LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is the climax of Jon Watts’ MCU Spider-Man trilogy, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a culmination of everything live-action the character has done since I was born. It does this with a bit of help with Marvel’s latest gimmick — no more gems; this is the age of the “Multiverse”. With Peter Parker (Tom Holland) outed at the end of the last film, the events of his life begin to take a downward turn. And when this leads to negative impacts on his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon), he leaves himself no choice but to visit Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Antics ensue, but eventually, Peter is offered a choice on whether he wants to make the whole world forget he is Spider-Man. However, the spell goes awry, and Spidey’s new adventure goes from navigating college admission to fighting off villains from another universe, villains audiences will be quite familiar with.
A brilliantly thrilling action sequence reintroduces us to the marvellous Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, and the iconic Willem Defoe Green Goblin quickly joins him. For the uninformed, they are the marquee villains from Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy from the 2000s, but Sony wasn’t content to stop there. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t the most celebrated franchise, but that doesn’t stop the two villains from Marc Webb’s films appearing with the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) joining in on the fun.
And here is where No Way Home separates itself, at least partially, from the typical mould of the MCU. There’s nothing quite like seeing a man you saw impaled by his own glider nearly 20 years ago back before your eyes and developing. And on the other side of things, adversaries not given a fair chance to shine, finally pulling off what they were supposed to be. It’s overly heavy-handed at times, and the quippy nature of these films remains a disservice unto themselves, but this entry is still quite surprisingly moving. There’s one particular call back that I won’t specify because it is a major spoiler, but I think you’ll know it when you see the film. It touched me far more than I ever expected this movie could, and anything that can do that deserves celebrating.
However, I can safely say that No Way Home shines as the most important MCU film of the year, even beyond the very fan service-y premise. It’s not one you’ll want to miss if you’re going to make sense of things down the line. From the get-go, it becomes apparent that there’s only so many ways this can end, and story-changing ramifications are where it winds up. In this sense, it’s certainly Spidey’s biggest adventure and his most gut-wrenching too. Thanks to that, this is easily Tom Holland’s finest ever performance. The way he’s grown into a hero across his trilogy has been unlike anyone else; it almost seemed like they wanted to keep him a child rather than forcing him to come of age. So here he is finally left with no choice, and come the end, Holland can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with his heroic peers and be just as great as them.
Beyond even that, the technical side of things remains a constant wonder. The digital de-aging is Marvel’s best to date, and the fight choreography is topped only by the brilliant sequences of Shang-Chi as the best of the year. These technical elements primarily maintain the longevity superhero movies are now experiencing. Just when you think you’ve seen every way to throw a shield or sling a web, they find a new way to make it exciting, and while the formulaic approach will have to fall off one day, it’s not coming any time soon if things can stay made to this standard.
No Way Home sets Holland’s Spidey atop the Marvel mountain as the MCU’s greatest and most complete trilogy, and it does so in ways fans will adore for years to come.
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