How to talk about this movie without spoiling it? Because there’s a lot that could be spoilt. And if you go on Twitter for about five minutes you’ll unfortunately be subject to spoilers for a bunch of key emotional scenes and moments. But this was to be expected, because Spider-Man remains a big deal. And this can be demonstrated by the promising box office returns which, whilst not an indication that audiences are flocking back to cinemas again for all movies, does show the unwavering appeal of everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
He’s the ultimate little hero with a big heart. Plus, Tom Holland has arguably given the best performance as the character across this trilogy (directed by Jon Watts) — more so than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Although both those actors did well in the role and brought something new to the character.
With this movie, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) concludes Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) journey. One which began with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and continued with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), the latter which had (spoiler… ) Mysterio reveal Spidey’s identity as Peter Parker. This threw his world into chaos. As a result, in No Way Home he turns to Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell to make him anonymous again.
Except it goes wrong, naturally.
None of this is a spoiler as it’s the setup and in the trailer. What it does do, however, is introduce us to multiverse; ‘a concept about which we know frighteningly little’, to quote Strange. As Marvel fans, we know a touch more than that — particularly those of us that have watched TV show Loki, where multiple timelines and realities are introduced. Without spoiling No Way Home too much, suffice to say that introducing the multiverse allows us to play on a much bigger field than before. And by us, I mean Marvel.
Unexpected characters show up, and Peter has to face foes that are far beyond what he has experienced to this point. The theme, being, he has to grow up and become Spider-Man the hero — rather than to try and live two lives, half as Spidey and half as Peter. They explored this in Homecoming, where Tony Stark takes away his suit. Peter says, ‘I’m nothing without the suit’. To which Tony replies, ‘If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it’.
They push this to its logical conclusion in No Way Home, and perhaps set up Peter Parker to lead a team of heroes going forward. Perhaps in much the same way Captain America did in the phase 1 of movies leading up to Avengers Assemble.
So Spider-Man gets to mature… from teenage boy to man, which is what you’d want and expect from this character. Not that things get too dark per se, but he has to put the needs of others before his own and realises, through the course of this movie, that he cannot have it all. In doing so, we get Tom Holland’s best performance.
It remains to be seen whether he will continue in the role to any great degree. Holland has been quoted saying that Spider-Man 4 should introduce Miles Morales, which seems like a great idea, and a good way for Peter to hang up the suit and pass it onto someone new. That, and perhaps get MJ in a suit, or give her more agency in some way. There’s also Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman to consider. Basically, there are lots of possibilities as to the evolution and fate of this hero going forward. It just depends which way the Marvel head honchos (and Tom) want to take it.