In many ways, Spider-Man: No Way Home is the culmination of years of the hopes and dreams of the loyal fanbase. During the Tobey era, fans kept waiting for enough buildup to result in a Sinister Six movie, with everyone’s neighborhood hero facing off against an assortment of his greatest foes. And then we had to suffer through the Garfield reboot, which didn’t even do well enough to merit a full trilogy. So it’s reasonable that most fans had probably given up on the idea of a huge movie full of iconic Spidey villains. But then we got Spider-Man: No Way Home. You can argue whether or not the rogues gallery of foes included counts as a true Sinister Six. But my bet is that it’s the closest we’re ever going to get.
No Way Home starts right after the shocking ending of Far From Home. Quentin Beck AKA Mysterio got the last laugh from beyond the grave and revealed Spider-Man’s identity to the entire world. And as usual with us humans, the huddled masses don’t take it very well. While some are sympathetic and see Peter as a hero, others can suddenly put a name to the secret identity, and want his undivided attention. Yet more see him as a menace, thanks in large part to the efforts of those like J. Jonah Jameson. The result is a stampede that suddenly surrounds Peter and MJ, which forces the two to make their escape via web-slinging. This leads to a hilarious sequence with MJ holding onto Peter for dear life as they swing through the city, screaming all the while.
Things don’t calm down once Peter makes it back home. He tries his best to keep the news from his Aunt May, but that quickly spirals out of control. Helicopters demand their attention, and a covert unit is sent to harass Peter and his friends. On the plus side, this means Spidey needs a lawyer, which leads to a fantastic cameo from Charlie Cox, AKA Daredevil from the Netflix series. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve truly missed him, and I’m glad to see Disney hasn’t forgotten about the fantastic Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
Meanwhile, Spidey, MJ and Ned still have to attend their senior year of high school. Some of my favorite moments involved the teachers and principal fumbling in their attempts to both welcome Peter back to school and treat him with newfound deference since he’s been outed as a hero. And like any superpowered teenager, Peter flees to the roof for some peace and quiet. There’s also lots of talk between the three friends about college, and even a cute montage of them trying and failing to get into schools of their choice. Which leads to a donut house revelation that sets the whole movie on track towards the climactic finale. Peter realizes the solution to his problems might be magical in nature and thus goes to ask for a favor from our favorite mystical wizard, Doctor Strange.
Let me just say, much as I’m not a huge Cumberbatch fanboy, I love his portrayal as the good Doctor. He adds wit, charm and just a touch of humor to all his dialogue, and it makes him really endearing. One fun revelation once Peter shows up on his doorstep is that Doctor Strange isn’t actually the Sorcerer Supreme anymore, technically speaking. When he was blipped out of existence by Thanos, someone had to step in. So Wong has actually been wearing that mantle for years, and it looks to be a heavy and irritating one. When he gets some indication of what Peter and Strange are up to, he agrees to ignore it so long as he’s not bothered by their nonsense. Which turns out to be a very good choice on his part, since this simple favor quickly escalates into an existential crisis.
All Peter wants is to have the world forget that he’s Spider-Man so he can go about living his life in peace. Which is a reasonable request. The problem is, casting a spell is like wishing for favors from a genie. Context and phrasing really matters, and as Strange starts casting it, Peter realizes EVERYBODY will forget his secret identity, including his Aunt and friends. So he has Strange exclude them, and then make another tweak, and then another. It quickly starts getting out of hand, but Strange seemingly manages to contain the chaotic spell in a cube-like cage.
Meanwhile, everybody’s least favorite jock, Flash Thompson, has a possible solution for Peter’s college woes. Now that he knows Peter is his favorite hero, he’s willing to play ball. Just so long as Peter pretends to be his best friend. Our hero grudgingly agrees to his terms and goes to meet with someone that could help rekindle his college dreams, the MIT Vice Chancellor. There’s just one problem—she’s on the way to the airport. So Peter swings into action and finds her, right before everything starts to go truly insane.
Right as Peter reaches the Chancellor, the freeway is attacked by someone with metallic arms. Somehow Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, from the original trilogy, is in the wrong universe. Worse, he’s after Spider-Man and immediately identifies Peter as his nemesis. Naturally, Peter is perplexed, but that doesn’t stop him from leaping into action to stop the tentacled menace and, perhaps more importantly, protect the Chancellor from harm. It’s an epic fight scene, and just when it looks like Doc is on the verge of killing Peter, something fun and unexpected happens. I won’t ruin it, but suffice to say the nanotech in his suit wins the day, and he manages to defeat the villain right before a demented cackle disrupts the air. Before Peter can investigate, he gets magically whooshed back to Strange’s sanctum sanctorum.
Here we learn what’s really happening. Though Strange did manage to contain the worst of the spell, all the tweaks Peter made opened up cracks, and some things were drawn into this universe. Specifically, villains that hold a grudge against Spider-Man, and who would have forgotten him had the spell gone off without complications. Strange managed to capture the Lizard himself, but there’s a handful more. So he magicks Peter a gauntlet to capture the remaining wayward dimensional drifters and sets him off. Peter being Peter, he brings in MJ and Ned, and after some snarky commentary, he goes after one of the signals.
Peter comes across a waylaid Electro that’s literally stitching his atoms together spark by spark. Once he manifests himself fully, he’s suddenly hungry for energy. Something about the nature of this new universe is speaking to him, and he’s ready to absorb everything he can. It’s looking pretty bleak for Peter, until he gets an unexpected assist in the form of another villain—Sandman! Thinking this is his Peter, Sandman agrees to help him take Electro down. Through a combination of dumb luck and quick thinking, they manage to KO Electro, and both villains find themselves brought back to the cells in the sanctum sanctorum.
They’ve nearly caught all the villains, but there’s a catch. Once Peter has a full set, the spell will send them all back to their own universe, where it’s revealed they will be killed fighting Spider-Man. Peter doesn’t want that on his conscience, so he steals Strange’s magical cube (which houses the spell) and gets into an epic confrontation with the good Doctor Strange. He manages to prevail through the power of math, and traps him in a mirror dimension until he can figure out a way to save these lost souls. He releases them from their cells and heads after the last one – the Green Goblin.
For some reason, Goblin is found at the clinic Aunt May is working for. He seems to have gone back to being plain old Norman Osborn, dumping his suit and glider in the garbage. He has no idea how he got to the clinic, and is being cared for by May. Dafoe makes a very believable crazy homeless person, and his performance actually elicited some sympathy from me. Even though a much louder part of my brain kept screaming not to trust him. Regardless, this leads Peter to a revelation. He can fix everything by finding a way to help the villains rewrite their endings, and heal their mental and emotional trauma. Thus, they all get on the party bus and head to poor Happy Hogan’s place.
I should mention briefly, there’s a lot of Happy Hogan in the earlier parts of the movie. But since it’s really hard to convey humorous scenes in this format, I mostly left those out. The quick version is this—he very much wants May back in his life, and got saddled with finding a place for Peter and May to live after the government came after them. All caught up? Splendid. Now visualize 5 of Spider-Man’s most dangerous villains all camping out there with him, his friends and Aunt May.
It goes about as well as you’d imagine, though it takes a little bit of time for all hell to break loose. Peter does actually succeed in fixing the tech in Doc Ock’s harness, thus restoring his right mind and making him downright agreeable. He’s on the verge of fixing Electro with a power-dampening device as well when his Spider-Sense starts tingling. Turns out, good old Norman was actually Goblin playing possum. And he’s not gonna let Spider-Man fix any of the remaining villains. He goes on a crazy rampage, smashing Peter all about like a ragdoll and dropping him through floor after floor. It’s beyond intense, and it ends horribly. I won’t say what happens, but I will say that the incident both makes sense and yet utterly shocked me when it happened.
Afterward, Peter is downcast, and Ned and MJ are at Ned’s place. Ned discovers an artifact he filched from Doctor Strange lets him cast magic, and he starts opening up portals. The first one leads a dimensionally lost Tobey Mcguire to them. And of course, the one after that is Andrew Garfield. Again, there’s a ton of great comedy in this sequence that’s nearly impossible to replicate in a written format. Suffice to say, there’s a reason Spider-Man has remained such a popular character all these years, despite three different actors portraying him. And though I’m not a big Garfield fan, I actually appreciated what he brought to this film.
The three Spider-Man share their mutual trauma with Peter, and he realizes he has to keep fighting. They work out a plan to fix each of the remaining villains one by one. Peter then lays the bait by going on J. Jonah Jameson’s show and telling the world he’s at the Statue of Liberty, which is sure to draw the attention of his assorted villains. Thus, the team heads there and lay their trap.
The final fight scene is one of the most amazing ones I’ve seen in any comic book movie, including the Avengers movies. It’s full of amazing one-liners, terrific beat ’em ups, and some real emotional moments. When Peter and the Spider-Men finally manage to beat back all the villains, another problem raises its ugly head. Strange’s fix wasn’t enough, and now all the multiverses are going to messily fuse together. The only way to stop that is to take away the target of the original spell. So instead of the world forgetting Peter Parker is Spider-Man, now the entire world forgets who Peter Parker is.
I won’t lie, the last parts of the movie were almost depressing. Peter is all on his lonesome, and nobody remembers him, including the love of his life, MJ. If he were a weaker man, this would have been the part of the movie where he became a villain. But Spider-Man has always been about an everyday guy fighting against adversity and helping the people. So he manages to get back on his feet. I’m really excited to see where Tom Holland’s Spider-Man goes next, especially since 3 movies is the most any of the iterations have gotten. I’m also a bit hopeful that we might have the opportunity to tell the symbiote saga properly if he gets a couple more movies. But regardless, Spider-Man: No Way Home is an incredible movie, and easily one of my top 3 Spider-Man films. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and remedy that. You won’t be disappointed.