Blog Post Release #2 – Spiderman’s No Way Home
Movie MonGay on a SaturGay #15- “Spider-Man: No Way Home” by Jon Watts.
Rating out of five ’s:
Every now and then, a movie comes along that is an event. These “event movies” are texted to us by our friends, gossiped about in our workday hallways, and brought up by the people who check us out in line. They often say “have you seen (blank) yet?” I can’t remember a movie in the last few years that I could even begin to qualify in this way. I didn’t really want it to be a franchise superhero movie, but alas, here we are. This movie has single-mechanical-handedly reminded the world that blockbusters are meant to be shared in an audience (safely) in front of a big screen. It’s the most positive experience I’ve had in a theatre since the beginning of fucking COVID, and I was transformed into a child while I experienced the spectacle as a booster vaxed and masked movie lover. I could see other grown ass people having similar responses. I laughed, cried, and applauded with complete strangers. Remember when movies said they were the biggest thing ever and then actually were? Finally, another one spoke the truth. THIS is the biggest movie of 2021, and it earned its place in my heart as the best Marvel movie to date right alongside “Infinity War” and “Endgame.”
Enough of that… the rest of this review will be spoiler heavy. And also, don’t look in the comment section if you don’t want to have anything spoiled. The less you know about this film going in, the better.
YOUR SPIDER SENSES SHOULD BE TINGLING! SPOILERS BELOW!
BUT FIRST… let’s talk about “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” It’s not a shameful or uninspired film. I do find it more than a little soulless though. The Spielbergian style of generating awe just didn’t work on me because the awe was coming from characters that shouldn’t really be in awe. In other words, the spectacles (spectrecles? ), and in a greater sense, the callbacks to earlier cinematic entries, weren’t justified for any other reasons than “the audience will love this because they get the reference” or “the audience will love this because they’re nostalgic for this piece of “Ghostbusters” pop culture.” The proton packs are important to us, sure, but that shouldn’t be a plot point. If the proton pack is going to be framed as important, then it needs to be important for the characters involving them. I guess they do this to some degree, but the props were using the actors and not the other way around. Moreover, without spoiling anything… a few key characters do a few key things and I felt like I was being told I should feel a certain way. No matter how badly they wanted my pathos, they did not receive them. I wish I hadn’t seen those characters at all, and I wish more time had been devoted to seasoning the fresh elements on the screen.
And now, finally…
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the spoiler review:
Tom Holland’s turns as our friendly neighborhood ballerina with an ass that won’t quit have been among my most favorite MCU adventures. “Into the Spider-Verse” was near animated perfection. Kid Collin loved the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies (especially one and, even more so, two). Those DVD’s were on RE to the PEAT in our household, honey. “Spider-Man” the animated series, while not as good as the “Batman” equivalent, was a regular watch for me on the weekends. I’ve since read many of the comics, and while I prefer reading “Venom,” “Spider-Man” is one of my favorite Marvel characters. The web slinger means a lot to me. Like, a lot… like A LOT a lot. I mean I’ve shot my webs to him since I’ve been a shooter. DM me your fan fics and kinky NSFW erotic artwork…
BUTT I digress! While this is all true, I really wanted this movie to stand on its own and not rest on the rich history of this beloved character. Ironically, it does more to distinguish itself than any other connected film prior, even though it borrows more elements from previous films than ever before. It’s no surprise, given the very revealing trailers, that this is a multiverse movie. Raimi characters like Doctor Octopus from “Spider-Man 2,” and characters like the Lizard from Marc Webb’s admittedly less special (to me) film franchise make appearances. Is this fan service? Maybe? Is this bad fan service? No. Why? Well, let me take you through what I think was the winning recipe for this ACTUALLY amazing mega-hit.
1. The elements in play that are established in this universe (I.e. Peter and MJ and Aunt May and the Avengers connection and the rules of the world that have been established) are all respected and brought to the front of the narrative. This is a character story about the arcs of three teenagers growing through pain and becoming adults. Werk.
2. All elements from past “Spider” flicks are brought into the fold in a way that doesn’t disrupt the attention, focus, or rules that are centric to any element from number 1. This includes references that may be impactful to us like when Aunt May says “with great power comes great responsibility.” They have to mean something to the characters BEFORE they can be communicated to us that they’re meaningful. Our outside associations have to be icing on a well baked cake and not the batter itself.
3. Given everything from 1 and 2, justify relationships, emotional gravity, arcs, and connections for all. Raise the stakes and keep the plot simple while referring to the movie’s main theme, which in this case also coincides with the greatest theme in the entire “Spider-Man” pantheon: responsibility.
I couldn’t be more proud that the creators seemed to agree on something similar to what I’ve put above. The performances (and I mean every. Single. One.) have integrity. The script is perfectly paced, and equal time is devoted to action sequences that aren’t cgi messes (like, I could follow them) and dialogue scenes that aren’t exposition dumps. Both dialogue and action scenes are executed in a way that feels real, and you can invest in both.
This movie changed Holland’s “Spider-Man” in a way that felt fundamentally right and fundamentally “Spider-Man” and fundamentally Marvel. He’s always felt like a kid who’s just gotten a new car in previous movies. In “Homecoming” he’s getting used to the controls, speeding too fast, and has to slow down. In “Far From Home” he’s been on the road for a while, feeling a little too invincible, and makes mistakes because of it. However, these mistakes have been small-ish time. In this movie, his actions have DIRE fucking consequences. He is responsible, along with Doctor Strange, for risking the fabric of reality. Yeah… Not sure what the sentencing would be for such an action, but criminal it should be seen as, regardless of intention. He pays for this mistake throughout the movie. He pays by losing his respect from the “Avengers” crew. He pays by losing his chances of going to his dream college with the bestie and girlfriend (also inadvertently ruining their education prospects as well). He pays with Aunt May’s life for trying to do the harder thing and save all these multiverse villains from their terrible fates. He pays for doing the right thing and then failing to do the right thing the right way. He is learning, and we are with him. Eventually, we see his character change. At some point, the boy is gone. Peter Parker truly comes of age in this movie. He hardens and flirts with the dark side. He questions everything and in the end, as he chooses to fully accept the mantle of “Spider-Man,” he gives up everything he cares about. He was unable to let go of his childhood, and piece by piece, it all goes away. We see him separating from that which made him “the kid” on the Avengers team. But by the end, Doctor Strange asks him to call him Steven, and we see what was more powerful than any gadget Stark Industries outfitted him with: heart.
Peter’s compassion is the star of the show here, and because it is, it actually feels like a superhero movie for everyone. I cried so many times because the movie allowed itself to be earnest. I left the theatre wanting to do more good for the people in my life, and GD, ain’t that the point of these things!? For seemingly the first time, a superhero tries to help the villains. He actually sees the potential for improving the lives of these damaged people (ala “Steven Universe” really), and he does everything he can to make them better. Doctor Strange even sees that he was too short sighted to see this potentially more healing outcome, and in a meta way, it combatted the previously troubling assumption that all Spider-Man movie villains needed to be destroyed. Peter is a good person. This story shows an audience how it’s really hard to be that. It makes his life so much worse because he makes that choice. In that way, this movie is a lot like “Spider-Man 2” and “Into the Spider-Verse,” my other two favorite Spider outings. Spider-Man really always should be about being better even when the world tells you to bristle and make the easier choice. As MJ says “if you expect to be disappointed, then you won’t be disappointed.” But, if more people were like Peter, acrobatic and fighting abilities aside, then this world would be a better place. That’s why this is my favorite Marvel movie. In a cinematic universe about improving the world and inspiring the powerless, I find this story to be the best example.
I really could go on about the individual cast members (gosh, Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe are truly just so smashing!) and scenes (that apartment loft sequence, OH MY ), but I don’t feel the need. Just know that everyone gets their time to shine and contributes to the flawless-ness of the entire masterpiece as they were meant to. There are no unearned or shallow cameos. People appear because they serve the narrative. It’s just really good, guys and dolls. There’s so much more I could mention, but I feel like I’ve said what I needed to say.