The biggest film event of recent memory isn't a disappointment, but it isn't a masterpiece either.
Given the current troubles facing cinema, perhaps film fans should be thankful that something as industrial as Marvel (and/or Disney) are around to give it a kiss of life with the long-awaited conclusion to Tom Holland’s MCU trilogy. After No Time to Die performed well, there seemed to be a general assumption that cinema would be fine, but No Way Home entered the conversation and then took it over by having one of the highest grossing opening days of any film ever, regardless of COVID (and especially regardless of the Omicron variant).
The internet in particular played an interesting role with this film, taking the usual Marvel productions rumours to new heights with the multi-verse concepts and the merging of all eras of Spider-Man films. Expectations were almost impossibly high for No Way Home, so it was a surprise to see that the majority of fans were still pleased with what the film delivered. For those who are clear about their opinion on the recent Marvel output, this won’t do much to change your mind, but it is admittedly more of the better parts of the MCU and less of the more egregious traits that lead to plenty of vitriol online more often than not.
Director Jon Watts, notably the first director Marvel have had for an entire trilogy, brings his usual comic focus which has made the Spider-Man trilogy within the MCU stand out a little more amongst the sea of MCU releases. What the film does struggle with is its juggling of so many elements from various films, universes and comic books, leaving the film to at times feel a little repetitive and strangely paced. The commercial cynic will most likely feel really quite nauseous, seeing Marvel crush three separate franchises into one and lean primarily into repeating the points made within those pre-existing films for a new generation (it is a sneaky remake of a Spider-Man origin story, basically), and it really lacks the style that made Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy so endearing and original.
There is a consistent severity to this film that simply feels a little needless – the doom and gloom is only switched for Marvel’s typical pop-culture reference gags (the trailer’s ‘Scooby-doo this crap’ being a highlight… or a low-light?) which create a contrast that doesn’t really work. The parts of the film that look at a darker side of Tom Holland’s version of the web-slinger are admittedly very good, doing what Raimi did with Spider-Man 3 in a more serious way, but the grim nature of some other parts (i.e. the treatment of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and the changes to his character motives) don’t seem to fit as the film tries to be both dark and haunting as well as light and fun. It cracks under the weight of trying to be both, going from web-related gags to tackling loss frustratingly quickly.
It’s not a perfect film, but it is quite good. The parts that let it down don’t completely derail the film by any means, but they do make it stumble a little across its otherwise well earned finishing line. For Marvel fans, it could easily be the film of the year as it delivers more fan service than any other Marvel film has to date, but its wider industrial implications for modern cinema are admittedly a concern.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now in cinemas, certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: