This weekend, we will be doing a Lookback Episode on the Spider-Man Films, which means in the last week, I have watched nine Spider-Man movies. That’s a lot to take in, but it sure helped in watching the latest film, “No Way Home” because I was fresh on the storylines, the characters and especially the villains. We are entering a “Multiverse” here and I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that there will be crossover elements in this film. You have seen Doc Ock in the trailer, and you know that Alfred Molina was in one of the Sony, Sam Rami Spider-Man movies, so clearly, all bets are off when it comes to who might show up. I have managed to avoid any spoilers myself before seeing the movie and I certainly don’t plan on screwing it up for anyone else.
The animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” got to these ideas first, but it set up a groundwork that allows everything this movie does to work more efficiently than might have otherwise been possible. The basic concept is easier to understand, and the device by which characters cross universe’s is explained a little more in this movie than in the animated film, and it also fits in with the other stories that the MCU has been telling, so that’s a plus. What it ends up meaning is that several plotlines and characters get an upgrade in this movie and the film repairs some of the weaknesses in the other films. Maybe we will never get goth Toby dancing down the street out of our heads, but there is other business to attend to and this film tries to take care of that business. As far as I was concerned, it succeeds.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has largely been a creature nurtured by Ironman and the Avengers. This means that the villains he has faced are connected to the MCU Infinity War thread up to this point. He has had the aid of the Avengers or SHIELD remnants but this time, it looks like he is on his own, until he connects with Dr. Strange. For a bright kid, Peter Parker sometimes jumps to some weak conclusions on little more than a hunch. He turns to the magic of Dr. Strange, thinking maybe he can reverse time to the point were no one had discovered he was :Spider-Man”. An improvised plan goes unsurprisingly wrong, and Peter/Spidey has to clean it up before it gets incontrollable. That’s the set up, suffice it to say every solution has it’s unintended consequences which produce more problems to deal with. While all of this is going on, Peter, his best friend Ned and his new love MJ, are also struggling with non-super criminal difficulties, like getting into college or having a little privacy. The two teen characters help keep the movie grounded to the situation that Peter finds himself in, and it also provides for some humor. The laughs and the gasps are the things this movie has going for it the most.
Holland’s fresh faced enthusiasm was always a good counter part to Tony Stark’s detached cynicism. The by play between their viewpoints is extend a bit with the Dr. Strange connection, but Holland manages to inject plenty of life into the other relationships in the film, particularly with the antagonists. Spider-Man has plenty of quips and there is a good deal of millennial ignorance to fuel it. The surprises that show up are where most of the audience will get sucked into rooting for the web slinger. The collection of enemies that Peter has to wade through is ultimately matched by the allies he has, some of whom stand in his way like moral warning signs that he simply can’t see. This Sider-Man has to learn some of the lessons his predecessors learned, and it is entertaining to watch the likes of Aunt May, Happy and others, try to impart them. The plot allows this film to do some credibility repair on the sometimes maligned “Amazing Spider-Man” films, and even the widely criticized but still successful “Spider-Man 3”. Character threads get handled that had been left dangling, and the tonal quirks that plagued those earlier films are gently mocked and put into perspective.
As usual, the action scenes are top notch in the film, and the technology does a better job than in has in the past of convincing us we are not watching a cartoon, even though we most certainly are in most of those action sequences. The Lambcast Episode is full of spoilers, so if you want to delve into my thoughts on this a bit more, go there. Here we remain spoiler free so I simply can’t talk about all of the great moments in the film. When you see it, as it looks like everybody will, you will know more of what I am talking about.