Spider-Man: No Way Home – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 28 minutes, Director – Jon Watts

When his true identity is revealed Peter Parker (Tom Holland) turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that will make everyone forget that he is Spider-Man. However, when the spell goes wrong it brings villains from other universes on the hunt for Peter.

Perhaps the elements that have stood out most from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s past 26 outings are the action scenes. The cheer-inducing moments when some of our favourite heroes finally deliver the fan service we’ve all been waiting for, even if we didn’t know it. However, amongst all the action, what stands out most from Spider-Man: No Way Home is the fluidity of its narrative. In what could be a very busy film things feel well-contained to bring about a consistent sense of flow that keeps you in place throughout. Creating an almost unpredictable feel to the course of what is perhaps the best structured film to grace the MCU so far.

In previous, non-Marvel Studios, Spider-Man films when multiple villain narratives have been attempted they’ve felt busy and unsatisfying. However, where No Way Home succeeds is by having all it’s villains largely in one place at each time. Meaning that the film doesn’t jump back and forth between multiple characters and arcs that you have to keep track of. Everything is in plain sight and it encapsulates part of the thrill of watching the piece. As the likes of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro (who gets a form of redemption in this film after some mishandlings in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2) return to hunt down Peter Parker. However, Tom Holland’s not their Spider-Man, but he is the reason for them arriving in his universe. After causing Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to botch a spell designed to make everyone forget that Parker is Spider-Man – after his identity was revealed and falsely shamed at the end of Far From Home – villains from other universes are unleashed, all looking for their own destructive justice.

In some cases it feels like the villains get more to do here than in their previous appearances – Molina particularly feels more present than his brief patches of screen-time in 2004’s Spider-Man 2. It allows for the characters to feel somewhat more fleshed out, especially as they, if briefly, come to terms with not being in their own universes. When combined as a seemingly undefeatable force there’s a true sense of grand-scale threat. Allowing for plenty of thrills and spectacle to spill from the screen with often truly stunning visual effects that bring to life the chaos that ensues over the fast two and a half hour run-time.

Unlike previous MCU entry Eternals there’s barely any repetition within this time and things move on from one scene to the other with ease. As we see Holland’s Parker, and Spider-Man, grow and develop more than perhaps in any other film. Helped by the fact that this feels like much more of a personal journey for him, with Strange thankfully not taking a Tony Stark-like father figure role as some may have feared. Despite the villains that are in place this is solely Peter’s story and rarely do they break into it – although almost each figure manages to have their moment. In terms of humour, action and fan service. While the previous Sony Spider-Man franchises aren’t essential viewing (most other MCU entries, however, likely are) it certainly might help to heighten certain levels of impact within a number of sequences. Particularly a number of Sam Raimi-esque tints to the look and feel of some Green Goblin moments.

With everything going on in No Way Home it’s undeniably the biggest, boldest and most ambitious Spider-Man film yet. And thanks to its clear sense of direction, balance and excellent structuring a fluid narrative is laid out for the viewer to be caught up in. One which most of the time manages to effectively pull its various points and elements off, only occasionally leading to cause for slight worry. It keeps track of its characters as well as Parker does, and creates stability amongst the chaos and carnage of the various powers and evils on display. Most of which manage to avoid feeling flashy or especially there for the sake of pleasing fans. All helping to push the story along and develop the points and world that are being created and expanded. Everything contributing to the character development of Peter Parker who further steps into his own within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Amongst the spectacle of the stunning action and visual effects the biggest draw into the world(s) of Spider-Man: No Way Home is the structuring of the narrative, so well pieced together and avoiding busyness with overload of separate characters that it creates a sense of unpredictability which further hooks your attention in the development, and in some cases redemption, of the characters; none more so than Peter Parker.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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