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Just finished watching Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) last night. It’s about two-and-a-half-hours long, and like a lot of superhero movies, it tries to cram too much into that space.
The movie starts out where Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) left off, with the recording of Mysterio/Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) saying that Spider-Man (Tom Holland) killed him and that Spider-Man is Peter Parker.
Peter’s life goes downhill immediately and so do the lives of his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his wingman Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and even Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).
Federal agents detain all of them, but in spite of all their bluster, they can’t really hold any of them except Hogan who has ties to the Stark technology used in the previous movie. Even that doesn’t stick very long.
There’s a cameo of Charlie Cox appearing as attorney Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and a cute little scene where he catches a brick thrown through the Parker’s apartment window from behind. It was a tragedy that Daredevil didn’t appear in the movie because a Spider-Man/Daredevil team up would have been awesome.
Having Peter, Ned, and MJ all turned down for all the universities they’d applied for was the last straw, and Peter turns to Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help, asking him to turn back time. No time stone, no time travel, but Strange suggests using a spell to make everyone everywhere forget that he’s Spider-Man.
Wong (Benedict Wong) wants no part of it and he’s out.
Strange takes Peter into basically a dungeon to cast the spell. Where it gets odd was that several times during the spell, Peter interrupts to amend his request, basically asking that the people he cares about remember his identity. Strange continues to “edit” the spell, but it gets out of hand and Strange has to contain (not shut down) the incantation.
When Strange learns that Peter didn’t even try to talk the MIT rep out of denying them an admission, he gets all adult and huffy about it.
Peter finds the MIT Asst Vice Chancellor (Paula Newsome) traveling to the airport. Unfortunately, he also finds Dr. Octopus/Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) who all but kills him and a bunch of other people until Peter’s nanotech suit takes over Otto’s arms.
Having Peter save her life, the Vice Chancellor (no name given in the credits) says she’ll do everything she can to get him, MJ, and Ned admitted.
At the same time, the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) appears, tossing around a bunch of green bombs, but Strange transports Otto and Peter back to his dungeon in time to escape (and lost track of the Goblin). Turns out a few extra-dimensional Spider villains made it through and Strange tells Peter he needs to round them up and bring them in, giving him a device to do so magically.
To trace everyone down, Peter enlists MJ and Ned while Strange unwisely ignores them.
Electro/Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) are next up, but Sandy actually helps Peter neutralize Electro, who’s having a field day with the power sources in Peter’s universe.
The Lizard/Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) completes the list, and all but Osborne end up in Strange’s little magic prison. Osborn stops the influence of his alter ego by smashing the Goblin helmet. He ends up at May’s homeless shelter, confused and needing help. May convinces Peter to help him, but once at Strange’s place, the magician locks Osborn up as well.
Most of this rogue’s gallery seem to know each other, enough to realize that in their alternate realities, they’re all dead, thanks to their respective Spider-Men. If they are returned to where they belong, they’ll die. Strange has harnessed the spell in a special container and one push of the button and they’re gone.
Peter pleads for them, basically because he’s a good guy and May begged for Norman’s existence, but Strange says it’s their fate. Besides, the stability of the multiverse depends on them going back.
Spider-Man grabs the box from Strange and in spite of all of the wizard’s power, he can’t get it back. He even pushed Peter’s astral projection out of his body, but amazingly, Spider-Man’s body is still able to resist him. Peter “swims” back to this body and the battle royal between the two greatest creations of Steve Ditko continues.
How is Peter able to do that? There’s nothing about being Spider-Man that’s mystical. For that matter, Strange, in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) is able to manipulate and baffle Loki, yet he can’t handle Spider-Man. Loki is extremely powerful, but after the first The Avengers (2012) movie, he was pretty much a punching bag.
In the comic book Strange Tales #123 (1964), Loki comes close to killing Strange just because as a god, he’s so much more powerful than any Earthly magician.
In the “Mirror Dimension” where Strange says he’s in control, Peter beats him again, this time using Geometry:
“Do you know what’s cooler than magic? Math.” -Peter
He traps Strange in that realm, taking the magic box back with him, even stealing the ring Strange uses to open and close portals.
His idea is to cure everyone using the Stark tech at Happy’s apartment (good thing Happy’s gone).
He gives MJ the box and Ned the ring and says if things go sideways, MJ should push the button.
May is at the apartment and things do go spectacularly sideways. The cure is dangling out there for everyone, but the Goblin has since taken Osborn over again. The Lizard, who was the only one not going up to Happy’s place, was kept locked in a truck rather than back in his magic cell (stupid, stupid, stupid), and as the Goblin causes chaos to reign, the reptile breaks free.
Jameson (J.K. Simmons) has followed Peter to the apartment and he and his reporters witness the whole battle. It was sort of like the first Spider-Man annual comic book (1964) where Spidey faced Mysterio, Electro, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Dr. Octopus, and Sandman, who collectively were called “The Sinister Six.”
This time Peter almost doesn’t survive. The rest of the “bad guys” split, including Otto who Peter thought he had “fixed,” except Osborn. He escapes, blowing up a bunch of police cars on his way out on his flier, but he kills Aunt May (who, before she goes, delivers the “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” line).
Peter escapes the police but just by a hair.
Meanwhile, MJ wants to push the button but Ned wants her to wait. Wearing “the ring” he randomly wishes to see Peter again. After a bit of practice, he really does open a portal and a Spider-Man comes through, but a different Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) soon followed by another Peter (Tobey Maguire).
Ned’s Lola (Mary Rivera) mentioned to Ned in the past that their family has some sort of connection to magic users making me wonder if there was a Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) link. I hope not as I’m really not a fan of that movie (If Ned stops being Peter’s friend [see below], will he appear in a Shang-Chi sequel?).
There are a lot of cute and even touching moments once the three Peters get together and they all work to develop cures for their villains.
There’s a huge climactic scene where Otto actually saves the say because his cure worked.
One by one, the villains are cured, all that is, except the Goblin. Strange finally appears just as the universe is splitting open. In all the quantum universes everywhere, anyone who knows about Peter and Spider-Man are trying to come through, an endless number of them.
Peter (Tom), the primary one in this universe, wants to kill Osborn as revenge for Aunt May. He almost does until Peter (Toby) stops him…just long enough for Osborn to stab Peter (Toby) in the back. Peter (Andrew) tosses Peter (Tom) the cure and Osborn stops being a menace.
There is a dramatic and touching moment when MJ is falling off the structure (she and Ned got there through another portal) and Peter (Tom) isn’t able to save her. Peter (Andrew) watching MJ fall to her death just as his Gwen did, saves her. A moment of personal redemption.
In the end, the only way to save the multiverse is for everyone in this universe to forget, not just that Peter is Spider-Man, but to forget Peter completely. After trying to have his way for about 90% of the movie, although with altruistic motives, he gives in and lets everything be.
Strange sends the other-worlders back to their dimensions and after the predictable and tearful farewells, Spider-Man swings away.
Time has passed, It’s winter. Peter had promised MJ and Ned he’d find them and make them remember. He walks into the coffee shop where MJ works. Ned walks in behind him and they absolutely do not recognize him. Peter backs out of the prepared speech he was going to give MJ. They were both accepted into MIT. Peter, seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, orders a coffee and walks out with it.
He rents an apartment and prepares to start a new life.
But wait a minute. No one, absolutely no one on Earth remembers him. He went to high school with MJ and Ned and they don’t remember. Did Strange’s spell affect hardcopy and electronic records? Peter’s still got his wallet because he paid for his coffee. Inside must be his ID, maybe credit cards, physical proof of his identity. If that’s true, why aren’t his educational records intact? What about medical records, dental records, a social security number? There must be an “official” Peter Parker, otherwise he’d never have been able to rent an apartment.
He’s going to need a job to pay for things, which is left hanging. He does create his own Spider suit (as opposed to Stark tech).
He visits May’s grave and while he’s standing there, Happy arrives. Happy doesn’t recognize Peter who just says he knew May through Spider-Man.
Does everyone who knew Peter have odd “Peter-shaped” holes in their memories? Did Strange not just create forgetfulness but reordered the memories of thousand or more minds on the planet? Strange said even he wouldn’t remember Peter, but if Peter went to see him again, could he convince a magician, who still knows how to take away memories, who he really is?
There’s so much more that could be deconstructed about the movie, but it would take too long. The mid-credit scene introduces Venom, while the end credits scene is a direct lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).
I thought I’d like this movie more than I did. It wasn’t bad. There were a lot of fun bits. I’m sure I missed a basketful of “Easter eggs”. But it was so long, uneven, and a bit sloppy. It relied a lot on the nostalgia involving all of the previous “Spider-Man” films. Admittedly, I think I only saw the first film with Andrew Garfield in it, although I’m pretty sure I watched all of the Tobey Maguire films (but that was so long ago).
I still like Tom Holland in the role, although his Peter seems more accident prone than the silver age original. He communicates the right balance of awkward teenager and heroic adventurer. I really don’t like the character of Ned. First of all, too many heroes in TV and film have the “control voice” or “guy/gal in the chair” guiding them along, so he’s more of a stereotype at this point. Also, the cute, perky, always cheerful comedy-relief sidekick is painful to watch. If I were Peter, every time he did something even slightly annoying, I’d throw him off the top of a tall building. I’m hoping this change in Spider-Man’s life means he’s a loner as he was in the comic books that we’re finally leaving Ned behind.
The fact that Peter didn’t really try to get MJ back and that both MJ and Ned are going to MIT leaves room for Peter to possibly meet his own Gwen Stacy (yes, we did see Peter unpacking a GRE Prep study guide when he moved into his new place, but that could mean he’ll end up attending a university more local to New York).
This “everyone forgot me” thing compounds the corner the MCU already painted themselves in with “the blip.” Half of Earth’s human population disappeared for five years. The events in Avengers: Endgame (2019) brought them back, but those events happened five years in the future relative to movie audiences. That means any Marvel movie or TV show we see from “Endgame” going forward, unless it specifically states it is happening in the past like Black Widow (2021), happens five years in our future. If “No Way Home” was shown in 2021, just add five years to get the year in which it occurs in the MCU. I know five years might not seem like much, but what were you doing in 2017?
Oddly enough, even with the other two Peters mentioning their Uncle Bens, this Peter doesn’t say what happened to his uncle at all. I half expected May to be buried next to him, but he gets zero mention. Did May just divorce her husband? Was she ever married? Maybe she was Peter’s paternal aunt, sister to his Dad (Peter’s parents never rate a mention, either) which is how she has the last name “Parker.”
We know that in order for Peter to really become the hero Spider-Man, he has to suffer a tragic loss. It’s usually Uncle Ben. For Peter (Tom), it’s his Aunt May. Now, without Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and without the Avengers, he has to be the Spider-Man I knew from childhood, the lone fighter for justice, trying to right the wrongs he never could before.
Here’s my three-minute or less TikTok review. Don’t forget to support your indie authors and publishers.
2 thoughts on “Review of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)”
I stopped watching the revised versions of Spider Man after the three Tobey Maguire films. They seemed to rewrite the character as if for an alternate universe — and I really hate that.
They’re never going to be just like the comic book, and even over time, the comic book characters change into something we’d never have seen when we were young. I thought that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was the closest any actor came to playing Peter/Spider-Man. It helped that Holland was the youngest person to play the role.