2021 has been a whirlwind year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We got our first ever MCU show; projects were delayed, and some were moved to a Disney+ only release. But through it all, they’ve managed to deliver some of the best shows and movies to premiere this year and with Spider-Man: No Way Home, they’ve found the perfect high point to end the year.
I honestly cannot discuss the film in too much detail without spoiling it for moviegoers who haven’t watched it yet. So here’s the long and short of it— Spider-Man: No Way Home is all you could want and more.
This year’s running theme of all the Marvel titles, both shows and films, has been cost.
What does it cost ordinary people when a hero like Wanda Maximoff experiences grief and loses control like most people would in her shoes? How much do survivors of Clint Barton’s vigilantism have to live, knowing that the saviour of the world hunted their loved ones? What price does the multiverse have to pay for the decisions Loki has made?
There isn’t a correct answer or even a good one. You can’t ever put a price on what it means to be a hero. Nothing can ever neatly justify the actions and choices that go into saving the world. All you can do is live with them, which is precisely what Peter Park (Tom Holland) has to do.
When we last saw our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, he was unmasked by Mysterio and falsely accused of his murder. But it’s not just him who has to deal with the consequences of being Spider-Man, it’s all his loved ones toom, and it becomes abundantly clear that their lives are turned upside down.
The trailers for Spider-Man: No Way Home showed us a snippet of the waking hell they were walking into. Peter and MJ (Zendaya) are atop a bridge, news helicopters swarming them, looking for a scoop. They arrive at school to find a tidal wave of cameras and screaming people, condemning Peter for murder or condoning his alleged execution of Quinten Beck. We hear J. Jonah Jameson’s vitriolic voice spitting venomous words all to fan the flames of hatred. And at no point does it seem to get better, pushing Peter to seek a spell to fix everything.
But even magic comes at a cost.
It isn’t long into the movie before we meet our otherworldly villains, all with one objective. To find Peter Parker and put an end to him. Doctor Octo Octavious (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willam Da Foe), Lizard (Rhys Ifans), Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), and Electro (Jamie Fox) all trickle in one by one to get their pound of flesh. But it’s Doc Ock and Goblin who (unsurprisingly) steal the show.
Molina’s Doc Ock is a personal favourite for tragic villains but Spider-Man: No Way Home brings so much more to his character. He’s curt, witty, and standoffish, with impeccable comedic timing that makes every punchline hit perfectly.
The original 2002 Spider-Man gave us a classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and with this reimaging of the Green Goblin, Da Foe truly earns his name. When he occupies the scene, no matter who is in the driver’s seat, it honestly does look like you’re looking at two different people. His body language shifts, the way he holds his gaze, the inflection in his voice changes.
It’s as if you’re watching this meek kitten transform into a feral lion before your eyes, and it leaves your hair standing on end. A reaction that I don’t think any other MCU villain has ever been able to elicit from me, and as you’ll see for yourself, from Peter.
Green Goblin’s cruelty and fixation on hurting Peter change him. Ultimately shifting the way you view Peter, you realize that this isn’t the same bubbly idealist we know and love. The trailer shows us a brief glimpse of that scene.
You watch Peter as he stands battered, bruised and bloody in the pouring rain. Then, it hits you; the charming kid from Queens who vlogged his fight with the Avengers is gone. The cracks materialize before your eyes as the empathetic boy who saved his prom date’s villainous father disappears. Something within him broke, and it’s something that can never be fixed.
And unlike other Marvel titles, Spider-Man: No Way Home doesn’t break this tension with comedy; it lets you sit in it. Instead, it is like a weighted blanket pushing down on you, forcing you to acknowledge the unavoidable truth and raw pain of the moment.
A moment that doesn’t end there because we’re still only halfway through. It’s here where the crescendo reaches its peak. The stifling pressure of anger, sadness, vengeance, defeat press down on Peter and the true cost of victory dawns on him. Like every hero worth their mettle, Peter gets back up and jumps headfirst into the final battle. And all you can do is watch.
Watch as Peter fights helplessly as walls seem to crack and cave in around him. Then, sit there with bated breath as he gets pushed to the brink and loses all restraint. You cling to the edge of your seat as he decides to pay the price to save the world.
Like I said at the beginning of this piece, it was everything I could have asked for and more. It beautifully wrapped up the trilogy and reset who Peter Parker is. He isn’t Tony’s protégé, nor is he just some kid trying to have it all; he’s battle-weary. The sacrifices he made to protect the world, and the people he loves weigh heavily on him, but he still clings to hope. It makes him far more accurate and grounded. It makes him the Peter Parker we deserve.
I’ve always been a harsh critic of the MCU, and before today if you’d asked me if I would ever give a Marvel movie a perfect score, I probably would have laughed. But Spider-Man: No Way Home took me for a ride that left me crying, screaming, and speechless.
With the uncertainty of the omicron variant, I’m not going to tell you to go running to watch the movie. Instead, make the decision that’s best for you, be safe, and know that whether you run to the theatre tonight or wait for it to come to Disney+, No Way Home won’t disappoint.