Spider-Man: No Way Home (Marvel Studios, PG-13)

There are hundreds of heroes in the Marvel Universe. From dog cosmonauts to talking trees to telepathic masterminds to teleporting half-demons. There are dozens of heroes with the ability to manipulate time and space as we know it. In the MCU alone, despite containing only a fraction of what the comics have to offer in terms of personnel, there are a handful of beings you could feasibly see severely impacting the way the universe works. The obvious choices are Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch. The latter having displayed an enormous amount of force on the TV series Wandavision

Maybe it’s because of the enormous success of Into the Spider-Verse that Marvel decided to once again make Peter Parker and Spider-Man the focal point of the collapsing universes. As a hero, Spider-Man is one of the most beloved, and as the comic book movie has grown to its current prominence, there are a handful of Spider-Man movies that helped pave that road. We don’t generally mention Daredevil or Ghost Rider in these conversations. Both of those characters were featured in movies that we like to forget ever happened. So when it comes to heroes with long life spans in the cinematic medium, Spider-Man is actually the obvious choice. Because he doesn’t have cosmic powers himself, enter Doctor Stephen Strange.

No Way Home, from the very first trailer, promised a LOT. From a rogues gallery of villains from previous movies, to a deep dive into the multiverse, to perhaps the most action-packed MCU Spider-Man movie yet. The inclusion of past villains prompted a slew of rumors across the internet that have reached a fever pitch in the days drawing closer to the film’s release. Will we see other Spider-Men? Will we see Mephisto? Will we meet Gwen Stacy? Marvel boss Kevin Feige recently announced that Charlie Cox would return to be the MCU’s Daredevil, but the wording he chose was strangely specific. “If you were to see Daredevil in upcoming things, Charlie Cox, yes, would be the actor playing Daredevil. Where we see that, how we see that, when we see that, remains to be seen.” To me it sounds like we don’t know when we will see Daredevil, but…like…what about Matt Murdock?

None of these questions have real, solid answers. So going into Spider-Man: No Way Home, I was full of wild expectations. Honestly, the last time I went into a Marvel movie with expectations this broad and high was Avengers: Endgame. Back in 2019 I was blown away. How in the hell was it possible to wrap up so many threads with such grace? After walking out of No Way Home? I have a new favorite Marvel movie. Without question. Without rival. 

This movie takes place after the surprise ending of Far From Home, which saw Peter Parker’s identity exposed by the late (maybe?) Quentin Beck (Mysterio)—the implications of that revelation have been sitting with us for years now—as well as the surprise return of J.K. Simmons in perhaps the most recognizable role of his career, J. Jonah Jameson. No Way Home resumes from that exact moment and quickly illustrates exactly how catastrophic becoming the most popular person in the world can be to one’s privacy. 

Homecoming was about Peter learning to become a hero for the right reasons, asking him to put his personal interests aside in the pursuit of justice. He sacrificed academic opportunities, relationships, and freedom to be the hero that New York needed. Far From Home helped Peter realize that, because of his abilities, those closest to him would constantly be in danger. It also taught him how to use his Spidey Senses and how to talk to girls (barely), sparking his relationship with MJ. But it also showed a selfish side to Peter, who wanted nothing more than to leave his superhero duties on the wayside and go on vacation. No Way Home then, is ostensibly about Peter reckoning with the risk he brings to those closest to him, but also his struggle with wishing his life could be normal still coming to a head. 

It is challenging material to tackle, but director Jon Watts and writer Chris McKenna deliver a film that is confident in its ability to navigate complex emotional landscapes. In all honesty, as a film, there are a lot of places No Way Home could have gone wrong. There are a ton of characters, new and old, that need to make sense to viewers. The implication and execution of a “multiverse” is logically tenuous at best and genuinely confusing at worst. The denouement alone could be easily tempted into cliché, Deus Ex Machina solutions, and McGuffins. 

Yet somehow, despite the odds being seemingly stacked infinitely against us, Spider-Man: No Way Home manages to dodge potential mistakes and shortcomings to deliver exactly what fans really wanted: a film about Peter Parker coming to a full understanding of who he is after the death of Tony Stark, a movie that pulls from the rich history of Spider-Man in refreshing ways, a movie comfortable enough to make huge changes to the perceived path of its hero to land him in not only a better place than when we started the film, but in a better place than where anyone expected he could be. 

No Way Home is exhilarating, heartbreaking, surprising, and terrifying for all of the right reasons. From the first moments to the last, it will take you on the wildest, most emotional ride that Spider-Man has ever taken you on, twisting and turning until you arrive at your destination. There are very few movies that edge out Endgame, fewer I think that have the ability to directly take on Into the Spider-Verse, but Spider-Man: No Way Home is precisely that movie. 

Do yourself a favor. PLEASE. Do not use the search function on Twitter, block or mute your spoiler prone friends, and if you have to, just take an internet hiatus. The things in this movie that nobody knows about are absolutely incredible, and having those this spoiled for you would be an absolute tragedy. Radio silence until you get your chance to see this. It is that important. 

If you are a fan of Spider-Man, hell if he is your favorite hero, this movie is made for you. My god, would Stan Lee have been proud. A triumph through and through. Marvel, despite moving into a more complex sphere of fiction, is still absolutely crushing it. No Way Home is my new favorite Marvel film, hands down. My guess is, it will be yours too. | Caleb Sawyer

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