When I wasn't invited to a preview screening for Spider-Man: No Way Home, I was a little concerned. Oftentimes studios don’t preview movies for critics when they suspect the movie will be a bomb. Bad press is the last thing they need.
So, I was starting to have serious doubts about this movie despite some early positive buzz (which the studios can generate) and some impressive opening box office numbers (that can be driven by a crazed, loyal fan base that will cheer the latest installment of their favorite movie franchise, no matter what).
As the old expression goes: the jury was out.
But let me cut to the chase and say that Spider-Man: No Way Home is everything it’s been hyped up to be. And that includes the claim that it is one of the best, if not THE best, Marvel superhero movies ever made.
If you know anything about me, you know that I am really not a big fan of superhero movies, in general. For me, they are big, splashy, effects-driven movies that adhere to a strictly rigid formula. That is to say that they all look like essentially the same movie to me, with the same storylines and climactic, city-leveling special effects.
I realize these movies largely target teenage boys and teenagers who never grew up, and that they were never intended to appeal to anyone beyond that. I say this in the spirit of full disclosure. Sorry if I offended anyone.
It was going to take a lot for this movie to bring me aboard. But I’m happy to report that it did exactly that. Any while I’d nothing better than to spill my guts about why I liked it so much, I’m going to have to pump the breaks here and resist the temptation.
This isn’t a cop out or cheesy bail out. Giving away the story details here should be a crime punishable with fines and possible prison sentences.
My advice here is to not read too many reviews or get sucked into the internet chatter and buzz. You’ll regret it. I’m not joking.
I would even advise you not to even read any information about the cast or credits. Even that would give too much away.
About all I am comfortable saying here is that Marvel has been sowing the seeds of their multi-verse concept, setting up something that really opens up the creative potential for their various franchises.
You could see it as a profit-driven strategy and nothing more. But Spider-Man: No Way Home is a stunning example of what is possible, from the standpoint of imagination.
If you’ve seen the trailers for the film, you know that it’s about Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). The coupling of these two characters has significant appeal in and of itself.
There are hints about the return of former Spider-Man nemeses like Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), but even that doesn’t prepare you for what’s in store.
A ton of credit here goes to the writers of this Spider-Man installment. They have pushed further and harder than anything that has been attempted before in this genre, and the result is nothing short of brilliant.
Fans of the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies will welcome the return of the characters and supporting cast: Zendaya as MJ, Marisa Tomei as May Parker and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan.
Fans of Doctor Strange will welcome the return of Benedict Wong as Wong.
But familiar characters returning to reprise their roles doesn’t guarantee that a movie will be entertaining.
A really entertaining movie always depends on a really solid script. At their most basic level, great movies are great stories.
All the star talent and special effects in the world can’t make up for a bad script.
The story here picks up where the previous film ended. Spider-Man’s true identity is revealed, with catastrophic results, triggering a chaotic turn in Peter Parker’s life and the lives of everyone he loves.
It has impacted each of their futures, and not in a positive way. It’s yet another reminder that, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
Changing or reversing what he has done is what drives him to Doctor Strange whose mastery of time and space might be Peter Parker’s only hope for redemption.
It’s a beautiful dove tailing of characters and story lines that makes all the sense in the world. And the writers here (Chris McKenna and Eric Sommers) take full advantage of what this kind of cosmic meddling might trigger and unleash.
What unfolds is well worth the price of admission. Spider-Man: No Way Home is all it is cracked up to be—a well-written, well-crafted movie that shows what can happen when talented writers and a talented director connect with talented performers. And a small army of technical geniuses who can make it all happen so convincingly.
That’s with the possible exception of a lizard character that looks digitized and fake, compared to the other fantastical creatures and villains who populate this alternate world.
I’d submit that characters like The Hulk and Venom also fall into this category of creations that fall below the threshold of believability.
But that might be the only minor criticism of this movie, one that gets it right on pretty much every level.
Spider-Man: No Way Home will definitely find its way to impressive box office success. It’s the old-fashioned blockbuster hit that the movie industry and the theater business have been desperately praying for, in the wake of COVID-19.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.