No Way Home is a captivating heart-on-sleeve reminder why Spider-Man’s so beloved

Tom Holland and director Jon Watts unite for a third time for Spider-Man: No Way Home. In this spoiler-free review, Liam Maguren writes how the film isn’t just simple fan service, but a reminder why this character is so beloved.

Unless you avoided all trailers and publicity materials, it’s no secret that Spider-Man: No Way Home brings in at least two characters from previous Spider-Men films outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I dare not spoil other aces the film carries up its web-shooter, but if the film’s marketing and two-and-a-half-hour running time made you think this might be the most Spider-Man film ever made, I can confirm it is.

Kicking right off from Far From Home‘s bombshell ending, the whole world now knows Peter Parker’s Spider-Man thanks to viral loudmouth J. Jonah Jameson (played superbly once again by JK Simmons, whose character has never felt more at home in this attention-mad, conspiracy-driven world of ours). Quickly dismantling the normal life Peter worked so hard to achieve, it proves that even Spider-Man can’t overcome the challenge of being a controversial online figure. 

Benedict Cumberbatch continues to be superb at Stephen Strange, using his doctorate in wizarding to help Peter with a spell that will make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man. Their relationship goes from sweet to sour fairly quickly however when Peter, in an act that proves smart kids can be babbling dumbasses, screws up the incantation.

This leads to a crack in the multiverse, and from there, the film makes its big plays. Far more than pointless cameos and obscure Easter eggs, all of No Way Home‘s reveals serve a much bigger plot that finds a new way to drill into the essence, the tragedy, and the heroism of Peter Parker. It’s not fan service; it’s just good storytelling. 

With a tight pace that masks the length, No Way Home almost justifies the gargantuan running time. However, if you’re not a fan of comedy reliant on rambling dialogue, you may wish a couple of scenes had been shortened or cut entirely. Fortunately, it hits more than it misses, with the funniest moments coming from Peter acknowledging the absurdity of his situation. 

Tom Holland’s loveably gawkish take on the character remains the crown jewel in director Jon Watts’ Spider-Man trilogy. He’s just so damn charming, even when he makes total dumb-dumb errors, but he also evolves by absorbing the wisdom of those around him, creating a young man more confident in his decision-making. Rounded off with tough moments that challenge his foundations, it’s a fitting and satisfying growth of one of the MCU’s most beloved heroes.

The action’s never been the most memorable aspect of any of Watts’ Spider-Man films, and while that’s still true with No Way Home, it still boasts some mighty impressive set-pieces. Though it doesn’t quite compare to the mind-melting sequence in Doctor Strange, the mirror world makes a welcomed and thrilling return to the big screen. There’s also a tense mid-film fight that I can only describe as a WWE cage match inside the collapsing floors of a high-rise.

A lot of people are pretty sick of superhero movies ending on generic climaxes where the world’s on the brink of destruction for the 134th time. But while that’s technically the case with No Way Home, its focus remains on the fates of just a handful of characters. It shares more in common with the intimate finale of Captain America: Civil War and is far more memorable because of it.

I can’t imagine any Spidey fan not being completely stoked with this film. But No Way Home isn’t simply “a film for the fans.” It’s a captivating heart-on-its-sleeve reminder of how a good-natured New York kid in underoos became so beloved in the first place, and while it may be too soon to call it the greatest Spider-Man film ever, it exhilarates the senses and punches the heart as all great Spider-Man stories do.