The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME

New to Netflix - SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME
A miscast spell leads to the opening of the multiverse.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jon Watts

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei

spider-man: no way home poster

There were two moments in Spider-Man: No Way Home that provoked cheers from my screening's audience. They weren't thrilling action beats or well delivered one-liners. Rather they were simply moments in which certain people showed up. Is this what the modern blockbuster has been reduced to in the name of fan service, an expensive version of the Fonz making his entrance through the Cunninghams' kitchen door?

When I were a wee lad, myself and my young peers would get excited by seeing things on screen we had never seen before: a speeder bike chase, Marty McFly's hoverboard, a rollercoaster ride through a temple of doom, a terminator morphing into liquid metal. Now it seems the audience for mainstream Hollywood wants the exact opposite of innovation; instead they crave familiarity and reminders of the past. How depressing.

spider-man: no way home review

Taking its cues from the 1983 Doctor Who special The Five Doctors, Spider-Man: No Way Home gathers characters from both the beloved Sam Raimi directed trilogy of the 2000s and the unfairly maligned 'Amazing' couplet of the 2010s for something of a Spider-Man edition of This is Your Life (fans of the '70s TV show will have to make do with a blink and you'll miss it cameo). What it all ultimately amounts to is an intellectual property circle jerk.

Picking up from the end of the previous Spidey instalment, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been publicly outed as the man behind the mask. With much of the public taking the side of his nemesis Mysterio, Parker is in hot water and so calls on Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help him out. Ripping off the much disparaged ending of Superman The Movie, Dr. Strange casts a spell that will erase the memory of everyone on the planet regarding Spidey's true identity. Thanks to several interruptions by Parker, who wants to ensure his girlfriend Mary Jane (Zendaya) retains her memory, the spell is miscast and Strange accidentally opens the "Multiverse". This leads to villains from other alternate universes (i.e. previous iterations of the franchise) popping into the world.

spider-man: no way home review

I won't identify who exactly makes an appearance as I don't want a torch-wielding mob after me, but let's just say the surprises aren't really surprises to anyone with internet access. The old baddies that do appear serve to remind us how much more iconic they were compared to the villains faced by Holland's Spidey, and the movie seems particularly enamoured of the Raimi trilogy, constantly telling us how much more interesting its characters and their relationships were compared to the latest iteration. On the other hand, the vintage villains are oddly neutered and don't pose much of a threat against the tech-savvy modern day Peter Parker. It's a bit like bringing the great Real Madrid team of the 1950s into 2021 and seeing them run off the park by a much fitter, if not as technically gifted championship side.

As such, it takes an awful long time for the movie to decide what exactly might be the threat faced by Parker this time out. Much of the running time sees the film patting itself on the back for pulling off the no doubt complicated contract wrangling involved in bringing all these characters together. "Isn't it great that we got all your favourite characters together in one movie?" the film keeps asking. "Well, that's all well and good," we reply, "but how about doing something interesting with them?"

The movie misses out on some blatant opportunities with this conceit. Nobody mentions how J Jonah Jameson is played by the same actor (JK Simmons) in both the Raimi and current versions. Any fun that might have been had by two versions of Mary Jane sparring over Parker is equally squandered. Instead we get a lot of scenes of characters talking about the good old days. Spider-Man: No Way Home is like a clips show without the clips.

spider-man: no way home review

What made the first Holland-starring Spider-Man movie fun was how it focussed on its teen characters and was essentially a high school comedy with a scrap bolted onto its climax. The dynamic between Holland's Parker and Zendaya's MJ has proven this version's strong suit, so it's disappointing that the pair are separated for most of No Way Home's running time. If it was its intimacy and relatively low stakes that made that first Holland outing work, No Way Home makes the mistake of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies, filling the screen with so many characters that none of them get a chance to make any real impact.

I opened this review with a Happy Days analogy, so I'll close it in similar fashion - No Way Home is the moment this version of Spider-Man jumps the shark.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.