To quote John Wick, “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.” Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog post, but there’s one piece of writing that required my constant attention, along with a general lack of motivation to blog. Suffice to say, that post and feeling have been conquered and I’m excited to be back on the ol’ hamster wheel of blogging.
I long held out against seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home because of not feeling entirely safe of returning to cinemas (amid the Omicron variant). But recently that feeling has passed and it was still playing at my local cinema. Based on the Box Office alone, everyone and their mothers have seen this movie, so before I get to my brief thoughts on Spidey’s latest adventure, what did you think of No Way Home? Let me know in the comments below. And if you like my ramblings on the webhead or horror movies, then you can find more of my work at my second home https://horrorobsessive.com/author/sartaj-singh/ (Horror Obsessive).
Honestly, expansive multiverse stories can be a mess. This is because creaky and awkward plot mechanics give rise to various strands that often do not coalesce. Despite this, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was an imaginative and surprisingly nimble animated feature that used its multiverse concept for Miles Morales’s resonating search for identity. By comparison, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a fun and surprisingly emotional affair that finally imbues its central character with a genuine sense of tragedy.
Picking up right after the events of Far From Home, the third MCU Spidey film depicts the Web-Head (Tom Holland) trying to cope with life after Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals his secret identity to the world at large. When his identity problem causes his girlfriend, M.J (Zendaya) and best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) to be rejected from MIT, Peter Parker decides to visit Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In responce, the sympathetic wizard attempts to cast a spell to make the world forget about Peter Parker being Spider-Man. However, Parker’s numerous interruptions result in many of the Spider-Man villains from across the multiverse making their way into his reality.
If Homecoming was a perfunctory footnote and Far From Home was a mildly interesting post-modern exercise in how Peter Parker and the MCU at large were dealing with the absence of Tony Stark, then No Way Home is a recalibration of the notion of secret identity in the MCU. In contrast to many other heroes (especially Iron Man), No Way Home illustrates how the public attention of Peter Parker being Spider-Man can be damming for his loved ones. These moments of sugary high and immediate concerns (best encapsulated in a jaunty Steadicam shot of Peter going about his Aunt’s apartment webbing windows) are the foundation for showcasing the neurotic charm of Stan Lee’s and Steve Diko’s creation.
Along with Holland’s Parker realising the tragic lesson and value of “With great power, comes great responsibility” from Andrew Garfield’s and Tobey Maguire’s iterations, No Way Home’s multiverse storytelling proves to have a lot of heart and pathos. The single best scene that encapsulates these qualities comes in the aftermath of May’s death. On a rain soaked night, an unmasked Peter is watching a billboard of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) publicly denouncing Spider-Man. With its close-up of a distraught and silent Parker, the scene echos Roy Batty’s final moments in Blade Runner, as Parker is baptised by tragedy and public outrage (the twin qualities that have often defined the comic book character).
Despite being filled to the rafters with call backs, easter eggs and references, No Way Home’s best moments of multiverse storytelling involve the villains. In particular, Willem Dafoe shines in an extended role, which equally gives weight to his altruistic ultra ego (Norman Osborn) and villainous persona (Green Goblin) who sadistically challenges Spidey’s values of power and responsibility.