After much delay, I was finally able to watch Spider-Man: No Way Home last weekend. The film came out last December so it's a 2021 movie, but only became available for showing locally in the first week of January in my country. Unfortunately, that's right when our omicron surge kicked in! I opted to wait and finally decided that this weekend was safe enough as the surge was in decline.
The film was well-received and has earned a lot of money. However, I have mixed feelings.
First, a spoiler-free review:
- it's the kind of adventure where things just keep escalating and getting out of hand. It's quite a ride
- as a comic book fan, there is a lot to enjoy and simply a lot of fan service in this one, especially for long-time followers of Spider-Man
- a number of scenes could have had a lot more impact if they had not chosen to promote the appearances of certain characters in the film's marketing and managed to prevent information from leaking (more on this later)
- there is a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene; but the post-credits scene is basically a trailer you've probably already seen by now
- magugustuhan ba ni mama: No, she would be so confused!
It's hard to say a lot more because I have a pretty wide definition of "spoilers".
Okay, let's start with the marketing/spoilers. As a comic book fan, as an MCU fan, the experience would have been sooooo much better if we didn't know about Molina/Ock, DaFoe/Osborne, Andrew, Tobey, appearing in this film. Their appearances would have been jaw-dropping moments! But they chose to use the first two in the marketing even. They could have simply chosen to promote it as a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange team-up gone bad and been vague about who the main villain is; I mean, I still don't know who the bad guy in Multiverse of Madness is going to be (coming out later this year), so that's not impossible. I guess keeping such a tight lid on a project with so many moving parts was basically impossible, but one can dream. Maybe this is the price we pay for getting to have all these comic book movies anyway. (Knowing who is in the film ahead of time isn't a problem for original stories!)
Another surprise that was ruined for me was the Matt Murdock cameo, but this one was more of a function of the movie coming out late here, as comics news sites have been pretty bad at keeping their headlines spoiler free once the movie came out. I mean look; does the headline "Spider-Man: No Way Home Brings Back Marvel Netflix Hero" not seem like a spoiler to you? I would have been able to avoid these headlines if the film had been available to watch here on the same day as the US release. Well, I could have also just avoided comic book news for two months, maybe?!?
Plotwise, my biggest gripe is that the premise is basically both Peter and Strange being idiots. Peter is an idiot for wanting to brainwash the world simply because his friends didn't get into MIT. Maybe that's forgiveable because as Strange says, he's just a kid. But then Strange is also an idiot because he went along with this plan without so much as "Are you sure? You want everyone to forget you're Spider-Man?", for a spell that he knows would be dangerous if he lost control of it or suddenly needed to change. They're both supposed to be these super smart people but they just go ahead and immediately get started!
I was also a bit annoyed at Peter deciding to go against Strange to save the baddies, but on further reflection, that's exactly what Spider-Man would do, so that one is fine. The rest of the plot is fine actually!
Anyway, so they decided to do a film about a group of Spider-Man baddies, and they include... FIVE?!? VILLAINS?!? NOT EVEN SIX?!? THE DISRESPECT! I mean, they got all they could from the Toby and Andrew films, but what, they couldn't get Keaton back as the Vulture? I'm sure they could make up some reason to involve him!
That being said, all the villains look great. Electro looks much better than how he looked in Andrew 2, and they did his yellow star mask as an electric effect! DaFoe gives a really good Osborne/Goblin performance, and he even did the "kind of a scientist myself" line! Sandman still had his t-shirt (lol), and I wasn't sure they got Rhys Ifans to reprise as Connors until the final act, but they did! And the makeup work on Molina/Ock was great, he looked just like he did in Tobey 2.
Andrew and Toby looked great. Andrew reminded me so much of his character from Tick Tick Boom though. Tobey looking like a youth pastor was priceless. They have spent a bit too much time discussing Tobey's web situation, but as I told my brother, this was the only time they could have that discussion!
MJ/Zendaya and Ned/Batalon were a great supporting cast as usual. Happy doesn't get a lot to do here, and May... well, you know.
The whole "Peters curing the badguys" thing was pretty good, mainly because it helped redeem the Andrew and Tobey franchises in a way. Among the comics heroes, Peter was always one of those strongly against killing his enemies, and the first two franchises never gave him a chance to try to save his foes.
Two nitpicks that stretch our suspension of disbelief: Peter beating Strange inside the mirror dimension and Ned accidentally learning to use the sling ring (I just rewatched the Doctor Strange film recently, it was so difficult for Strange to learn that!)
Ned's lola was a nice surprise for us Tagalog speakers, although she spoke with a bit of a jilted accent that might have sounded a bit unnatural on the local streets.
I am generally happy with how the rest of the plot developed. May dying was a shocker (thankfully one that never got spoiled for me), but was probably necessary for MCU Peter to truly become "Spider-Man"; he had never had an "Uncle Ben" moment until now, and it's that loss that drives him to make the sacrifices necessary for the rest of the film.
That ending ties up Tom Holland's trilogy neatly and leaves nothing on the table for any possible future appearances. (Unlike Far From Home which burdened the next film with the secret identity reveal.) He could completely leave the role behind right now and it would be fine; or he could go in a completely different direction with a different supporting cast (see: Thor Ragnarok). With not even the Avengers remembering who he is, it even frees him up for a true standalone solo film.
Overall, I appreciate the film especially as a tribute to the history of the Spider-Man franchise(s) in film, but wish they had worked out a stronger premise.
If you liked the film but haven't read a lot of the comics, here's some stuff you might want to read:
- Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1: First appearance of the so-called Sinister Six. (Different team composition and number compared to the film though!)
- Spider-Man: One More Day: The controversial 2007 storyline which had a similar premise to this film.
- Spider-Man: One Moment In Time: The 2010 follow-up story to one more day, explaining Dr. Strange's involvement.
I believe all of these issues are available in the Marvel Unlimited app (a paid sub is required).
(Click photos to view full-size)