movies of all time.