Spider-Man: No Way Home is not worth the hype

Steven Watts

Image by Liam Killian

I’m personally not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Their unchanging formula and excessive use of CGI stifle the creativity of even the best directors. When I see Taika Waititi or Chloe Zhao at the helm of a film, I expect something new, exciting and different; but when they have control of an MCU film, we get the same thing as always. 

Here’s what I imagine is written in the screenwriter’s notebook: A generic protagonist is having a tough time until they are given the responsibility of having a superpower. An over-the-top antagonist is introduced. A few witty one-liners later, the hero and villain fight in a giant CGI battle, and despite all odds, the hero wins.

In spite of my usual disdain for the MCU, I was actually pretty excited for Spider-Man: No Way Home. I grew up watching Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire playing everyone’s favorite web-slinging superhero in their respective films, and I was looking forward to seeing them back on the big screen. Unfortunately, their return ended up falling victim to terrible directing by Jon Watts, poor writing  a convoluted plot that has as many holes as a box of donuts. Because the movie has been out for over a month now, I think it’s fair game to do a spoiler-heavy review, so if you haven’t seen the movie, consider this your warning.

Spider-Man: No Way Home follows a distressed Peter Parker after his secret identity is revealed to the world, which is right where Spider-Man: Far From Home left off. After Parker and his friends don’t get into Massachusetts Institute of Technology (I think it’s strange that they all assumed they would), he goes to Dr. Strange in hopes that he can cast a spell to make the world forget who he is. When Parker alters  Strange’s spell a number of times, the multiverse opens and villains from other universes start coming to Tom Holland’s world. 

The entire premise of the movie was flawed. Holland makes the claim that all of the villains that were sent to him died fighting Spider-Man in their respective universes, but they didn’t. Doc Ock was reformed by the end of his movie and sacrificed his life to save the city. Sandman was also reformed by the end of his movie and did not die fighting Spider-Man, and the same goes for the lizard. The villains that came also supposedly knew that Spider-Man was Peter Parker. The problem is, Electro didn’t know Peter’s secret identity. Dane Dehaan’s Green Goblin did, but he wasn’t in the film. No Way Home’s lazy writing can be picked apart so easily and it’s plot falls apart completely.

My biggest problem with the film, though, is the fan service. I watched all eight other Spider-Man movies in preparation for No Way Home. I thought that would make me enjoy the movie even more, but instead I felt like every line and shot in the film was recycled. Even when Holland was grieving the loss of Aunt May at her grave, the shot had the exact same composition of when Garfield visited Gwen’s grave. I don’t know why Jon Watts felt like he had to draw emotion from past movies instead of making new memorable moments. The worst case of fan service came from one scene towards the end of Act I. What is Matt Murdock (who portrays MCU hero “Daredevil” in his own series) doing in this movie? He gets thrown into one scene that makes no sense and has no real purpose besides telling fans, “Look, another character that you like!” 

Tom Holland’s acting was surprisingly great. I’ve never thought of Holland as a very talented actor, but No Way Home proved me wrong. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given enough of the attention in his own movie. There are 14 characters that I would consider having an important role in No Way Home, and it’s impossible to give all of them enough attention in two and a half hours. When Aunt May was killed, Holland gave some of the best acting I’ve seen in a superhero movie and then Watts cuts the moment short to introduce two more characters: Garfield’s and Maguire’s Peter Parkers. The two past Spider-Men returning brought so much excitement, many bad jokes and completely took away the emotional gravity of the loss of the last family that Holland’s Peter had left. 

That’s not a new phenomenon, though, because MCU movies always shy away from the emotional moments that make other superhero content so much better than theirs. When I think of one of my favorite superhero moments, I think of Mark Grayson in Invincible pleading to his father to remember the beauty of humanity. No Way Home doesn’t give the audience enough time to actually feel the impact of any of the consequences that the characters experience, so there aren’t any moments where you really feel connected to Holland’s Peter. 

Speaking of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it feels like a poor decision to make a multiverse Spider-Man movie after that masterpiece. The entire time I was watching No Way Home, I wished I was watching that instead, a testament to its great character work and writing.

Even the end of the movie also left me wanting more. Jon Watts does not know how to direct a swinging scene, which is pivotal to Spider-Man,  and that’s been apparent since Homecoming. When I saw the colors of Holland’s new suit, I was so excited. I was ready to see the brand new, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Instead, we can’t even see the new outfit becauseWatts gives us a swinging scene where everything is a blur and the lighting is extremely dark to distract from more poor CGI. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home was a complete disappointment to me. Its one star comes from Holland and Garfield’s performances. It’s a shame that it’s being recognized as one of the greatest movies of all time by fans who are blinded by nostalgia. I know that this movie will age poorly—it’s just a matter of time. 

 

Spider-Man: No Way Home – 1/5 Stars