“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the COVID-era blockbuster that transcends generations


Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (pictured above) returns for another action-packed hit that strikes the hearts of old and new Marvel fans alike.

Shivangi Nanda, Copy Editor

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers.

Crushing domestic and global box office records, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has officially become the biggest cinematic sensation of the year. Given its unprecedented success, we cannot help but wonder what makes this movie superior to its predecessors. Is it the star-studded cast, boasting veterans Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, or the relatable teen character trope depicted by Tom Holland in the most recent version of Peter Parker? Either way, Marvel Studios and Sony did not cut any corners in the creation of this film, and we cannot fully appreciate its genius without taking a moment to remember the epic comic-to-screen journey of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Originating as a modest superhero in Marvel Comics publications, Stan Lee and Steve Ditkos’ Spider-Man is now a household name. After Tobey Maguire pioneered the transition to the silver screen with his uber-successful trilogy, Andrew Garfield led his own legacy as Spider-Man in the “Amazing Spider-Man” films directed by Marc Webb. However, the latest installments in the Spider-Man series—starring Tom Holland—catalyzed by the integration of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), have brought a renewed interest in the franchise. Not to mention, the update to the relatable teenage nuances intrinsic to the Spider-Man character has made this era of Spider-Man films especially intriguing for younger Generation Z audiences. 

If I were to describe the recent Spider-Man films in a single word, “balanced” seems most appropriate. This series gives viewers the ideal balance between action-packed sequences—the hallmark of the MCU—and the comforting realness and naivety of Parker’s struggles navigating highschool life. Notably, his relationship with best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) display a Parker that is more authentic and vulnerable than ever before. It’s likely that this welcome focus on Parker himself has allowed the newer Spider-Man films, especially “No Way Home,” to touch the hearts of millions. 

Opening with Parker, MJ and Ned in the process of applying to colleges, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” immediately transports us into the chaotic life of a highschool student turned superhero. Following the ending of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” where Parker’s identity is revealed, there is suddenly around-the-clock coverage of his every move. This overwhelming attention causes every university to reject the trio, leaving Parker feeling responsible. In this state of guilt, he seeks out the guidance of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who willingly agrees to cast a spell that would cause everyone to forget Parker was ever Spider-Man. However, the plan goes awry when the spell is preemptively stopped and villains from other Spider-Man universes are spotted in the city. It is revealed that a disruption in the multiverse is what allowed villains, and even previous Spider-Men, to tumble into this universe. 

As such, capturing and rehabilitating the villains becomes the principal conflict, and the film is carried by its emotional and nostalgic beats. The playful quips between the three Spider-Men, Garfield’s déjà vu moment when he saves MJ and Aunt May’s (Marisa Tomei) iconic last words are what brought audiences to their feet. Additionally, with appearances from Spider-Man legends Electro (Jamie Foxx), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina) and others, this film caters to every generation of fans. Even for the less knowledgeable audiences, the multifaceted antagonists and brother-like interactions of Maguire, Holland and Garfield allow each character’s unique personality to cut deep and shine. 

These personalities become increasingly evident in the middle of the film when the Spider-Men are tasked to produce cures for the villains and devise a plan to administer them. In this process, Maguire, being the older and wiser Spider-Man, adopts the mentor role, while Garfield and Holland act as his juvenile pupils, who are easily marveled by his ability to naturally produce web fluid. Despite their differences, they act as a cohesive unit, quickly taking down foes in a series of intense CGI cinematography. While you cannot help but be enamored by the angelic swiftness of the trio’s calculated moves, the fight sequences themselves felt slightly drawn-out. Nevertheless, the dialogue among the Spider-Men and Ned’s ability to create but not close portals using Doctor Strange’s ring offer some much needed comedic relief. 

The last leg of the movie—when the Green Goblin is defeated and Maguire, Garfield and the rest of the rehabilitated villains return to their respective universes—is bittersweet, but the most gut-wrenching aspect is the end of Holland’s character arc. Following the completion of the spell cast at the beginning of the film, Parker’s existence is wiped from people’s minds, and he is left with no high school diploma and no family or friends. Alone in his rundown apartment, merely a spectator to his friends’ successes, Parker bears the audience’s pity. While devastating, it is widely accepted that this ending was needed to tether Holland’s character to the original intentions of the Spider-Man role: an anonymous superhero who sacrifices himself for the greater good of the community. Considering the public frustration associated with Holland’s sudden and poorly-explained introduction to the MCU, connecting his character back to its humble comic book roots effectively sets the stage for the next generation of Spider-Man.

Overall, with surprise cameos, well-developed characters and incredible performances by Holland, Zendaya, Cumberbatch, Tomei and others, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the perfect medley of action, nostalgia and emotion. Pulling us out of our pandemic-dreariness and leaving us tied in a web of great pacing, casting and writing, the MCU has achieved a level of quality that has exceeded our expectations. Alongside reviving cinema halls, “No Way Home” has unified a fragmented Spider-Man franchise by respectfully giving closure to previous Spider-Man casts and highlighting the franchise’s growth. We can only hope the future of the MCU remains this promising, and that the tricks up their cinematic sleeve continue to be worthy of the big-screen.