I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical of this film before I watched it. The Spider-Man films in the MCU I’ve found to be pretty disappointing, feeling like they were more focused on Iron Man than Spider-Man. With all the marketing for this film, I was worried it would be a repeat of Spider-Man 3 or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, resulting in a film that was very bloated and didn’t really know what it wanted to do. Thankfully, my fears over the film have been allayed. This is easily the best Spider-Man film in the MCU and is up there with Spider-Man 2 and Into the Spider-Verse in terms of the best Spider-Man films. Now before I begin, I’ll say that I will try and keep this review focused on material that has already been revealed in the marketing, I may slip up so if I do, consider this your spoiler warning.
Following on from the mid-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the film shows the fallout that Peter Parker is facing after Quentin Beck framed him for murder, including the legal issues he faces and the way he is treated in the court of public opinion, with this also impacting Aunt May, MJ and Ned. In order to have the world forget the revelation, Peter goes to Dr Strange to modify the world’s memory. However the spell goes wrong and results in the villains from the previous live action Spider-Man series being brought into the MCU, with Peter having to figure out how to send them home. Now I’m not going to go too much into detail with the plot, but what I will say is this finally feels like a Spider-Man film. The previous films defined the character through his relationship with Iron Man, meaning that we didn’t really get a full understanding of who Peter Parker is. Here though, the film is focused on Peter’s identity. There’s a much greater understanding of Peter here compared to the other films which makes this a more compelling film. I also found that the fan service in the film worked really well. I get a sense of respect in all of these moments and, in a lot of cases, I found these moments to result in interesting character dynamics. The whole film gave me the vibes I wanted from a Spider-Man film and I did find myself really enjoying this.
The performances as well are solid throughout the film. Tom Holland has always been the best mix of Peter Parker and Spider-Man and he carries that on here. He gets some darker moments in the third act of the film that help showcase another side of the character and he also makes sure you know that he’s playing a young character and some of the decisions he make feel like they make sense because of his age and the pressure he’s in. Zendaya as MJ continues to be strong, having excellent chemistry with Holland and her more cynical attitude makes for a good contrast with the other characters. Benedict Cumberbatch continues to be strong as Dr Strange, showing more of his frustration with Peter throughout the film and makes for a more compelling foil to Holland given the contrast in personalities. Jacob Batalon continues to be good comic relief and Marisa Tomei is a strong presence as Aunt May. For the returning villains the highlights are Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx and especially Willem Dafoe. Molina and Dafoe are as strong here as they were in the other films whilst Foxx is given a script that plays to his strengths, making him a more compelling character here than he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I did feel that Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church were underutilised and they could have been cut out without much being lost. JK Simmons meanwhile, whilst not used as effectively here as in the Raimi films still shows why he is perfect casting as J Jonah Jameson, the Alex Jones allegory for the character being an interesting choice.
The technical elements of the film are also really solid. The action scenes are better staged and directed here than in the other MCU Spider-Man films, with the hand to hand combat scenes having a visceral feel that I felt was missing in the other films. The CG throughout the film is impressive, with Doc Ock’s tentacles and Sandman being particularly impressive, even if I did prefer the puppetry of the tentacles in Spider-Man 2. Some of the aesthetics I found to be better here than in the earlier films, the design of Electro being much more appealing here than in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The use of the mirror dimension is also well utilised, showing how effective this is for gravity defying action scenes and feels like a natural fit for Spider-Man. The music I found to be well handled as well, but to say more would spoil the film, although I will say it’s always a treat to hear Talking Head’s I Zimbra in a film.
Overall, I found myself really enjoying Spider-Man: No Way Home. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling the film but I found that the MCU finally has a Spider-Man film that focuses on Spider-Man, creating a fun and engaging film that works as a good exploration of the character and is the Spider-Man film I always wanted to see in the MCU.
My Rating: 4.5/5