Is Spider-Man: No Way Home a good movie? Yes. It is.
However, it must be said, either you know the story so far, or you do not.
It was said of Infinity War, when it first came out, that it didn’t explain all the things that one had to know going in, because by that point, over twenty movies in, one was already on this hype train, or one wasn’t. This is further complicated by how this is not only the one long-running hype train, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but its intersection with a second hype train, being familiar with the previously-unaffiliated Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man movie franchises. Heck, one could even toss in a third, as several incarnations of Spider-Man in movies, cartoons, and comics have dealt with putting our favorite web-slinging superhero together with his counterparts from alternate universes.
In short: it’s an enjoyable movie all on its own, but No Way Home is definitely a gift to Spidey’s lifelong fans.
There is a great deal to be said for this movie and what I felt while watching it.
There’s the love we have for the characters, hero and villain alike. After having gotten to know and care for them in their various ordeals from previous movies, we are already invested in every one of them, and so everything that happens when they are all put together, much like in Infinity War and Endgame, has a deep and lasting significance. No Way Home serves as a capstone to everything that has come before. It is the conclusion and epilogue of more than one journey for more than one hero.
Of course, the story focuses most on Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. This is a young man who is barely more than a kid. He’s done wondrous, amazing things, including going to space and fighting alongside the world’s mightiest heroes to save the entire universe, but he’s still just a kid. He’s heroic, but still so innocent that he borders on naive. Much of that is stripped away from him by the end. He achieves more than he ever has before, taking his place as an equal among adults, but the cost is high. Many of the wonders and relationships of his childhood are left behind, and in their place are the burdens of loss and responsibility.
In short, Peter Parker grows up. He stops being a kid just trying to do the right thing, and begins to be an adult, with adult concerns.
Most poetic, though, in my opinion, was the sacrifice he chose to make in the end. I remember commenting about what he gives up way back in Homecoming. If I can be forgiven for quoting myself, I said, “in the final sum, he doesn’t do anything heroic for the thrill or the glory, but because he cares about people, and he cares about what’s right, and he makes his own sacrifices along the way. Sure, what he loses might not seem so dire to an adult, but that doesn’t make it any less real or meaningful.” As the boy becomes a man, the things he loses are absolutely dire to anyone, child or adult, and what he chooses to give up in order to save people is a weighty sacrifice indeed… but the choice of that rings true to who he has always been.
All of this is done while doing something which, frankly, I did not know how Marvel could ever pull off: they give Spider-Man a clean slate. This is his baptism by fire, dealing with demons without and within, and by the end, everything is stripped from him but himself. He has soared so very high among the stars and his secret identity has been made known, but by the end, he is brought back down to ground level, until he is, once again, what he always was: your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
There are super kudos due to everyone who was involved in this movie. The story was beautifully written, directing was perfectly competent, the acting was masterful, the music was powerful, the sets and cinematography and special effects, all superb. The humor was actually funny, the action was exciting and well-choreographed, the drama was riveting, and the suspense was thrilling. And the sorrow, as Peter Parker was brought to his lowest, felt genuine, as did the exultation of his triumph, and the heartbreak of his sacrifice.
This is a quality story, well-crafted and well-told.
There are a few small details which somewhat ignore plausibility. There’s how Doctor Octopus knows that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin, killed by his own glider, when pretty much no one ever knew that, not even Norman’s son, Harry. And there’s how Peter was able to instantaneously conjure up the solutions he needed to counter each of the villains he faces. Speaking of, there’s also how the Sandman, by rights, I felt, should have been an ally instead of an enemy, all things considered, but they kind of brushed that under the rug without really addressing it. On the bright side, though, I really loved that they brought Doc Ock around, and gave him something of a redemption. Which seems to be a major theme of this movie: redemption, for hero and villain alike.
So, yes, there are a few small flaws. But overall, Spider-Man: No Way Home is quite nearly a masterpiece. Certainly, one can make a good argument for it being both the best Spider-Man movie, the best movie yet in the MCU, and even the best superhero movie. Mind you, one can make arguments against that, as well, but what I mean is that the quality of this movie very much lives up to the hype, both in immediate gratification and as one can sit and really think about this movie long after experiencing it.
In summary… it works best if one knows everything about the previous stories, but I cannot recommend Spider-Man: No Way Home strongly enough! It is truly amazing.
Rating: 10 stars out of 10.