I predicted long after the first trailer of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” that the entirety of this movie was going to be nothing more than a long-awaited nostalgic pay-off that combined multiple stories loosely woven together by messy plot contrivances and fan service up the ass.
Needless to say, I was right. But the stubborn fanboy in me is willing to admit some parts of this was the legitimate MCU Spider-Man movie I’ve been desperate to see for years now.
So I can’t say much about the acting that I haven’t made clear in other Spider-Man MCU movies: they’re all relatively fine. Nobody really stands out amongst the others with the exception of Willem Dafoe hamming it up with his return as the Green Goblin. Zendaya and Jacob Batalon are given a lot more to do and Benedict Cumberbatch is the nice little anchor for the main trio but Tom Holland’s Peter, to my eternal joy, is left with the lions den of the character development in this flick and while he still stagnates in places, he does FINALLY grow and mature to a level I desperately wanted this character to reach, no thanks in part to a riveting shift in performance by Holland.
Every other character disappointingly gets the short end of the stick and the writing almost seems content on having them stay exactly where they are although it’s not entirely the writings fault. I’ll build up on that later.
Jon Watt’s didn’t have the expertise to fully handle 5 villains on screen similar to how TASM 2 and Spider-Man 3’s villains were all crammed in (despite the issue being them linked to multiple plotholes as opposed to just one) so that’s a definitive confirmation that every second or third Spider-Man flick is destined to be an overcrowded rollercoaster. All jokes aside, his direction is still about as subpar and rudimentary as before. Similar to his previous MCU flicks, Watts hardly has any personality emanating out of his style of leading into and out of a scene and from a visual perspective, it sort of seeps together…..
…..even when we get to what everybody is excited for.
Now the presentation does take into account some of Into The Spiderverse’s comic self-awareness and the deliberate slow-burn pacing of the Raimi films and the structure does end up mildly better for it but more over-reliance of CG makes the characters look pixelated and bumps down some of the action, the action itself feels dumbed down to an extent despite the bombastic set-designs in spades, I still can’t remember a single one of these damn musical scores outside of two distinct others and then the tone…..god, I hate how uneven the tone can sometimes be.
Similar to the previous MCU Spidey flicks, they lean heavily on this small scale teenage comedy feel and it took it absolutely no time to rattle my brain. Most of the time it’s because of the jokes themselves immediately ripping the levity away from the ambience of the more emotional moments. There’s a few charming splices of humor here and there reminiscent of the Marc Webb films that rear later but that within itself is evidence that buffoonery was the only way they thought they had to trudge us through the emotional payoffs.
But sometimes that comes down to the editing’s fault. Either it pulls away too early or too late and editing wise in general, if you pay close attention, you can catch some scenes that make it obvious some shit was left on the cutting room floor. Cinematography on its own is completely fine; again, bleeds into Watt’s traditional style outside of two separate scenes.
The story is both strengthened and crippled by the very things it introduces/re-introduces and leaves behind or retcons; like I mentioned before, this movie was guaranteed to be a mess.
The entire set-up of the film extensively rushes through Peter’s identity being exposed and everyone close to him dealing with the consequences and Doctor Stranges involvement just being swept under the rug, and with the exception of Goblin, Ock and…..you know who, none of the other returning characters have the same inkling of personality they carried in their previous films. But it is refreshing to see all these characters return and actually have some of their stories either pay off or intertwine enough to be relevant to the over-arching elements of Peter’s character growth. As a graduation story, the adage of ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ forces Peter to finally test his empathy and re-consider his priorities as he tramples himself under the weight of his decisions.
And then I remember the plot-holes and logic gaps. The villains change their motivations out of nowhere, how the spells work or backfire don’t make much sense, even this film can’t refrain from having characters act OUT of character; It barely edges away from being bad-Fanfiction and yet, it’s still a mountain of golden sand just pouring straight the MCU’s fingers.
Part of me wants to say the ultimate nature behind NWH is a novelty but it feels more or less like a tale of two halves saddled by a one-trick pony masquerading as a theme park ride: everything I wanted to get combating against everything I sort of knew I was getting judging from previous MCU entires. First time around, I bought myself into the excitement the closer we got to the end and while the adrenaline high hadn’t worn off completely, something about the second time around felt different. So…..I guess it’s a guilty pleasure.