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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Title: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Describe This Movie In One Spaceballs Quote:

DARK HELMET: How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?

Brief Plot Synopsis: Peter Parker plus prestidigitator partner produce peril.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Indomitable Spirits out of 5.
Tagline: "The Multiverse Unleashed."

Better Tagline: "Man, how come nobody ever thought of 'Spider-Verse' before?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Thanks to Mysterio, the world knows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is Spider-Man. Legally, it looks like he's in the clear, but associating with him now jeopardizes the futures of M.J. (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). In desperation, he asks his Avenger buddy Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell making people forget his identity. It goes ... poorly, leading to the appearance of various Spidey villains from different realities.
"Critical" Analysis: Maybe you've been hearing lately about "MCU fatigue" (if you haven't, just go with it), but Shang Chi, Black Widow, and Eternals are all currently in the list of top 10 domestic box office earners for 2021, and it's a pretty safe bet No Way Home will land there as well. This would seem counterintuitive to claims folks are sick of the Marvel Universe.

NWH's predecessor (Far From Home) actually attempted less table setting, probably because it was the first post-Endgame Marvel movie, and the last of Phase 3. As a result, it was more nebulous, focusing on Peter's dad issues and introducing some Skrull stuff nobody really cared about. By comparison, No Way Home does a lot of heavy lifting, introducing the promised "multiverse of madness" that will be the focus of the next Doctor Strange.

You could therefore be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the idea of yet another reset, and the continuity stuff is the weakest part of the film, but director Jon Watts finishes his Spidey triptych by bringing the saga of Peter Parker's current incarnation to a pretty satisfying (maybe) conclusion before getting bogged down in Marvel mythology.

How does he do it, you ask? Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't seen the trailers, but reintroducing Spider-Man's past nemeses doesn't hurt. Thomas Haden Church's Sandman and Jamie Foxx's Electro benefit the most, given their sparse characterization in Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 respectively, while Alfred Molina and especially Willem Dafoe spectacularly chew some scenery as Doc Ock and the Norman "Green Goblin" Osborn.

There's a lot of good stuff here. Much of it, unfortunately, references things movie critics were asked not to divulge. In that spirit, let's single out:
  • Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan revisiting the sad romantic desperation of his Swingers character.
  • "He fell into a vat of electric eels." "Gotta be careful where you fall."
  • "I'm something of a scientist myself."
  • "Scooby Doo that shit." Because clearly, when the fate of our very reality is in peril, the best thing to do is leave a few teenagers in charge of extra-dimensional villains.
Really though, Stephen Strange is giving Nick Fury a run for his money as the most profane character in the MCU. He may even have passed Peter Quill.

Speaking of, Peter's interfering with Strange's "forget" spell and setting all the chaos into motion isn't merely consistent with the actions of a flustered teenager, it also puts him up there with Quill in boneheaded moves that lead to calamity.

Aaaand ... there's not much else to be said that won't get into some heavy spoiler territory. No Way Home does give us J. Jonah Jameson as an Alex Jones analog, right down to the bogus supplements (and was that really much of a stretch?). It's also refreshing to get an MCU final boss battle that doesn't take place in or adjacent to a floating superfortress.

But if CGI excess is your bag, it looks like Multiverse of Madness will have you covered.

The Sinister Six Five, surprise appearances, deeply personal stakes, and a refreshing lack of Tony Stark (though his presence is still felt) keep No Way Home as compelling as Marvel movies get these days. If we're ranking the Tom Holland Spider-flicks, this is a close second to Homecoming. Having said that, No Way Home might have the best end credits.

What About the Post-Credits Scenes? The mid-credits stinger isn't much of a surprise, but still amusing. Post-credits is more or less a trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in case you don't feel like sitting through everything.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar