Updated: Dec 22, 2021
SPOILERS AHEAD, with BOLD WARNINGS ahead of paragraphs you should avoid.
When the trailer of Spider-Man: No Way Home premiered on YouTube, to say I was excited would be an understatement. I watched the trailer on loop for the next few days, and watched Easter egg and trailer breakdown videos. I knew Alfred Molina was coming back as Dr. Otto Octavius, there was Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs followed by his menacing laughter, both meaning a possible explosion and exploration of the multiverse.
So early this morning, I went into the theatre after two years of being cooped inside with my depressed head. I was expecting the usual Marvel fanfare and fellow MCU nerds cheering on epic fight scenes and hooting at jaw-dropping visuals. What I didn’t expect was that this film was going to become the Origin Story for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. We had met Tom’s Peter as a fifteen-year-old, the friendly neighbourhood vigilante, picked up by Tony Stark to solve his little domestic feud with Steve Rogers. If the Avengers was a firm, then he was the naive new intern; he was the baby superhero who was protected and adored by anyone he befriended. He made us cry when he was snapped into dust by Thanos, and snapped back to life five years later. But his journey truly begins after Tony’s death in Spider-Man: Far From Home. He had been left with shoes that were too big for his baby feet to fill.
The story picks up immediately from where the last film ended, with Mysterio exposing the identity of Peter Parker to the world. Not only does this revelation create chaos around Peter, it also harms people around him: his girlfriend M.J. and best friend Ned. They are dragged in by the FBI, the trio is not even considered eligible to be evaluated by MIT, the whole world is after Peter with their cellphones trying to capture every moment and reactions of his, and of course there are people throwing bricks into his home. So what can a seventeen-year-old do? He seeks help from the most impulsive and irresponsible adult near him, Dr. Stephen Strange.
WARNING: SPOILER PARAGRAPH! Unlike a fairytale where the magical godparent helps resolve the problem, Dr. Strange aggravates it. And whoop, we have all the villains we grew up watching on TV screen! From Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man films and Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man films, all of them are here in Tom’s Peter Parker universe. Each one crazier than the other, but equally clueless of the multiverse, technically homeless, but nonetheless evil.
For people who have watched Into the Spiderverse, the plot of No Way Home may seem similar, but the events that trigger the openings of the multiverse are definitely different, but the rest of the plot has an overlap of narratives. It was intentionally done, and makes Spiderverse’s story part of this multiverse. It is an extremely self-aware screenplay; there are clever jokes that are especially planted for viewers of all the Spider-Man films, there is a lot of casual spill-over of information from different universes, which keeps baffling our Spider-Man.
But the best part of this film was that in his heart, Spider-Man is still a boy who needs guidance. Without Tony around to chastise his impulsive ways, and Dr. Strange treating him as a kid but also expecting Peter to have maturity more than his age, clearly backfires and results in miscommunication. He is a teenager, his life doesn’t revolve around saving the whole wide world, as of yet, and he just wants to have a normal life with his near and dear ones. Is that too much to ask? Well, when you are Spider-Man, yes. You can’t have it all; this was established and cemented in Spiderverse in the best way.
One of my friends had once stated that the perfect Spider-Man always dies in every version of reality: the Peter Parker whom Miles Morales replaces as Spider-Man had it all sorted, he was married, Aunt May knew about his identity, and he had back-up plans and multiple suits, and still he died. My fear for Tom’s Peter had always been the same, he was not having a bad life compared to his other counterparts. And then the story took a U-turn to greatness by stomping on my heart.
WARNING: SPOILER PARAGRAPH! Actions have consequences, and despite our best intentions, the tragedy happens. So when the tragedy finally happens, we as the audience see it long coming, but for obvious reasons Peter Parker doesn’t. My sister, who is equally obsessed with Spider-Man, kept muttering don’t, don’t, don’t beside me; alas, he did not pay heed to her advice! I have always hated the device called “death of a beloved character for plot progression or character development.” Spider-Man’s Origin story has always been built around death; I was really happy when Tom’s Peter Parker had been introduced without the need for Uncle Ben’s death. He had just arrived, with awareness of his powers, and was doing great as an Avenger intern. I had very confidently assumed that Uncle Ben’s death was replaced by Tony Stark’s death. But Tony’s death was not enough, it seems.
The post-Endgame MCU movies that I have seen have been fun or borderline optimistic, except for Black Widow (I watched recently), which was stale toast from yesterday’s breakfast. As a viewer, I had been lulled into a false sense of security; I was expecting aliens and invasions and even Cosmic Spider-Man, because Tony Stark promised a better world, didn’t he?
This film brought back the nostalgia of a standalone story and the innate humanity of a superhero’s journey. If we take away Peter’s suits, his powers, his friends, his family, then what’s left of him? Tony had asked these questions and Peter has been answering it every time with his actions. He is a good person who cares. He may be broke, his love life might be in shambles, or maybe his career didn’t move the way he wanted, he still cared for his Queens neighbourhood. In every version of reality, he cares!
I had read years back that Stan Lee had created Spider-Man for the teenagers exclusively as to deal with their concerns like first love, homework, college applications, and occasionally a parasitic black gloopy goo. Hence, he was the friendly neighbourhood superhero who dealt with street thugs and petty criminals. Tom Holland has played his part to perfection, he has no money, but he is famous, yet tabloid website DailyBugle.net makes huge money out of him by pandering anti-Spider-Man content. Tom Holland’s acting doesn’t need any more hyping, but his chemistry with Zendaya (M.J.) and Jacob Batalon (Ned) is one of the sweetest. They are a trio who support each other through thick and thin. Now that the slate of Peter Parker is wiped clean, it would be interesting to see what they do in fourth film.
The visuals of this film were gorgeous and terrifying: did I ever think I wanted to see Captain America’s Shield in the Statue of Liberty’s hand? Now I did! And no Spider-Man story is complete without a car hanging upside down from a bridge by webs! My heart pounded when Dr. Strange and Peter have a duel in the mirror realm. Dr. Octavius versus Peter Parker is always crazy: tentacles versus limbs! It was magic happening in 3D. Despite being totally dependent on fantastic CGI and epic sets, the final fight reminded me of the Battle of Bastards between Jon Snow and Ramsey Bolton in Game of Thrones. It’s an intense showdown, sad, full of frustration, and sense of loss. I wanted to hug Peter with all my love.
WARNING: SPOILER PARAGRAPH! Seeing the cameo of Matt Murdock was one of the greatest highlights of the film. It ties in the stories of Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and others from the Marvel tv universe, as well as opens the door for many more possibilities of Phase 4 of the MCU! Which also makes me hope Peter Parker might have a clash with Kingpin in the next film!
I want to write more about the villains, but I cannot give away any more of the plot! But I didn’t realize how much I missed Dr. Octavius and Green Goblin! Willem Dafoe can go from helpless to crazy in seconds, and I was living for every moment of it… waiting for him to trip into the darkness. Jaime Foxx’s Electro, though, got the best visuals of all of them, his costume was electrifying! Throw in emo Sandman and the crazy Lizard to this kiddie party of super-villains, and you age up a teenager in 12 hours! The action sequences were just so beautiful and entertaining, it was a nail-biting build-up to the one-on-one battle until sunrise.
By the end of this film, Peter Park has come of age, he has rented an apartment, most probably has given up on studying in MIT, does he have a job? We don’t know! But we know he understands his powers come with tremendous responsibilities, he learnt that he can’t have it all, and home is truly gone; another child has been forced to grow up too fast.
Aritra Paul is a book editor and digital marketer from India. She enjoys reading manga and webcomics and aspires to be a comic book writer. But mostly spends her time writing fanfictions and uploading pictures of her cat Gucciko, food, and books on her Instagram.