Spider-Man: No Way Home is every fan’s dream come to life (Review)

A story about my life leading up to the moment I saw the film in theaters, and my reactions to the epic cinematic experience (with spoilers in tow).

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Written on December 18, 2021 at 2:17 p.m. EST

Part One

On Monday night, December 13th, 2021, at around 11:45 p.m., I deleted all of the social media apps I interact with on a daily basis from my phone. In about 30 seconds, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were all absent from my device and a single post I published across each platform confirmed why: I was avoid spoilers for what might be the most important and meaningful movie I’ll ever watch.

I was probably around four or five when I first fell in love with Spider-Man. I remember watching the DVD menu sequence of Spider-Man swinging through New York City and landing on a flag pole over and over again after one of my parents (probably my dad) bought me 2002’s Spider-Man. At such an early age, I remember having the same level of fascination and intrigue for the web slinger I have now. I obviously didn’t know how long people had loved the character before I did, but I knew that he was something special.

When I was in kindergarten in 2007-2008, it became common knowledge that the kid who liked Spider-Man the most was me. Virtually all of my classmates would hand me their Spider-Man action figures that came with every kids meal at Burger King back when Spider-Man 3 was in theaters, and I even got some used Gogurt tubes with the black-suited Spider-Man to bring Mom home in my lunch box (I assume they didn’t stick around long given they were used Gogurt tubes). The local newspaper even did a special run of some of the earliest Spider-Man comics out there, and my teacher would ensure she gave them to me every time a new one was available.

This was an incredibly special time in my life. I remember feeling so excited that there was another Spider-Man movie out. I remember loving the original film and really liking Spider-Man 2, but there was something special about Spider-Man 3 that struck a chord. To this day, it’s been the most significant film to ever come out in my life, and that same feeling stuck with me as I got older and the character began getting reboots and new theatrical releases.

I remember being very excited for The Amazing Spider-Man when it was released back in 2012, and I loved it for being so different from the original trilogy. I also loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, but neither film struck the same emotional excitement as Spider-Man 3 did.

When that movie came out, it was an age where superhero movies weren’t all that common, so to watch your favorite superhero become so popular and see the rest of the world enjoy the same thing as you was really special. Back then, the Sam Rami flicks were all that people spoke about, and for me to live through all three releases and actually remember what it was like when the third hit screens seemed magical.

The black suit, Venom, Sandman, the New Goblin – there was so much to look forward to as a little kid, and despite what critics have to say about the film, Spider-Man 3 has remained my favorite film in the history of Spider-Man movies.

When Marvel finally got to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2016, I was as excited as I was for TASM. I was more intrigued by who they might pick to play Peter Parker, and I’ve really enjoyed Tom Holland’s portrayal. He’s a lot more childish than either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield could dream of being (both of them were far more mature in their respective franchises), and I think his version of the character plays well overall with the larger storyline Marvel’s been unraveling in the MCU.

Both 2017’s Homecoming and 2019’s Far From Home were terrific in my extremely-biased opinion. I was absolutely blown away with how well they developed the characters in Far From Home, especially Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who had one of the most mind-blowing backstories of any character I’ve seen. I was probably the most excited to see Far From Home out of any past Spider-Man movie I got to go to a theater and see. It resonated so heavily with me after I’d left the theater, and when I finally saw it again for the first time in over two years, I was reminded of just how much I truly loved it.

But for reasons that are beyond me, it still didn’t top the excitement I had for Spider-Man 3. The sheer nostalgia of that movie and the memories I have associated with it might be the reason I’ve never found a film that could top it. Everyone has a time in their childhood that they’ll never forget, and this was certainly one of those times.

Then rumors started swirling about the third MCU Spider-Man film, rumors that I had no business believing. Every Spider-Man fan has dreamed of seeing Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield put their customers back on and join Tom Holland in a multiverse-centered movie, but that all seemed like a fan concept no one wanted to get their hopes up about for fear of it never happening. And who could blame them? It seemed completely unorthodox for Maguire, 46, and Garfield, 38, to portray much younger versions of themselves and star as characters they had retired long ago.

When the initial reports came out that Maguire and Garfield had signed on to do the third MCU Spider-Man film, I disregarded them. I wanted to believe them, but I was afraid to. But then Jamie Foxx confirmed he would be in the film on Instagram, an announcement that surely pissed off every executive working at Marvel and Sony for being far too early to be made.

He confirmed that he’d come back as Electro after appearing as the character in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and that he “wouldn’t be blue this time.” I though to myself, “Okay, that’s cool, they want Electro to fight Spider-Man again in another reboot and they think Foxx is good casting.” I didn’t think anything of it, not for a while.

Then I started hearing Alfred Molina would return as Doc Ock, then Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin, then Rhys Ivan as Lizard, then Thomas Haden Church as Sandman.

All of this, to me, seemed like genius trolling from a guy on the internet who never got enough attention. Maybe he didn’t have any followers, maybe he wanted to make a name for himself in the film leaking community. Who knows what his motivations were, all I assumed was there was someone who decided to mess with everyone’s heads because Foxx was coming back, and if he’s coming back, why not convince people that everyone else is too?

I refused to acknowledge any of the rumors that followed because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I would discuss them with my family and think about how cool it would be if any or all of them were true, but it seemed completely unlikely that any of them would pan out. “Why the hell would Marvel even try this?” I wondered. “Critics didn’t like how many people were in Spider-Man 3, what would make this film any different for them?”

I brushed off any new rumor that eluded to the film until Molina confirmed in an interview with Variety that he’d be returning as Otto Octavius in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Calling it the “worst-kept secret in Hollywood,” Molina described how his character’s storyline would pick up right after he fell in the river, leading to his death in Spider-Man 2.

It was immediately after this I started rethinking everything I’d read over the past few months. “Maybe all of these characters will come back. After all, why would Marvel only bring back Molina and Foxx? There’s a larger story at play here, and there’s no way we’ve heard the end of it.”

Soon afterward, rumored cast members of No Way Home began doing press for other projects they were associated with. I remember someone asking Willem Dafoe if he’d be returning in the next Spider-Man, to which he responded with a very vague answer and promising to talk about “other” projects “when we’re ready.”

That sounded to me like he’d be in the film, and I refused to believe he wouldn’t be. It seemed almost too obvious that he’d hop on the glider once again and fight his old enemy in a movie almost 20 years later. As crazy as it sounds, I had total confidence we’d see him soon on the big screen.

Andrew Garfield also had a fair amount of press to do around other projects he’d been involved with, and nearly every interviewer asked if he would return as Spider-Man in No Way Home. Frivolously and without fail, he denied every claim and every leaked set photo suggesting he was, indeed, in it. During this time, evidence of him being in the film leaked online, making his job a lot harder if he wanted to convince the world that he’d donned the red and blue suit for the final time back in 2014.

Despite his efforts, rumors continued to swirl and evidence continued to build that both Garfield and Maguire would help Holland save the day in No Way Home. The question was no longer whether they’d be in the film at all, but when exactly they’d appear and how their storylines would affect the course of the movie.

When the first teaser trailer came out in August, we got confirmation that both Doc Ock and Green Goblin were back from the Rami films thanks to a botched spell cast by Doctor Strange. As it turns out, it’s not easy to make everyone forget you’re Spider-Man, and it’s incredibly easy to mess up you’re only shot in the process.

As a fan, you couldn’t help but be obnoxiously pumped. The teaser was the only thing I wanted to watch because of just how mind-blowing it was, and I felt the urge to show it to everyone I knew. I was unusually excited, to say the least.

Once the first teaser and posters were made public, the countdown was on for the trailer to drop. Little did the Spider-Man community know that we’d have to wait three months for that time to come. A little over a month before the film hit theaters, we got the official trailer which further confirmed Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the Goblin and Molina’s casting as Octavius.

We also, for the first time in nearly 15 years, saw the Sandman face off against Spider-Man, as well as Jamie Foxx’s Electro in a new suit and the Lizard to boot. More backstory for the motivation of the villains and the difficult situation Dr. Strange and Spider-Man had found themselves in was also revealed, which further ramped up the hype and convinced far more people that there’s a real shot Maguire and Garfield will show up at some point.

When this trailer came out, it quickly became the video I’ve probably seen the most out of any video I’ve watched on the internet. In the two-and-a-half minutes it ran, all I could think about was me as a little kid, watching Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man swing through New York and defeating the Goblin. Now, all of my memories associated with watching Spider-Man movies would be met with a cinematic event for the ages thanks to No Way Home.

It was an extremely powerful trailer, one that culminates three separate franchises of Spider-Man films and confirmed to me that I’d surely break out into tears once I saw the full film. It was at that moment, when the trailer had ended, I became as excited (if not more) than I was for the original Spider-Man 3.

I knew what had to be done to keep these emotions with me. I couldn’t let them get ruined by plot leaks or new set photos. I began unfollowing various Marvel and other film accounts on social media, as well as muting mentions of any words or rumors pertaining to the film. If I wanted any more Spider-Man: No Way Home content, I’d have to get it from the official No Way Home accounts.

I then decided that before it was too late, I’d have to delete all of my social media apps. I knew review embargoes would go up well before I’d gotten to see the film, and I didn’t want the chance of opening Twitter or Facebook by accident and seeing something that would spoil my experience. So, this past Monday night, I trashed them all, and it was the greatest decision of my life.

I know nothing about the film beyond what I’ve seen in the trailer. I have no sure-fire way of knowing if either Maguire or Garfield are actually in it. All I know is I’m the most excited to see a Spider-Man film as I’ve ever been. I’m more excited for this one than I was for Spider-Man 3, despite me being 14 years older.

My love for the Spider-Man character is deep, like many of you, and this movie feels like one designed for the fans. A “thank you,” if you will, to everyone who’s seen every movie, read the comics, watched the shows, and have stuck with the web slinger through thick and thin. I’m still four hours out from actually seeing the movie for myself as I type this, and I have to say, this might be the most exciting four hours I’ll ever experience.


Written on December 19, 2021 at 9:53 a.m. EST

Part Two

Warning: Serious spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is perhaps the greatest film the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever delivered, and it’s a top contender for the best Spider-Man film of all time.

This film, the third in the MCU’s trilogy of web-slinger-centric movies, ties in nearly 20 years’ worth of Spider-Man movies into one, 2-hour 28-minute masterpiece. It’s the movie every Spider-Man fan has dreamed of: a mashup of all three franchises in one multi-universal intersection that plucks at the heart strings of every die-heart fan on the planet. It’s surreal to think about that this film actually exists, to be perfectly honest.

Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

The story picks up right after Spider-Man: Far From Home’s conclusion when Peter Parker’s secret identity is revealed thanks to a staged video message from Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and broadcast by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) of TheDailyBugle.net. Life quickly turns sour for Parker and his friends, with MJ Watson (played by Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) accompanying Tom Holland on his mission to stabilize his life and try to make something work while the rest of the world decides whether to hate him or love him for what he’s done. It’s soon afterward that it becomes clear there’s no back-pedaling the situation, so he enlists the help of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to try and make the world forget that he’s Spider-Man.

It’s during this process that a spell, designed to make everyone forget his true identity, is botched by Peter’s constant interruptions and Strange’s inability to keep up with his demands. The spell goes haywire and, as a result, rips open the multiverse.

Before long, villains from past films begin popping up, and every single reveal is as epic as you may think. Doc Ock, Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Lizard (Rhys Ifan), and Electro (Jamie Foxx) all emerge to enthusiastic crowd reactions in a plot to get revenge on Spider-Man after they’re all transported amidst their battles with the web-slinger.

Every character’s performance was as good as they were in their original films, yet different and spectacularly fresh. Each character felt like a native to the MCU despite never appearing in it in any capacity before. Dafoe’s performance as the Goblin is especially impressive, delivering on the same Jekyll and Hyde personality as the very first Spider-Man film while being even creepier and more villainous than ever.

The same familiarity and nostalgia reigns true for Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield who, to the surprise of many, make triumphant returns in No Way Home as alternate Spider-Men. Fan-service banter between the Spider-Men, incredible action sequences, and a team-up unlike anything you’ve seen before all ensue. And I won’t lie – I witnessed Tobey’s emergence into Tom’s universe through tears in my eyes. Emotions ran high during that time, a time which I never thought would come after so many years without Maguire donned in the red and blue suit on the big screen.

There are lots of ups and downs in this film, and there was an abundance of room for Holland to continue developing his rendition of Spider-Man past a kid with a high-tech suit to a true, neighborhood crime-fighter like we’re used to seeing from the past two franchises. His most grave turning point yet involves the death of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) who died at the hands of the Goblin. Before this, the MCU finally gets to hear the infamous line “with great power, there must also come great responsibility.”

This solidifies the destiny Holland’s Spider-Man is forced to face at the end of the film, but I won’t give that away.

For fans of the character, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. For every little kid out there who’s seen every movie, every TV show, has read every comic book, has followed every single development in the crazy cinematic world of Spider-Man – this film is for you.

I got to witness this movie with my entire family, sitting next to my Mom who’s been as big a Spider-Man as I have my entire life. It was an incredible experience, getting to witness the story unfold and so many characters return to the big screen. It was delightful to see Maguire in the red and blue suit again, with flashbacks of the first three films immediately playing my hand once he put on the mask. And personally, I think Garfield’s performance was miles better than it was in his own two films, leaning more into a comedic and light-hearted facade than the general seriousness we’re used to seeing from TASM. It was refreshing and delightful to witness.

The whole time, I didn’t even bother to think whether it was better than Spider-Man 3. Despite all the special memories I hold with that film, it’s abundantly clear that No Way Home simply tops it. All of the build-up, the very few trailers, the posters, the Spider-Man movie binge-athon my family and I had leading up to its release – it was all worth it. No Way Home will go down in history as one of the most surreal cinematic experiences ever to be made public, and it’s thrilling to think about where Disney and Sony might take the character next.

Until then, we’ll have plenty more of Sony’s own Spider-Man universe to explore through Morbius, the Kraven the Hunter movie, future Venom installments, and more.

I felt like a kid again, watching the movie and cheering with the crowd. Now, I get to witness this great character and the multiverse that surrounds him be told through so many different stories and angles. It’s a good time to be a Spider-Man fan.

Excelsior.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
The greatest Spider-Man film ever.
No Way Home ties together nearly 20 years' worth of Spider-Man films in a magnificent way that doesn't get overloaded with unnecessary cameos. Every character is essential to the story, and every surprise is as emotional as you can imagine.
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