Review by Sean Boelman
One of the most heavily hyped films of 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home promised to be an epic conclusion to this MCU-connected web slinger trilogy, and it delivers on that promise and more. Unexpectedly intelligent and often more thoughtful than some movies that actually bill themselves as satires, this film swings big and manages to pull it off.
The movie follows Spider-Man after his identity is revealed as he asks for help from Doctor Strange in fixing the collateral damage, accidentally unleashing dangerous, otherworldly foes. In terms of story, it is arguably the most consequential film of the MCU since Infinity War, perhaps even the first Avengers movie, which is surprising given that the last two Spidey outings were both mostly lighthearted fare.
Something else that is interesting about this film is the way in which it manages to balance its tones. It’s hilarious, action-packed, and emotionally affecting without ever feeling overstuffed. The first third is a media satire, with some genuinely insightful commentary, before becoming closer to what viewers had expected for the remaining two-thirds.
MCU movies have also been getting longer and longer, this one clocking in right under two-and-a-half hours after credits and post-credits content. It’s a full fifteen minutes longer than Homecoming, and yet it moves even better because it has plenty of great action and an abundance of witty quips.
Peter’s development in the movie admittedly isn’t as strong here as it was in the previous two films, as this hits a lot of familiar beats within the character’s comic book arc, but these moments still have quite a bit of emotional resonance. Additionally, the supporting characters more than make up for Peter’s lack of depth, as many of them are more complex than we have ever seen them before.
Tom Holland here proves that he has fully embraced the Spider-Man role, giving a performance that is lovably goofy. It is nice to see Benedict Cumberbatch taking a more laid back approach to his character here than he has in previous movies. And Zendaya gives a performance that is more nuanced than any love interest of Parker has given in the past.
The film has an absolute behemoth of a crafts team behind it, with an Academy Award-winning cinematographer and composer, among other talented people. Mauro Fiore’s camerawork is astounding, and while mediocre CGI threatens to undermine it, it mostly works very well. Michael Giacchino’s score is as exceptional as one would expect.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the biggest steps that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken yet, and while it had the potential to backfire, it works extremely well. There is a lot of fanservice, but also far more substance than one would expect.
Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on December 17.