Spider-Man: No Way Home Movie Review

Pavan Cheruku

You’re in free fall. Your chest feels like it’s sinking—like every towering tree of the Amazon Rainforest is propelling through your thoracic cavity at once. Your eyelids are glued tightly to your corneas like sticky pages of an ancient manuscript. The overwhelming sound of the wind shooting up your spandex suit is deafening. At the very last conceivable moment, you extend your right arm ahead of you and shoot a web that implants itself onto a ledge of the Chrysler building. Your legs project above your head, carving out an exhilarating path for you to swing above the perpetual chaos of New York City traffic. 

I absolutely love Spider-Man. I grew up watching Sam Raimi’s iconic Spider-Man trilogy with Tobey Maguire, Marc Webb’s duology with Andrew Garfield, the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, and reading the comics. Anytime I felt unsure of myself, I would imagine myself swinging past skyscrapers at lightning speed and immediately feel reassured. You can find a drawing of Spider-Man on any piece of paper I receive from school: on the back of a circular motion worksheet from Physics class or next to a short story I’m reading in Spanish class. So obviously, I could not wait to watch Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was directed by Jon Watts, and is the third Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film takes place directly after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, where Mysterio reveals that Spider-Man is Peter Parker and frames him for murder. Peter’s life begins to fall apart once his identity is revealed. He’s overwhelmed by incessant character assassination from J. Jonah Jameson and The Daily Bugle, and is especially upset that he and his friends are rejected from their dream college MIT due to backlash over Peter’s alter ego. As a senior who just finished applying to colleges, I thought it was relatable to see the struggles of the college admissions process depicted as an obstacle Peter and his friends have to face. To fix the situation he has found himself in, Peter solicits the help of Dr. Strange, who proposes casting a spell that would make everyone forget that he is Spider-Man. Peter ends up tampering with the spell while Dr. Strange is casting it, since he wants his loved ones to remember his secret identity. The central conflict of the movie arises when the corrupted spell begins summoning villains from alternate universes who know that Peter is Spider-Man.

There is so much to talk about with this movie. Plot-wise, countless surprises made the story captivating from start to finish. I loved the Daredevil cameo at the beginning of the movie, and I’d love to see Charlie Cox reprise his role from the gritty Netflix Original Series in MCU films down the line. Furthermore, Aunt May’s tragic death made me tear up. I loved how she served as Peter’s moral compass in the films and that we will see her live on through his heroism. The reveal of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield in this movie made me euphoric. I had been wanting to see all three depictions of the character share scenes together in a movie for years. I’ve seen the movie three times already, but hearing the crowd react to the scenes with Maguire, Garfield, and Holland together never gets old.

Beyond just presenting fan service, I think the writers of the movie did an excellent job of crafting a story that captures the essence of Spider-Man. Spider-Man: No Way Home expresses the idea that “with great power comes great responsibility” by making Peter rehabilitate the villains from alternate dimensions, rather than following the easy path and sending them back to their universes to die. This decision makes Peter grapple with genuine sacrifices, a recurring struggle for every version of Spider-Man. He makes the heartbreaking decision not to pursue MJ and Ned after the final forgetting spell takes effect because he believes they are safer and happier without him. What’s more responsible than choosing to have all of your loved ones forget about you to save the universe?

The acting in this movie also deserves recognition. Tom Holland provides the best performance of his career in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Holland flawlessly portrays Peter’s grief and anger after Aunt May’s death. In this movie, Peter changes from an immature, carefree kid to a far more world-weary and darker Spider-Man, which Holland expresses masterfully. Garfield and Maguire were also excellent in this film, and I’m glad they had enough screen time to conclude their character arcs. I loved that Garfield’s Spider-Man could save MJ, and gain redemption for not saving Gwen Stacy, which he blamed himself for. Willem Dafoe was also phenomenal, playing both the personalities of Norman Osborn—the vulnerable, senile part of him—and the menacing Green Goblin. The Green Goblin has become my favorite Spider-Man villain because of Dafoe’s acting in this movie. I loved Zendaya’s depiction of MJ, and thought this movie did a great job of developing her relationship with Peter. However, this made their final scene together even more tragic.

The ending of the movie was absolutely perfect. It brings Spider-Man back to being a more grounded superhero, who is alone and broke, and just trying his best to be a good person. I’m excited to see where the MCU will take this iconic character from here.

However, Spider-Man: No Way Home wasn’t flawless. I found the first act of the film to be formulaic and bland in its filmmaking, and thought some of the motivations of the villains in the movie didn’t really make sense. Still, I thought it was a close-to-perfect Spider-Man film, and probably one of the most entertaining cinema experiences I’ve ever had. If Spider-Man: No Way Home were a song, it would be 10 Mile Stereo by Beach House: surreal, entertaining, and climactic.