Marvel’s iteration of Spider-man has been a rather charming one. Taking the “gee-golly, mister” energy of boyish Tom Holland allowed them to set the character in high school and bring some of the bright, naive optimism that the character is known for into their much more cynical, muted take on some others. While it sometimes rubs me the wrong way, there really is an absolute charm to how sweet this iteration has been.
Spider-man: No Way Home tries to take this into the realm of nostalgia porn.
Cameos and tie-ins have always been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but most of the time it’s just as a reminder that all of these people inhabit this world. What director Jon Watts and crew have done this time is far from a perfect film, but the fact that they pulled these resurrections of villains past into the MCU without it feeling disgusting is nothing short of a miracle. While it feels as though Disney can buy any performer they want for this film series, my heartstrings still felt heartily plucked when Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) and Green Goblin (Willem DaFoe) make their appearances. There’s loving respect there, one that shows how much Sam Raimi’s trilogy meant in its heyday and how much influence it still has on a younger generation of filmmakers. Marc Webb’s take on Spider-man is less beloved, but Marvel’s kindness towards it is touching.
This is also an insanely low-stakes film for a lot of its runtime. Peter Parker (Tom Holland), his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) are now figures of controversy due to the edited footage released that outs Peter Parker as Spider-man and paints him as a murderer. The fallout from this? They might not get to go to MIT together. That’s right, the stakes are the idea that you might not get to go to college together. Sure, there’s some multiverse mingling that also adds to the stakes, but the real hard-hitting narrative is just about these kids worrying that they might drift apart. It’s a wonderfully universal thing to worry about as you grow up and move on from your childhood, and I’m surprised it was so well-executed.
I’ve got issues with some of the film, don’t get me wrong, but they’re standard MCU complaints at this point. Everything is drowning in CGI, something that just can’t look as good as Raimi’s practical effects did twenty years ago. The “Marvel snark” is tiresome at this point; a company that is embarrassed by the comics they’re adapting takes pot-shots at it as a coping mechanism. Michael Giacchino’s score is lazy and standard. None of these are new problems with the MCU and I just don’t need to go further on them at this point. They’re there, and if they’re enough to ruin the films for you this just won’t be your thing.
I had a lot of fun with this latest Spider-man film. It’s a nostalgia-ridden trap, but one where the bait is worth going after for the captive Marvel audience. I bought in and I got exactly what I expected. This won’t have any lasting effect, but it’s a film that’ll wow audiences looking for a good time with their childhood.
Spider-man: No Way Home is currently in theatres.