Nearly 30 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “second chances” seem to have defined both the recurring thematic weight and weak-links of the franchise. Most recently, in Black Widow (SPOILERS FOR THAT NOT NWH) it was for the murder of an innocent child, in the mini-series WandaVision (SPOILERS FOR THAT NOT NWH) it was for slavery — yes, you read that right —, in almost every movie starring Tony Stark (SPOILERS FOR ALL MCU MOVIES PRE-NWH) it was for the abuse of technological power at the cost of civilian lives, and in here it’s thankfully just at the mercy of a reasonably gullible yet well-intended teenager guided by his narrative’s entourage of fan service: shockingly the two least annoying elements of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
As someone who was raised on Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies as a child, even before obsessing for any of the other masked comic-book crusaders, a sequel-hybrid that brings back the lead villains of those two movies can feel taunting when focusing too recklessly on trying to recreate our childhoods or fill some psychological void of incompletion that for, quote on quote, “ambiguous” reasons the film insists we need. The format of the nostalgia and drama in McKenna and Sommers’ script boils down from a MCU-like decision to once more hurl out-of-the-blue ultimatums onto the plot board, since the story thinks it has to concentrate more so on making sure that each and every one of the gazillion other references that it wants to weave in between can make the cut miraculously, something though that I’ve dully become numb to with this franchise but not nearly to the degree of what No Way Home challenges its viewers to believe. One ultimatum in particular I just know is going to bother me for the remainder of the next Holland trilogy from simply recalling that it could easily be used on future characters to resolve virtually any issue but simply won’t be in a universe infamously known for eradicating pre-established information.
But that can be looked over, similar to the faults that can be found in the many MCU movies I do actually enjoy. However, that’s not what bothers me the most with this *capper* to the trilogy. Like all of Jon Watt’s web-slinging efforts thus far, there is a compelling story in No Way Home that is underestimated in this method of execution. One angle I do appreciate about this sequel is how Peter Parker actually faces hefty consequences, which toggles back to this idea of “second chances” and how there seems to be some reconstruction being done to the matter with its added adversity we don’t see enough in the MCU. A big source of this conflict derives from the morality of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, which is actually livelier than ever in this third entry, with his optimism excelling the latter of Garfield or Maguire’s personalities from their respective movies. It seemed promising, this pronounced darkness that we’re finally getting in an MCU Spider-Man movie, but then it hit me: that’s only because it is referring to, if not arguably copying, the web-slinger’s classic genesis formula.
The fans are finally getting the Peter Parker they wanted: one with virtually the same heartache story and struggles as what made up the original five Spider-Man movies, which is perplexing to think about considering Marc Webb’s Spider-Mans were criticized primarily for their lack of originality — aimed especially at his first outing in 2012 — yet No Way Home seems to be of a similar makeup with details however slightly adjusted and, most noticeably, coated in a deceiving pallet of reminiscence from the inclusion of a “multiverse”, giving me a lukewarm feeling throughout my viewing when wondering how exactly any of it is enriching Raimi’s initial tale for which many thought Webb’s movies failed to do, besides the fact that Watt’s version is making its influence a little less obvious. Funny enough, that “multiverse” component of this movie even rips off a theme that Into the Spider-Verse (2018) introduced — who would’ve guessed! — which would’ve been the one original idea McKenna and Sommers’ had going for them for better if Sony’s animation hadn’t divulged it just three years before. The ending though, which I won’t spoil, is at least half of a satisfying idea in consideration of what it sets up for the future of Peter Parker’s journey, partially compromised by how offensive the plot surfaces it and furthermore how familiar it is in its appropriation of Raimi and Webb’s work. However, endings have never been the MCU’s forte, and it’s at least nice to see that it mildly awards here more than anywhere else in the film.
In truth, No Way Home is essentially Peter Parker’s origin story in disguise, except this time there’s a fog of fan service galore in it to divert hardcore devotees from the fact that Marvel is just sending us straight back to square one to regurgitate this esteemed narrative for another generation to come. It is a celebration of doing practically the exact same and letting predecessors literally nod their heads in agreement that this has happened before. Hmm…
But hey, the comedy wasn’t bad! I hope that stays fixed again for the MCU because it has been lacking all year!
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is now playing in theaters.