Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) has been out now for a couple of months for home viewing on digital channels, and I was holding out to see it on Disney+, but then I realised that it might not appear there due to Sony and Disney’s off/on relationship when it comes to the amazing web-slinger.
CAUTION: This post contains major spoilers!
It is after all a well documented and debated fact that Sony, not Marvel Studios or Disney, owns the Spider-Man IP. Sony did cut a deal with Disney, in the US, last year to bring their catalogue, including Spider-Man films, to Disney+, but this apparently doesn’t apply to pre-2022 movies. Those movies will only land on Disney+ after most people have seen them on Netflix.
Anyway, that’s a rather long-winded way of explaining the fact that despite my numerous subscriptions I had to fork out money this week for the new movie after a stupid wait to see if it landed anywhere else first. My begrudging payment aside, I was very pleased to finally sit down and watch this film. I enjoyed Spider-Man: Far From Home rather more than Spider-Man: Homecoming and had already guessed, based largely on the story told in Spider-Man: Into the Spidey-Verse that not only would be seeing some old villains but we’d also be seeing the previous versions of Spidey.
The first thing that’s abundantly clear on watching the film is that this is one for the fans and if you haven’t seen the two Andrew Garfield films then there’s going to be quite a bit of the story that falls rather flat for you. Unlike many fans, I found 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to be pretty good in comparison to the first of Garfield’s outings as the friendly neighbourhood superhero. It seemed much less of a rehash of old themes and more about Parker’s awkward relationship with Gwen Stacy and some proper conflicted bad guys for a change. I thought Garfield was particularly good in the lead role and it’s a shame he allegedly blew the gig with for Captain America: Civil War and future MCU appearances. I especially enjoyed the first person point of view web slinging action and the stylised fight sequences with Electro played by Jamie Foxx, who returns in No Way Home.
Also returning is of course is Tobey Maguire who had three outings in Sam Raimi’s hugely successful Spider-Man trilogy that is credited by many for injecting life back into the corpse that was superhero movies at the time. When the trio of Spideys unites to overcome the bad guys there some great banter between them about how it’s only Maguire’s version that actually shoots venom out of his body rather than mechanical web-slinging devices. There’s also some very well-pitched dialogue about the losses they’ve suffered as various characters got ‘fridged’ in their stories.
As well as Foxx’s Electro, we see all the best villains from the previous five Sony pre-MCU films – Green Goblin (played again by a show-stealing Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (an CG enhanced Alfred Molina), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans, who doesn’t get much time on screen), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Venom is nowhere to be seen, but there is a cute post-credit scene starring Tom Hardy which makes it clear that their universes are separate. These characters all pop up as a side effect of a botched spell from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he tries to make people forget Spider-Man’s identity – revealed by a dying Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the previous Tom Holland film.
In fact all the villains are dead in their own universes and the crux of the story is Holland’s Spider-Man’s attempt to fix their problems (remove their villainous powers) before Strange can complete another spell to fix the leaky Multiverse. Of course some villains are happy to be fixed, notably Doc Ock, where others don’t want a bar of it – Electro and Green Goblin. The interplay between all characters is great, the special effects are as expected for this size budget top-notch and the script as I say is excellent and indeed quite touching at times. I had a lump in my throat on more than one occasion and while Maguire perhaps felt a bit lacking, both Holland and Garfield were tremendous when they stepped into ‘tortured soul’ territory.
There some obvious Easter Eggs along the way which I won’t go into here apart from one that might pass people who haven’t watched the Marvel TV shows (I would say Netflix shows, but I see they’ve now been taken off there and have landed ‘home’ on Disney+). I was delighted to see Charlie Cox appearing as blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil early on in the film. This is the second actor/character who has now been tied in to the MCU from the TV show – the first being Vincent D’Onofrio/Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) who appeared in the Hawkeye TV show.
Also, finally, if there ever was a time to resurrect the classic line “with great power come great responsibility” this was the movie to do it in, and it is done with panache. Yes of course this film is dining out on the nostalgia gravy train just the same as the recent Ghostbusters film for instance (not seen it yet) and Star Wars Episodes VII to IX, but for once I really enjoyed it, and it reminded me that despite my take-it-or-leave-it attitude to a lot of the Marvel stuff, I am a big fan of Spider-Man in all it’s iterations.