Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, J.K. Simmons, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, Charlie Cox, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire
Runtime: 2 hrs 28 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing Singapore
Opening Day: 16 December 2021
Synopsis: For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life from the high-stakes of being a Super Hero. When he asks for help from Doctor Strange the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
Picking up right after the events of ‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’, director Jon Watts’ conclusion to his Spider-Man trilogy finds the teenage webslinger dealing with the consequences of having his identity exposed by Mysterio, no thanks to J Jonah Jameson, the editor and presentor of the conspiracy-based news website DailyBugle.net. Those who recall the very first live-action ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire will recognise that J K Simmons reprises the role here; and we’re delighted to say that it is but the first of numerous surprises that Watts has constructed for those who have stayed loyal to the various iterations of the series over the years.
Probably the worst-kept secret of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is how both Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprise their versions of the character here, teaming up with Tom Holland’s spin to take on an assemblage of villains from two decades of ‘Spider-Man’ movie lore, including the crazed Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) from Maguire’s first Spider-Man film, the haughty Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) from his second, and the insecure Electro (Jamie Foxx) from Garfield's ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. The cynical will quickly dismiss this as blatant fan service, but it is to the credit of Watts as well as his writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers that their movie lets the characters live, breathe and interact with one another in unexpected ways.
To say anything more would do the filmmakers severe disservice, but suffice to say that these villains are given more texture than you would imagine. Indeed, their roles here isn’t to simply cause mayhem and destruction, or for that matter to give each of the three Spider-mans foes to spar with; rather, the plotting digs into the identity complex of each of these characters, respecting how every single villain is ultimately a flawed individual driven to wreck havoc by their respective weaknesses. Than simply deporting them back to their universes, Holland’s Peter Parker is compelled by his very nature to “cure some ass”, not “kick some ass”.
That innate motivation to help others is the central theme which runs through the entire movie, starting with how he approaches Marvel’s resident wizard Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that would make the whole world forget his identity, to how he struggles with Doctor Strange to stop the latter from casting another spell to reverse the earlier one, and right down to a poignant personal loss that would test the limits of his own empathy. More than the two earlier instalments, Watts’ latest gets to the heart of what makes Peter Parker tick, and ultimately what sets Spider-Man apart from the other Marvel superheroes.
Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what also makes this entry significant in the grander scheme of Phase IV is how we are introduced for the first time to the multi-verse in live-action form (so the earlier animated Spider-Man movie doesn’t count). Not only do we glimpse how the universe could fracture along space and time – including and especially an end-credits scene which teases the return of Doctor Strange in the upcoming ‘Multi-Verse of Madness’ – we are also treated to a mesmerizing show of what Doctor Strange conjures called the ‘mirror dimension’, which is just as, if not more, fascinating than the scene of worlds folding onto each other in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’.
Amidst the ambition in weaving the new and the old into a coherent whole, Watts keeps a firm grasp of the action and emotion throughout the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. The former is always exciting to watch, even as it tends towards the fast and frenetic and could at times do with more balletic choreography; but the latter is consistently sharp and on point, whether is it in portraying his jolly naivety at the start or the weight of grief in the latter scenes. There is a lot that Watts tries to do at the same time, and for the most part, we’re glad to say that he succeeds for the most part.
The same can be said therefore of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, which carries the weight of being the eighth live-action Spider-Man movie in the last two decades and honours that legacy with humility, inspiration and vigour. It isn’t simply about seeing Maguire and Garfield back in their suits, but also partaking in their ruminations of just what exercising great power with great responsibility means for them as well as their loved ones. We’re not so sure this is the last we’ll see of Holland in a Spider-Man movie, but this is as fine and glorious a trilogy capper as it gets. We dare say too it opens up new and exciting possibilities for the MCU, so if this is indeed the way forward, then we’d doubt anyone would mind if there is truly no way home.
(The best Spider-Man film across the eight live-action movies within the last two decades, this final chapter of Jon Watts trilogy with Tom Holland in the title role is thrilling, surprising, and unexpectedly moving)
Review by Gabriel Chong