Since I wasn’t invited to a press screening, I go for the best experience possible to view “Spider-Man: No Way Home”: 4DX. This superhero film directed by Jon Watts and written by Chris McKenna (“The Mindy Project”) and Erik Sommers (“The Lego Batman Movie”) gives fan services and clear notice of a coherent plan–more on that later.
McKenna and Sommers co-wrote the 2019 “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and, with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts and Christopher Ford, the two co-wrote the 2017 “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The 2019 “Far from Home” left the high school junior and former Avenger, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), mourning the death of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and determined to reveal his attraction to his often dour classmate MJ (Zendaya) during a class trip to Europe. Stark’s former driver and bodyguard and head of security for Stark Industries, Harold “Happy” Hogan (Jon Favreau) is around, becoming romantically attached to Peter’s aunt, May Parker (Marisa Tomei).
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) intends to draw Peter back into Avenger action, but Peter has been ignoring his calls. That lives room for former Stark Industries employee and holograph specialist Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) to also be recruited by Fury to battle the Elementals. But Quentin Beck is also Mysterio, less a superhero and more a man with his own determined plan. He pretends to be a cool uncle we all wish we had, but betrays the ideals of the Avengers. Peter is able to foil Mysterio who has orchestrated a drone attack to kill Peter’s friends in London, but Mysterio is a slippery character and exacts his revenge: In manipulated drone footage, Mysterio accuses Peter of being behind the drone attack and his own murder. Mysterio also reveals Spider-Man’s identity. J. Jonah Jameson of TheDailyBugle.net broadcasts the videos and marks Spider-Man as a murderous villain.
Spider-Man and Home
“No Way Home” picks up with the 17-year-old Peter Parker back in New York from Europe, a week after the death of Mysterio and Mysterio’s revelation of Spider-Man’s true identity. Peter, Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ attempt to escape the news media led by Jameson (“Spider-Man was responsible for the brutal murder of Mysterio”) and social media attention perpetrated by anyone with a cellphone, and end up at Peter’s home, reuniting with May and Happy. The government muscle men arrive under the Department of Damage Control take Peter, MJ, May and Net into custody to interrogate them but lawyer Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) gets them off. A return to high school brings anything but normalcy and Peter realizes that his actions may prevent MJ and Ned fulfilling their high school hopes of entering MIT together and threaten his relationship with May who is accused of “child endangerment.”
Under the pressure of the “court of public opinion,” Peter needs to find a safer place to live. “I’m the most famous person on the entire world and I’m broke.” Even though MJ always professes that if you expect disappointment you will never get disappointed, Peter intuits that her colleges aspirations are important enough. You can count on J. Jonah Jameson continuing the hound Spider-Man as “Public enemy No. 1.” According to Jameson, “Only a coward conceals his identity; only a coward conceals his true identity.
Discouraged, Peter seeks out Dr. Stephen Strange in the Sanctum Sanctorum which is under an indoor blizzard. Strange is a bit peeved that as a result of that five-year Blip absence, Wong (Benedict Wong) is now Sorcerer Supreme. There’s a bit of a bureaucratic bickering between Wong and Strange. Wong also doesn’t support Strange’s willingness to cast a spell that will make people forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man (“Don’t cast that spell”). Strange counters that they’ve used that spell for less pressing reasons that a few individuals having their lives return to normal. Peter hasn’t thoroughly thought this out and repeatedly interrupts Strange during the spell resulting in some consequences.
” Doctor Strange wants our threesome of MJ, Ned and Peter to “Please Scooby-Doo this” but Peter must discover can you have everything you want when the world is forcing you to choose and must everyone meet their fate? Those who have watched the Disney+ animated series “What If…” anded the 2019 animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” will be clued in to what is happening. There will be a fusing of the Sony Spider-Man Universe and the MCU. McKenna and Sommers give us a lovely fusion between the two universes and director Watts smoothly transitions between funny, the familiar and even fury. There is heartbreak here and hard decisions are made.
I’ve been asked not to provide any spoilers, but you do know from the trailers that some villains from previous, non-Tom Holland versions of Spider-Man will appear. Alfred Molina returns to play Otto Octavius or Doctor Octopus who was from the Sam Raimi directed 2004 “Spider-Man 2.” Willem Dafoe appears as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, also from Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. Also from Raimi’s trilogy is Thomas Haden Church’s Flint Marko/Sandman. Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon/Electro from the Marc Webb directed 2014 “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” appears. Also from Webb’s series, is Rhys Ifans reprising his Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard. Of course, even Lizard guy knows that “if you try and fix people, there are always consequences.”
Although the chemistry between Batalon, Holland and Zendaya is used for both emotional and humorous effect and the script reveals some funny homey moments between Batalon’s Ned and Ned’s Loa (Mary Rivera), the casting reveals a decades old problems of attitudes toward Asians. Casting decision allowed for the race of Nick Fury to be changed, accommodating Samuel L. Jackson. Likewise, in the SSU, we have Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro. The SSU does have a Latino presence with London-born Molina (whose father was Spanish), but there is no Asian villain and no main character of Asian descent in the SSU. Molina’s character is the villain with the most character development in this film despite the usage of CGI to make him appear more youthful and consistent with his 2004 appearance. And as for the MCU, while I love Benedict Cumberbatch, if anyone is going to find enlightenment in the Asian mountains (Himalayas) and learn ancient magical arts from some Ancient being (who was originally Asian, but changed to the Celtic-English Whiteness of Tilda Swinton) and become a superhero, it should be an East or Northeastern Asian. Anything else seems suspiciously like a stream of White supremacy.
“No Way Home” is the third of a coming-of-age trilogy where Holland’s Spider-Man leaves behind his boyish concerns about girlfriends and college and finally accepts the weight of his superhero-hood because as anyone familiar with the MCU knows: With great power comes great responsibility. As any adult knows, there is no going home after you’ve left childhood behind. One can still look back at fond memories and under the astute hand of Watts and the sensitive writing of McKenna and Sommers, we get those wrapped inside an action superhero film. Be sure to stay for the mid-credits scene AND the post-credits scene. When I left, I wanted to stream all the SSU before seeing it again. Go see this in a theater. If you can afford it, see it in 4DX.