Film Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home is an emotional and extravagant sequel that pays specific service to its devoted fanbase

Arguably 2021’s most anticipated film – and safely the most anticipated Spider-Man title in the history of the character, thus far – Spider-Man: No Way Home is the epitome of the sweeping superhero epic.  Already a release that comes with an unreasonably high set of expectations (the are they or aren’t they debate surrounding the appearances of former Spider-men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield has become practically bigger than the film itself), Jon Watts‘ closing Homecoming chapter is a heavily emotional affair, to say the least.

Picking up directly where 2019’s Far From Home ended, where the battered Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) manipulated the population into believing Spider-Man was more villain than victor, as well as revealing his true identity, No Way Home immediately brands Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as public enemy number one.  Hounded by the media and the government, Peter soon realises that he isn’t the one solely taking the punches, with his best friend (Jacob Batalon‘s Ned), his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), all similarly falling out of favour within the world due to their intimate ties to the “murderous” Spider-Man.

At breaking point and unsure how to navigate his life going forward, Peter does what any desperate superhero teenager would do and asks a wizard for help.  Said wizard happens to be Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – so, you know, a little more than just any wizard – and, hoping for a magical resolve, Peter asks if the world can forget entirely about his identity as tied to Spider-Man.  It’s possible, but of course not as simplistic, and Peter asking for certain exclusions within the spell – he’s hoping that the likes of Ned, May and MJ can all retain their knowledge of him being Spider-Man – leads to a colossal misfire that unwittingly affects the multi-verse and allows a slew of dangerous adversaries to break through from their own reality into Peter’s.

The multi-versal narrative that the majority of No Way Home‘s quite mammoth near-150 minute running time devotes itself to has little time to explain the history of the character to satiated audiences.  It assumes they’re here because they have seen all iterations that have come before, with screenwriters Chris McKenna (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and Erik Sommers (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) penning a script that bases its humour, twists, and tragedy around a mentality that speaks to a specific fan service; this never more present than it is in the final third of the film where it overdoses on certain reveals and plays fast and loose with the passions of devoted audiences.

A review that is being left deliberately vague for a film that is undoubtedly best viewed free from the spoils of social media – do all you can to avoid the fan-flamed halls of online discussion regarding this film – No Way Home, whilst more so a particularly fan-aimed film rather than one inclusive of the casual viewer, is an event picture through and through.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Spider-Man: No Way Home is screening in Australian theatres from December 16th, 2021.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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