Grumpy Bird Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home

For the first time since Endgame I made my way back to a movie theater and all for Peter Parker. Yes, I know NWH has been out for a while, but I do live in Japan, and it only came out here recently. So, the big question is: Was Spider-Man’s third solo movie worth the trip?

Quick Review (Spoiler Free)

Yes. Yes it was. I’ll be honest, although I have enjoyed the other two MCU Spider-Man movies, I haven’t really been impressed by them. They all featured great performances by talented actors, and fun action scenes, but they never truly felt like Spider-Man stories. As charming and earnest as Holland’s portrayal was, something just felt empty about the first two. This third movie greatly reverses that feeling. Everything felt much more emotionally anchored. For a movie that very easily could feel glutted but spectacle, this movie successfully rides the wave while establishing a new status quo that I am eager to follow.

Analysis (spoilers lurk below)

To go back to my problems with the other movies, they felt hampered by Spidey’s reliance on both Iron Man and Stark tech. That trumped a lot of the everydayness of his appeal. The outing of Spider-Man also served to strip him of those resources, at least to some extent.

The emotional beats of the movie also feel stronger, and not just the bigger loses. Peter’s frustration at being the reason his friends are missing out on opportunities feels more in line with the character than we have seen so far.

That isn’t to say the movie is perfect. Sadly, one of the weakest moments of the movie is the spellcraft that really gets the ball rolling. Don’t get me wrong, arrogance is supposed to part of this Dr. Strange, but the speed at which he starts casting his complex spell without any questions, especially with his knowledge that Parker can be flighty, felt week. I just kept thinking “looks like Strange need to hold the dumb ball to get this story moving.”

But, it gets us to what has filled theaters: the return of the previous Spiders and villains. I was glad to see Electro, Sandman and Lizard and they all performed nicely, but it is Otto and Goblin that steak so much if the show. In a way, that alone served as a reminder to just how strong Raimi’s first two Spider-movies are.

It was also very nice to see Maguire and Garfield return to the red and blue. Both are still incredibly charismatic actors that can still shine. I will say that it would have been nice to see a bit more meat to their parts. True, I enjoyed all of their gags and silliness, but it does seem we could have gotten more of what was only hinted at. Maguire being the more experienced, not only as a hero but as Peter who has managed to form a strong relationship with his MJ. Garfield mentions his rage issues, but outside of that moment we never see this side of him. I know the movie was long, but either squeezing in another five minutes to explore/showcase this issues would have been worth it. Or cut some of the banter (charming as it was) to develop the Spiders.

That said, there was a lot more of this that clicked emotionally. It just worked in so many ways. And while it offered plenty of spectacle, the spectacle did tend to serve the plot and character, rather than just exist alongside it.

Wrap Up

I was concerned when I heard the basic idea of this movie. I do try and avoid trailers/spoilers, but just existing on the internet meant I had already learned about many characters returns. Multiverse stories tend not to appeal to my interests, and with my thoughts on the first two MCU Spider-Man flicks, I was prepared to leave the theater simply shrugging and saying “that was okay”. I left being very happy and impressed with a movie that at last felt like a Spider-Man movie and eager to see what will happen in Holland’s next outing.

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